MIT mechanical engineering graduate Anirban Mazumdar PhD ’13 and his team of undergraduate students, Martin Lozano SB ’12 and Aaron Fittery SB ’13, could have done a lot of things with the money they received from winning this year’s De Florez Competition for their advanced nuclear reaction inspection robot. They could have used it to further their research, start a company or fund a new research project.
But instead they chose to donate their winnings to the memory of MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed in the line of duty this past April.
“I was very upset by the murder of Officer Collier,” Mazumdar says. “I didn’t know him personally, but my father, Sanjoy Mazumdar (PhD ’89), raised me on stories of the kindness of MIT police officers. I always had great interactions with them in my 10 years at MIT, and they always made me feel safe.”
Mazumdar, who was on campus when the shooting happened, wanted to show his appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice Officer Collier made and encourage students to build a good relationship with all MIT police officers, as so many did with the good-natured Collier.
“I wish I had had a chance to talk to him,” he says. “By all accounts, he treated MIT students very well, always poking his head into robotics labs and asking questions. He really took an interest.”
As Mazumdar considered ways to contribute to Collier’s memory, MIT Police Sergeant Richard Sullivan — who has spearheaded several Collier remembrances — told him about the Police Unity Tour, a 250-mile bike ride that honors officers who have died in the line of duty. At the end of the trek, riders engrave officers’ names into a national memorial in Washington, D.C. William King, a fellow officer of Collier’s, was already raising money to ride in his honor but was having trouble reaching the full amount required for registration. So Mazumdar, Lozano and Fittery decided to donate their money to help him reach his goal.
They also designed a plaque for the MechE Student Commons to permanently honor Collier, as well as t-shirts that combine the MIT police badge with a robot, one of Collier’s favorite topics of discussion at MIT.