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In Memoriam: Jason Choy


Chemistry grad student Michael Calvert was in Chicago for the summer when he got the call through an emergency contact phone number – his friend, fellow chemistry grad student and housemate Jason Choy, had died in an auto accident that also took the lives of chemistry grad students Benjamin Boussert and Giulia Adesso.

"I was devastated," says Calvert, "I went through all the stages of grieving – sadness, anger, denial – everything."

Calvert first met Choy in the summer of 2003 when as a new student he rented a room in a house occupied by Choy and other chemistry grad students. "Jason was in this fifth year by that time, and he was a great source of advice for any and every issue I had," says Calvert. "I came from a large family, the second of six kids, and for the first time I felt like I had an older brother. It wasn’t until the accident that I realized how important Jason’s friendship was to me."

Stephan Grill, a visiting post-doc, worked with Choy in the Bustamante lab to build what is currently one of the field's most powerful optical tweezers. "To work with Jason in a scientific environment was very rewarding," says Grill. "He was quiet, thoughtful and knowledgeable. Because of these traits, it would take most people a little while to figure out how much Jason knew and what a deep thinker he was. But when it came to research, he was constantly challenging himself."

In addition to the new friends he made in Berkeley, Choy became reacquainted with Mike Puglia, an old friend from Maryland who had recently moved to the Bay Area. Puglia and Choy had known each other since their pre-school years and had backpacked together through Europe after their high school graduation.

Puglia, Calvert and many more of Choy's friends have created a scholarship and memorial website for him. Choy graduated from the Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the scholarship will go to an exceptional college-bound senior from the high school.

"This scholarship is about keeping Jason’s life and values in our hearts," says Calvert. "We also want to commemorate his time at Berkeley, so we plan to keep this award going for at least seven years – the amount of time Jason spent working toward his Ph.D."

For more information or to make a donation, please visit the website at

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