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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Obituary: Venkatesh ’14, driven neuro student, dies at 21

Published: September 7, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

Akshay Venkatesh ’14, a driven and gifted Neuroscience student, died Labor Day weekend; university officials said he appears to have taken his own life. He was 21.

He leaves behind his devoted parents, as well as friends who will remember him as intelligent with a wide array of interests. He had just begun his Neuroscience major, and was well-known to some professors in the department.

He had made a long journey to Brandeis. He hailed from New Dehli, India, and his parents both live in Singapore. He attended high school at the Singapore American School and spent the past summer in Singapore at the Genome Institute internship. He returned to the United States on Aug. 27 to begin his third year at Brandeis.

Venkatesh was involved with Namaskar, the Brandeis association for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. According to his facebook page, he balanced a scientific skepticism with an open mind and sense of spirituality, listing both Atheism and Hinduism as interests on his page. He also attended Namaskar’s events in previous years.

He had declared his major only the previous semester and was to begin the bulk of his classes in Neuroscience this coming semester.

Isaac Rabbani ’14 remembers his dedication to his major. “He was incredibly passionate about neuroscience, which he was majoring in. I’ve met very few people as passionate as he was about what he was studying and with the intellect to match.”

“One time we found a maintenance tunnel running underneath the Castle and we grabbed flashlights and walked through it, feeling very covert,” David Handler ’14 said.

Many of his friends mention his passion for “Skyrim,” a fantasy video game. “I have never played it and I never actually saw him playing it but he would always talk about it,” Handler said.

Rabbani concurred. “He loved ‘Skyrim’ … loved ‘Skyrim.’”

“But Akshay was also a very smart man and very well-read,” continued Handler. “I remember talking with him for lengths about a variety of topics. He would talk about social issues in India and Singapore while I would talk about the U.S. political system.”

Ben Weber ’14 lived on Venkatesh’s floor last year. “Everyone who lived on his floor [Hass 2] last year and I will always remember the fun times we had with him.

“I remember him loving Neuroscience, having a quirky sense of humor and he was a very driven, intelligent and hard-working person,” Weber said.

“Akshay was my friend,” Handler said. “I will miss our conversations together, from our shared commiseration about the lack of creative expression amongst Bollywood actors or our arguments about the morality of corporal punishment. Hannah Senesh wrote a poem [that read] ‘There are stars up above, so far away we only see their light, long after the star itself is gone. And so it is with people who we loved, their memories keep shining on, even though their time with us is gone.’

“Akshay will always be one of those people and while I will miss him, I hope he has found his peace,” Handler said.