Nicolás E. Del Castillo ’14 was found dead in his East Campus dorm room on Sept. 4. He was 18. His death was the result of an apparent suicide by asphyxiation. A memorial mass was held for him at the MIT Chapel the following Sunday.
“Nicolás, like many undergraduates, brought MIT many gifts of intellect, of creativity, of leadership, of community spirit. In his brief stay with us, [Nicolás] convinced me that his contributions, although short in time, are lasting. We will miss him as we have already. We extend our condolences to his family, to his friends,” said Wesley L. Harris, the housemaster of New House, where Del Castillo spent some of his free time. “Nicolás remains a part of us.”
Del Castillo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, on Aug. 13, 1993 to Henry Del Castillo and Sandra Muñoz. Before arriving at MIT in 2010, he attended the Colegio Calasanz de Bogotá.
A brave scholar
In his freshman year at MIT, Del Castillo excelled academically and planned to major in math.
In an obituary published by the MIT News Office, Henry Del Castillo recalls one of Nicolás’ early interests in math at eight years of age: “He asked me, ‘Papi, is there a mathematical way to determine all the prime numbers?’ I told him that’s a problem that mathematicians have been working on for years and years. And he said, ‘I’m going to solve it.’”
“He was always a scientist,” Muñoz told the News Office. “When he was a little boy, he was always out on the patio doing experiments with water, soil, bottles, whatever he could get his hands on.”
Beyond being an avid math student, Del Castillo also had many interests outside of academics. He enjoyed karate, origami, and music. His family says he taught himself to play keyboard and joined his school orchestra without ever taking a single lesson. In addition, Del Castillo was a fan of Cirque du Soleil and loved to study Shakespeare and drama.
Diana Henderson, an MIT literature professor, recalls being impressed by Del Castillo’s bravery and skill in her Writing with Shakespeare class last fall. The class had been acting out scenes from Henry V when another student backed out of his role at the last minute. Del Castillo stepped up and performed with passion. Henderson said that the whole class agreed that Del Castillo was the best actor in the class.
“Whenever I think of Nicolás,” said Dominique Forestier ’14, one of his Writing with Shakespeare classmates, “I will be reminded of a king.”
“When asked his opinion on something, he always gave an answer that made me reconsider my own,” Forestier adds. “It was evident that he was smart, but he was also humble.”
Another classmate added that “his ideas were always so phenomenal that most of us did not understand their complexity until he further explained.”
A good friend
Del Castillo’s classmates remembered that he was very shy but that something about him showed that he had a good heart.
For Del Castillo’s close friends, he was someone to trust. “More than once, I shared my personal problems with him,” says Cesar Cuenca ’14, “and he helped me with advice or made me realize that my problems were not a huge deal. I could trust him in keeping what I said as a secret.”
“He did not talk much, and I am glad to be one of his good friends he could talk to easily. Some good moments with him I will miss are speaking in Spanish, going to the movies in 26-100, or going for a milkshake at Toscanini’s,” Cuenca added.
“What I will miss the most is the friend that I could trust and talk easily about my life — bad and good things.”