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US: Varsity announces fellowship in memory of slain Indian student

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
April 07, 2008 22:43 IST
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The president of Duke University in North Carolina Richard H Brodhead has announced that the university has established a fellowship in memory of slain Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato, 29, who was killed on January 18, 2008, in his off-campus apartment in what was described as a senseless, violent crime.


Two men have since been charged with muder in connection with his death.


The Abhijit Mahato Memorial Fellowship will provide financial support to a Duke International graduate student who is studying engineering, with preference given to a student from India.


Mahato, a native of Tatanagar, was studying for an engineering doctoral degree focused on computational mechanics at Duke and at the time of his death, was a second year graduate student and was planning to take his qualifying exams in a week.


In a letter to Mahato's parents, Brodhead informed them that the University's trustees had approved the establishment of a memorial and reiterated his sorrow over their son's death.


In his missive, Broadhead wrote, "I attended the memorial services where your son's professors and his many friends described him with glowing admiration. We continue to mourn his loss but are glad that he will be remembered at Duke in this enduring way."


Brodhead also met privately on April 4 with several of Mahato's friends from Duke and members of the Indian American community to inform them of Duke's decision to establish a memorial fellowship in his name.


Swadesh Chatterjee, an Indian American community activist in Cary, North Carolina, who organized memorial services in honor of Mahato including one last week at the Hindu Temple in Raleigh attended by Brodhead, said, "We as Indian Americans are moved by the establishment of the Abhijit Mahato Memorial Fellowship, which will enable international graduate students to continue their education in engineering at Duke."


"As we, as a community mourn the loss of this brilliant young man, we continue to seek to sustain strength through our grief," he said, and added, "We commend Duke's bold initiative and feel that Abhijit's hard work and diligence at Duke –so tragically cut short--will

live on through the fellowship and the many international students it will benefit."


Before coming to Duke, Mahato worked for GE Global Research Center in Bangalore for two years working in finite element analysis.


His adviser and friend, Professor Tod Laursen, characterized Mahato as an intellectually curious and exceptionally kind, outgoing man. "He made friends very easily and always had a smile on his face."


Laursen said, "Our research team was particularly close to Abhijit -- he was such a pleasure to be around. He always went out of his way to engage with people and would stop whatever he was doing and help anyone who asked. I was particularly struck by how very well read in both poetry and literature Abhijit was and how much he enjoyed conversation with others about what they were reading."


He said that at GE Mahato "was an extremely successful engineer, and the company has actually submitted patents for some of the work Abhijit did while he was there, and this prepared him well for his graduate work at Duke."


Laursen said that "we were working together on an industry funded research project and Abhijit's prior industry experience helped him to develop close working relationships with our partner. He understood their needs as a business and was a pleasure to work with."


Mahato earned his mechanical engineering degree from Jadavpur University and a master of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur.


A memorial website on Mahato has been established at

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