Student death leaves community in shock
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | October 09,2012
Mikhail “Mike” Lomakin, 24, of Norwich, was a graduate student with a passion for science whose hard work and dedication captivated students and teachers alike.
He entered Dartmouth College to study physics and he made an impression with others one month into the program. Now students are coping with his tragic loss.
“The first year graduate students bond closely together. There are 14 of them, they share the same office and take the same courses. A number of students were hit hard. They lost a friend of theirs,” said Robert Caldwell, Dartmouth College professor of physics and astronomy.
Police are investigating the death of Lomakin, a promising Dartmouth College student from St. Petersburg, Russia, that has left a community in shock. Caldwell said Lomakin discussed becoming a teacher’s assistant with faculty last week. Caldwell said his colleagues were impressed with what Lomakin had to offer.
News of Lomakin’s death reverberated throughout the department. A Space Plasma physics class was cancelled on Monday and Caldwell said he will cancel his graduate student teacher training class today.
“It’s not something that happens very often. We’re all shocked by it,” Caldwell said.
Lomakin graduated in the spring from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell with a major in atmospheric science. He excelled as a student and won the Chancellor’s Medal for Academic Achievement, an award given to UMass-Lowell students who graduate with a 4.0 grade point average.
Nelson Eby, Chairman of the Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department at UMass-Lowell knew Lomakin well and was also shocked by the news. Lomakin majored in atmospheric science and wanted to attend Dartmouth College not only to teach, but to study solar physics.
“He was an unbelievable student,” Eby said. “He took 24 credits in one semester and was a straight-A student. He just cruised right through here, probably one of the best students we ever had.”
Eby recalled Lomakin was cooperative and helpful to others. He said Lomakin had a “quiet side” to him but always humble and never self-effacing.
Eby received several emails in the last 24 hours from students who knew Lomakin, he said. Like his Dartmouth classmates, many were in disbelief.
Forrest Beals was a classmate of Lomakin’s at UMass-Lowell for three years. He said Mike “always carried a smile on his face” and was “always in a good mood.” Beals said never saw any signs of mental instability and wonders how something tragic could happen to someone with a promising future.
“When I first heard the news, I thought he was in a car accident or his car broke down and he was walking to the nearest exit for help,” Beals said.
According to police reports, Lomakin was lying in the right-hand lane on Interstate 91 South near mile marker 73. Shane Harlow, 47, of Quechee and Justin Ciccarrelli, 37, of Windsor were in separate vehicles and thought Lomakin was a dead animal, according to police. The drivers realized it was a body too late, police said, and they could not avoid colliding with it. Lomakin was dead at the scene and transported to Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington.
Police now suspect a third vehicle was involved in the collision. Anyone with information should call State Trooper Chris Blais at 234-9933.
Vigils for Lomakin were held at Dartmouth College’s Wilder Hall and at the UMass-Lowell Weather Lab on Monday night.
Counseling is available to Dartmouth College students. For more information call (603) 646-4000.