Graduate student dies in Vermont highway accident

by Marissa Lilly | 10/7/12 10:00pm

Correction appended

First-year physics graduate student Mikhail Lomakin died Saturday morning in a car accident in Hartford, Vt., according to a press release from the Vermont State Police.

Police were called to I-91 South at 2:24 a.m. on Oct. 6 at mile marker 73, where they discovered Lomakin's body lying in the far right lane. Police believe that three different vehicles hit Lomakin, although only two motorists have given accounts of the night's events. Both drivers initially mistook the man's body for a dead animal, and they were unable to slow down in time to avoid colliding with the body, according to the press release.

The Vermont State Police are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding Lomakin's death. Director of Safety and Security and College Proctor Harry Kinne said that Safety and Security has given information pertinent to the investigation to the police, including Lomakin's course schedule and place of residence.

Lomakin's body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington, Vt. for an autopsy.

Members of the Dartmouth community remembered Lomakin's passion for his pursuits, both academic and social.

"He was really friendly, a sweet, bright kid," physics and astronomy professor Robert Caldwell, who taught Lomakin, said.

Caldwell said that Lomakin's curiosity and passion for his studies were exceptional. Lomakin was one of 14 first-year students in the physics program.

Lomakin graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in May 2012. He was on the university's Dean's List multiple times throughout his time there and won the Chancellor's Medal for Academic Achievement upon graduation, according to the university's website.

Rongxiao Zhang, a first-year physics graduate student and Lomakin's housemate, said that Lomakin flourished academically in his two months at Dartmouth and was "rarely stressed."

Spencer Hatch, a fellow first-year physics graduate student, said that Lomakin discovered a passion for physics toward the end of his junior year at UMass-Lowell, when he had already declared a major in atmospheric science and mathematics.

"He told me once that three-quarters of the way through he stopped and said, Sh*t. I love physics,'" Hatch said.

As a third-year student, Lomakin was not able to change his major, so he decided to pursue a graduate degree in physics at Dartmouth.

Although Lomakin did not have a physics background, he taught himself classical mechanics from a series of theoretical physics books written by Lev Landau, according to Hatch.

"I was amazed by how much he knew," Hatch said. "He had a beautiful mind for physics and math."

His friends remembered him as a kind and considerate person.

"He was such a nice guy, very friendly and helpful," Zhang said. "I feel so sad about his death."

Lomakin was in training to be a teacher's assistant, according to Caldwell.

Hatch said that Lomakin's death is a loss to the field of physics.

"Physics has lost, to me, one of the really unique, outstanding minds that came in this year," Hatch said. "It's hard to imagine Mike wouldn't have made a difference in any field he was in. There's certainly a loss to speak of."

Physics graduate student Damian Sowinski said that a candlelight vigil for Lomakin will be held in front of Wilder Hall today at 6:30 p.m.

In a campus-wide email, Interim College President Carol Folt and Dean of Graduate Studies Jon Kull '88 expressed the administration's commitment to providing counseling services to students, faculty and staff affected by Lomakin's death.

"We are trying to make sure that the community, especially the graduate student community, has the support it needs," Kull said.

Counseling will be offered at Dick's House to those who wish to speak to someone, Kull said. The graduate office staff will also be reaching out to its students.

Anyone with information about the events surrounding Lomakin's death, including anyone who had contact with him on Oct. 5 or 6, is asked to contact Vermont state trooper Chris Blais at 802-234-9933.

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the vigil for Lomakin will be held on Tuesday when in fact it will be held on Monday.*