MIT graduate and ‘brilliant programmer’ dies on campus

Nicholas W. Paggi ’15, who graduated with degrees in computer science & engineering and physics, died on campus last Tuesday night due to a hacking accident, family members told WBZ-TV. He slipped from the dome of Building 10 while climbing it in the rain.

He was a software engineer at Ab Initio at the time of his death. While at MIT, he was a resident of Bexley Hall and Senior House, and a member of the MIT sailing team.

Paggi worked as a UROP student in D-Lab’s Mobile Technology Group during his last three semesters at MIT, and continued to contribute as a consultant over the past two years. Rich Fletcher ’89, director of the group, said that Paggi was a brilliant programmer who developed low-level C-code libraries for the group’s mobile health apps and wrote “difficult multi-threaded Android code that no one else could do.”

“He was a thoughtful and patient mentor to the other students in the group,” Fletcher said. “Nick was well-read, had a great sense of humor, and I always enjoyed having conversations with him discussing the future of technology and artificial intelligence. The world has lost a kind soul and great thinker. We will miss him very much.”

Paggi’s death “appears to have been an accident,” Sarah McDonnell, media relations manager at the MIT News Office, stated in an email to The Tech before the cause of death was known to the public. The news office has not responded to further requests for comment. 

In an email to the MIT community, President Rafael Reif wrote that “our hearts go out to Nicholas's family and friends as they cope with this unexpected loss,” and encouraged anyone affected to reach out to Mental Health and Counseling, Student Support Services, Graduate Personal Support, and MIT chaplains.

Paggi’s family has created a memorial scholarship to honor him. The scholarship will be awarded  to a graduating senior at Paggi’s high school who plans on pursuing a degree in physics or computer science.

Update 5/3/17: The article was updated to reflect the cause of death and the creation of the memorial scholarship.