Freshman Satto Tonegawa, MIT professor's son, found dead yesterday

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Satto Tonegawa

Satto Tonegawa ’15 was found dead in his MacGregor dormitory room yesterday evening.

Tonegawa, the son of MIT professor and Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, was discovered shortly after 5 p.m. by MIT police in his J-entry room. Tonegawa had not been seen for a week and an odor was noticed near his room.

Tonegawa lived in Chestnut Hill, MA, about 6 miles from MIT.

There is no reason to suspect foul play, the MIT News Office has reported.

“This is a very sad situation, and the entire MIT community shares a deep sense of loss and grief,” said Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ‘80 in a statement on the MIT News Office’s website. “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.”

Tonegawa is the second MIT student to have died in less than two months. Nicolas E. Del Castillo, a sophomore, was found dead in his East Campus dormitory room on Sept. 4 in an apparent suicide.

As is protocol in the case of a sudden death, Massachusetts State Police and the Middlesex County District Attorney have begun an investigation into Tonegawa’s death.

Tonegawa was an avid musician, playing both piano and cello. He attended the Milton Academy before coming to MIT this fall, according to the Academy’s website. Like his father, Tonegawa had an interest in the life sciences — he worked in the Orr-Weaver lab at the Whitehead Institute as a high-school student.

Members of the community who feel affected by this death are encouraged to contact Mental Health Services at 617-253-2916, or talk to their housemasters or GRTs.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I think this is a shame. Nobody checked on this student for a whole week!

Can each dorm not have a buddy system where every one has one other student who will be their buddy and notice sooner if something is amiss. Not to keep tabs on each other but just a social backup.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As a former friend and colleague I must say that this world has lost a rare human being. Satto was a young man with a burning desire to change something in this world: to discover something that would change the lives of all people. His ingenuity was also evident as a pianist. While at Tanglewood, Satto impressed all his friends and colleagues with his revolutionary thinking and strict passion to fufill his dreams and goals. I will dearly miss Satto. For those of us who had the chance to know him, he will remain in our memories as someone who strove for the betterment of humanity.

Kazuo about 9 years ago

He was 18, but not 15.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

The '15 stands for class of 2015, not 15 years of age.

Sakuma Takahashi about 9 years ago

My deepest sympathy to him.

I also come to Michigan to research from Japan.

We have to continue to consider each other...

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I can't explain the sadness I feel to hear about this tragedy. My prayers go to his parents, family and the MIT community. I also pray that MIT finds a way to prevent this type of tragedy.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

My heart was heavy when I went to bed last night, thinking of how his family must be suffering at that moment. My deepest condolences to the Tonegawa family.

Whatever the cause of death, I hope that allowing freshmen to reside in singles will be re-evaluated, and if it continues, then a stronger mechanism is developed to check in with them as well as any freshmen who do not show up for classes.

One death is too many. Two is just unfathomable.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

ONE WHOLE WEEK! A freshman? His professors, housemasters, resident tutors, and other MIT adults bear some responsibility here: What happened to the concept of community? I agree with the first poster as well, however the obligation should rest with the adults first and foremost.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

7 I don't think allowing freshmen to live in singles is to blame for this incident.

terry suzuki about 9 years ago

My condolence goes to Tonegawa family.

A man in the background of Art may not be

easy to switch to Life sciences. Meantime, general parents spend their half times to raise their children which is not so easy.

The head of all the dormitory must check

out rooms for mechanically or physically as well

Anonymous about 9 years ago

My condolence goes to Tonegawa family too.

How did such a young, promising and talented musician die? How come no one even checked him after he was not seen by anyone for one week? MIT really needs to beef up the dormitory management. Is there anyone out there checking students routinely? Is there any social event scheduled for each dorm? Asking students to check with the mental health care professional is not nearly enough. This is the 2nd death at such a prestigious learning institute within two months, totally not acceptable. As parents we are so saddened.

Kids from our school going to MIT are the best of the best. Like Tonegawa, many of them are extremely talented beyond math and science. MIT administration really needs to review the student affairs and dormitory management, and come up with some effective measures to improve.

Carrie L. about 9 years ago

As an MIT alum, I have a heavy heart with this news. My deepest sympathies and fullest prayers are with the Tonegawa family this week as they deal with such a stunning and tragic loss.

Having lived in MacGregor for three of my years as an undergraduate, I firmly believe that there is no blame to be placed on the responsible, caring, and well-trained adults responsible for advising the students. MIT offers a variety of living situations to suit every student's preferences--that is a bonus, not something to be "re-evaluated." College students are adults with their own lives and agendas--MIT nor any college is responsible for the actions of individual adults. I speak from experience when saying that the Institute has one of the best mental health facilities in the nation for college students, and takes particular care to make sure its students know that they are encouraged to reach out for help.

College students, freshman or seniors, ARE adults, and can not (not should they) be monitored like children by the Institute. This situation is tragic, but we must be careful where we place blame when the Institute does everything it can to make sure that students have a place to turn if they are in trouble. This is a time for support and unity as a community, not for misplaced and inappropriate criticism.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am a parent of an MIT student and was very shocked at the news. With all the modern communications tools, the parents had not contacted him for more than one week. It is just unimaginable. What a kind of parents?

MIT shares the blame. Yes, he was an adult but still a student. It is important to give every student freedom but more important to track and monitor each individual closely.

We don't let a todler play a knife. We don't let a 1st grader play fire. We don't give too much money to a sixth grader. Freedom is much more dangerous than knife, fire and money. Both parents and school have the responsibility to hold the string of every flying kite.

SomeoneAtMIT about 9 years ago

In response to the person who said this:

"College students, freshman or seniors, ARE adults"

only on a technical level (and even that isn't entirely true). I wouldn't assume that just because a student is 18, they are prepared to deal with some of the issues of college life. Sure, we can't say this is the faculty's FAULT, but we can ask what we all could've done to prevent a situation like this from happening. I like the idea of a "buddy" system to be honest - sure it may seem a little immature, but everyone needs a buddy if you think about it.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

i am so sorry for the Tonegowa family.a loss like this is devastating and trying to assign blame does not help. satto sounds like a wonderful young man, i hope his family can cherish his memory and hope he is at peace.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As a parent of a MIT freshman, I am shocked and saddend to see the news. My most sincere condolences to Satto's and Nicholas family and the MIT community.

So far, my kid is enjoying the breadth of opportunities MIT is offering, but I agree that a mandatory budding system would be helpful-even for adults. 18 is barely an adult with so much to look forward to and bring to the society.

N. Correa about 9 years ago

My deepest condolences to the Tonegawa family and the Del Castillo family.

You are in my prayers.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

My deepest condolences to both the Tonegawa and Nichola's family. To look and care for each other is not to limit a student's growth and sense of imdepedence.They are under inmense pressure by the toughness of the curriculum and by the separation from the parents and other things that are tough for them. The string of the kites cannot be cut. The need a buddy system and they need to report on a daily basis to the desk in their dormitories, by phone email or in person.I'm an adult and allways tell someone if I'm going out or staying late...

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This is such sad news, condolences to the family and friends grieving the loss of this young man's life. It is very unfortunate that in this digital age, his family had not contacted him for a week, even if in the form of a simple text message. and then his dad works at MIT and was not communicating with his son for a week? Strange!

Chris C about 9 years ago

I cannot imagine this family's grief. My heart goes out to them. I do think that dorm support could be better. My daughter broke her ankle as a student at MIT. So, she was thousands of miles from home, on crutches, it was icy out, she was on strong pain medicine, etc....I called the dorm desk and asked for the contact info of her resident tutor and housemasters so I could let them know to check that she was o.k. and had food and was not having a reaction to the meds, etc. I called the dorm desk and several numbers from the website for student life. Everyone I talked to was clueless. Eventually I was given the number of someone who was supposed to be her resident tutor and called and got a voice-mail and left a message. Two weeks later he called to let me know he was the wrong person. There was never any support for her.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT can beef up its mental health services all it wants, but one way to reduce the INSANE stress at the institute (without compromising standards) would be to stop these forced curves in every course and having exams regularly with class averages of 60/100.

Suicides are much lower at Harvard where over half the students graduate with straight A's all through college, the stress is totally different.