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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

College Notebook: MIT student found dead in his dorm room

Published: October 28, 2011
Section: Front Page

A first-year MIT student was found dead in his dorm room Tuesday evening, authorities said.

Satto Tonegawa ’15, an 18 year old from Newton and the son of MIT professor Susumu Tonegawa, who won the 1987 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, was found by MIT police after 5 p.m. Tuesday in his dorm room.

Students had not seen Tonegawa for about a week and noticed an odor coming from his room, MIT’s student newspaper The Tech reported.

“This is a very sad situation, and the entire MIT community shares a deep sense of loss and grief,” MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson said in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to the family, friends, classmates and dormmates of Satto, as well as to the graduate resident tutors, housemasters and others in the student-life system who knew and worked with Satto.”

“At this time it does not appear to be suspicious or involve foul play,” Cara O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, said.

The DA’s office and university officials at MIT declined to comment further on the case and address possible causes of death, citing a pending investigation and autopsy.

Tonegawa, who graduated cum laude from Milton Academy, was a distinguished pianist and cellist selected to perform with an elite group of high school musicians at Carnegie Hall in high school.

In September, another MIT student, Nicolas Del Castillo, a sophomore from Colombia, was found dead in his dorm room after an apparent suicide, just days before classes began.

MIT has seen several student suicides in the past two decades and, after the death of Elizabeth Shin in 2000, her parents sued the university for $27 million, settling the case in 2006 for an undisclosed amount of money.

At Brandeis, university officials say the suicide rate is well below average for the college age range. There have been two suicides at Brandeis since 2009, including a first-year student who was found dead in her residence hall last winter.