Austin Travis, grad student in chemistry, dead at age 26

Cause and manner of death yet to be determined

6945 travis
Austin L. Travis G - Photo courtesy of the Imperiali Group

President L. Rafael Reif emailed the MIT community last Friday afternoon to announce that chemistry graduate student Austin L. Travis, 26, had died Wednesday, Sept. 3.

Reif’s email said that Travis, from Pleasantville, New York, was also well known within the biology department, as he worked in Barbara Imperiali’s protein lab. He said that Travis lived off campus.

Cambridge police told the Boston Globe that a 26-year-old man had been pronounced dead in his Cambridge apartment following a call by his girlfriend around 6 p.m. but did not identify the man.

According to the Globe’s Friday article, Cambridge police, still investigating the case, said a hazardous materials team was called to the scene and was still working to identify material found there.

MIT did not provide information on the circumstances of Travis’ death.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts state medical examiner’s office said that the cause and manner of the death are pending.

Imperiali wrote to The Tech that letters sent to the chemistry and biology departments read, “Austin had a passion for chemistry and biochemistry and he was active in outreach to local high schools. He enjoyed working with undergraduates, especially in the classroom, and was recognized for his outstanding contributions as a teaching assistant.” Travis was involved in the MIT triathlon and Shotokan karate clubs and interested in several other sports, including volleyball.

Charles Wood told the Globe that his daughter and Travis were living together in Cambridge and planned to get married in about a year. He called Travis “a young man who had a lot to look forward to.”

Reif encouraged members of the community to reach out to one another, adding, “The strength of our community is the strength of countless individual bonds of kindness, awareness, sympathy and support.”

Reif said plans to memorialize Travis would be shared with the community.

MIT’s student support and mental health services can be found at Reif also directed students who felt affected by the death to Student Support Services and their residential advisors or graduate resident tutors.