Prof. Amitabha Mukerjee passed away on 24 January 2024. He was a gifted individual with diverse talents and interests , not just in research and academics, as a poet, a very avid nature lover, a biker who is known all over India for his trekking through the Himachal mountains, South India, Uttarakhand, Northeast India and even in Europe in the Alps. He was a pioneer in organizing biking rides with IITK students, faculty and staff, the rides would take them all around Kanpur, from Bithoor to Nawabganj. He was a very avid bird watcher and had a wonderful collection of bird photography in campus, including many migrant birds which have now become a rarity. His interests in music from Indian classical to Bollywood, to pop and Latin hits is also amazingly diverse. He was a master at word play, these became the basis of many of his poetry. Those who know him remember him as an exceptionally wonderful person, very friendly to all--you were always invited to his home.
On the academics side, He received his MS and PhD from the University of Rochester and B.Tech. from IIT Kharagpur. His research interests include artificial intelligence, spatial reasoning, video analytics, robotics, and virtual reality. He has served as a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering department and the Computer Science and Engineering department at IIT Kanpur.
Sadly he had met with an accident on 24 January 2016, while cycling with our IITK student group. He was hit by a bus, fell into a coma and remained in a semi-conscious state since then. Doctors gave up on him, but his brother and sister, his parents and some of his close friends at IITK did all they could for so many years so that there would be a chance for him to regain full consciousness. That sadly, perhaps was not the will of God!!
May he be with the Lord, in rest and in peace, in full consciousness and bliss, may he never have to cross these difficult days that he endured for 8 years.
- Read others message for the grieved family
I was an undergrad in IITK from 2013 to 2017. I got in touch with this group called Bumpy trails bicyclists in campus and started riding with them on Weekend. Amitabha sir introduced me to this new world of long distance cycling and I have been pursuing it ever since. I have done a lot of rides with him. We used to have long conversations about a lot of different topics ranging from campus talks to science, sports, movies anything. He had a very interesting POV about random stuff.
He even invited me for drinks at his place at his place in campus.
On 23 Jan'16, a day before his accident, I went to Student Senate (on Amitabha sir's request) to make this bicycling group officially under student gymkhana so that we can grow this group. Today we have an active bicycling society in campus because of him.
I will always remember exploring the rural part of Kanpur with him, learning about bicycling as a sport and learning from him how we all should strive to be better human than we were yesterday irrespective of your age.
MISS YOU Amithabha Sir!
Prof. Amit Mukerjee lit the first spark of interest in neuroscience and cognitive science in me, that I carry to this day. On top of that, his wide interests in language, literature, food, history, and his playful use of languages in personal interactions continue to delight.
At one point of time, when I was still interested in Brain Computer Interfacing, I thought that a day will come when Mukerjee Sir will communicate better with us from what was a semi-conscious state for 8 years, although what consciousness really is was something we talked just a bit in class.
Now, his body, that probably allowed him to think and process sensory input but not react to them, has been reduced to ashes but memories, legacies, and love live on.
Amit was an exceptional individual--friend of all, and very creative, joyful, and energetic person. He seemed to be very where, india and abroad, at the same time. I miss frequent tea and dinner session I had Amit. The topics of discussion ranged from AI, philosophy, art, history, politics, education, poetry, etc. He knew almost everything. His book collection was exceptional.
I miss Amit so much. I pray for peace for his soul! I am sure he is enriching the heavens with his enthusiasm.
I owe a lot of my career to my advisor, Prof Amitabha Mukerjee. He was the one who taught me how research is practically done. His methods made it natural for me to read research papers and natural for me to engage & collaborate with other people working in the same domain. Later, I used the same methods for my non-academic research efforts, as an employee and now as a founder. My colleagues and leaders often think of me as the go-to person for any new, exploratory or research work. And that is because of Prof Mukerjee. He has had this impact with not just me, but a bunch of us in the department.
We were working on a robotics+topology+ML project when the accident happened (carrying forward from the previous semester's UGP). That project got me, a 7-point-someone, into Microsoft Research (which was an anomaly at the time), and it still inspires people today when I share it with them.
When he was admitted to the hospital, 8 years ago, you could see the number of lives he was impacting just by the sheer number of students & faculty members who were willing to volunteer to stay at the hospital until the professor's family arrived. It was so overwhelming that we had to implement a system of 6-hour shifts; each with a faculty member with 2-4 students.
May God bless us with more souls like his.
Rest in peace, Professor.
I met Prof. Mukherjee a couple of times at conferences. Though it was several years ago, I can clearly recall his beaming enthusiasm and incredible kindness to me, while i was still a young student.
This is an incredible loss to the Computer Vision community.
Prof. Mukerjee was one of my first mentors at IITK who trusted a scrawny 2nd year BT student with weird-looking spectacles enough to invite him into their flourishing research group.
He was a perennial source of encouragement and inspiration. I distinctly remember an episode where I was working on machine translation with the Indian Sign Language and struggling to learn new paradigms e.g. construction grammars, and new languages e.g. Lisp to implement them. I fell silent for a couple of weeks thinking I would notify only when I had made reasonable progress. One day, I was excited and about to mail him about some nice progress but to my dismay, I instead found a long email from him consoling me on how implementation projects are more challenging and how I should not lose hope or feel less about my abilities. I did not need the encouragement on that particular day but I recall that email to this day whenever I do feel the need for a pick-me-up.
The AI landscape within IITK could have been vastly different had we not lost Prof. Mukerjee to that fateful accident 8 years ago. His insistence on focusing on embodied AI is likely to be a prominent feature of AI systems in the wild. He was a prolific researcher, having published some of the CSE department's first papers at leading conferences like IJCAI. He collaborated extensively and mentored so many students giving direction and focus to their interests and goals.
Regrettably, we have lost Prof. Mukerjee for the second time in the past week. We have grieved his loss both individually, and as a department, 8 years ago. Today the grief seems a bit different but in a way that is hard to put in words. Perhaps, clarity will set-in with time.