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Unexpected Loss: Zach Cook, TCE Honors Student


Zach CookIt is with great sadness that we share news of the unexpected death of sophomore Zach Cook on December 30, 2019. Zach was an honors student studying materials science, but conducted research across disciplines.

He was working as an intern at IACMI—The Composites Institute and was also part of Professor Dayakar Penumadu’s research group. Several members of our Engineering Vols community have shared fond memories of Zach:

“Zach was a brilliant and dedicated student and I had every intention of recruiting him to graduate school, he was well ahead of his age for his maturity, dedication, and most importantly kindness to others he was working with and learning from. Zach served both my group and Dr. Vaidya’s group on various materials characterization tasks associated with various IACMI projects and he will be dearly missed. He was a great MSE undergraduate student and was also considering physics as well.”—Dayakar Penumadu, professor, CEE.

“Zach was always exceptionally friendly and polite, which made my interactions with him memorable and enjoyable. He had an impressive work ethic and was clearly a person of great integrity. He will be missed by his MSE family.”—Hannah Swan, academic advisor, MSE.

“Zach was one of my interns, and I’m just devastated by this loss. Zach was one of the best. He was sweet, humble, smart and a genuinely wonderful person. My prayers and thoughts are with his family and all those fortunate enough to know him.”—Joannie Harmon Heath, IACMI workforce director.

“I feel so very fortunate that I got to know Zach, even though it was only for a short time. He possessed the rare qualities of a brilliant mind, intertwined with a creative, polite, friendly, and caring personality. Zach explored every concept we examined in class to its fullest and his enthusiasm was contagious; he made everyone better who got a chance to work with him.

It took all of about two class periods to recognize that Zach was going to be a Rock Star in our department. I tried immediately to place him into a research position, but he was already doing great working with composite materials in Civil Engineering. But, what I will remember most about Zach is his smile. His genuine smile greeted you long before you reached handshaking or speaking distance. The whole of all good qualities we want in our children and students was wrapped up in that smile. He will be greatly missed.”—Chris Wetteland, senior lecturer, MSE.

“Zach was a complete pleasure to work with. I often referred to him as the anti-millennial in his work-ethic and diligence.”—Matthew Kant, research assistant professor, CEE.

Zach’s funeral took place on January 4 at the Berry Highland West Cemetery. Read Zach’s obituary and funeral service details. A friend of the family has established a GoFundMe campaign to assist in covering the costs of funeral services for those who would like to contribute.

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