Visiting scholar dies in Palo Alto car crash

Jan. 4, 2011, 2:02 a.m.

Graduate student researcher Rune Nielsen, 25, was killed in a car accident early on Dec. 18 at Middlefield Road and Hawthorne Avenue in Palo Alto.

Nielsen, originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, was conducting nanotechnology research in the Stanford Microsystems Laboratory under the tutelage of associate professor Beth Pruitt in the mechanical engineering department. His project was entitled “Passivation for Piezoresistive Cantilevers.”

Visiting scholar dies in Palo Alto car crash
Rune Nielsen, 25, conducted nanotechnology research in the Stanford Microsystems Laboratory. (Courtesy of Donna Shoemaker)

When Nielsen first arrived at Stanford, he participated in the home-stay program run by the Community Committee for International Studies.

“He was just a great, generous, kind person,” said Karen McNay, chair of the program. “He was gregarious and outgoing and made friends very easily.”

“We grew to be very fond of this wonderful young man,” said Donna Shoemaker, who picked Nielsen up at the airport when he arrived in California and hosted him for two weeks. “He was just an exceptional young man who we stayed very close to while he was here.”

Nielsen had a particular interest in entrepreneurship and thought that academic disciplines didn’t communicate well enough, Shoemaker said. He was interested in the intersection of engineering and business.

Nielsen’s funeral will be held in Hadsten, Denmark, on Jan. 8, according to Shoemaker. Arrangements for a memorial service on campus are pending.

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