It is with deep sadness that we share the loss of LIDS student Matthew Brennan, who passed away suddenly on January 26, 2021, as the result of a previously unknown medical condition.
A longtime member of the MIT community, Matt earned his B.Sc in 2016, and his SM degree in 2018, both from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). For his Master’s thesis, he was awarded the Ernst A. Guillemin Award for Best Thesis in Electrical Engineering. Matt was awarded his Ph.D., also from EECS, posthumously in May 2021.
Although still in the very beginning of his career, Matt was a true rising star. In 2018 his paper, “Reducibility and Computational Lower Bounds for Problems with Planted Sparse Structure” was given the Best Student Paper Award at the Conference on Learning Theory (COLT), the leading conference on the theory of machine learning. In 2020, he was again awarded the Best Student Paper Award at COLT for a related work. In the Fall of 2021 Matt was to have started a prestigious Miller Fellowship for postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley. Established members of the international research community at the interface of statistics and computation described Matt’s doctoral work as ground-breaking, opening the door to exciting lines of inquiry that will continue to be explored for years to come. Matt’s love of learning was boundless, and he was fiercely dedicated to hard work.
But mostly Matt was passionate about his wonderful friends, the tight-knit group from Upper Canada College, his many friends from the Olympiad math contest world, and his many friends from MIT. He was an extremely generous, kind, optimistic and enthusiastic person with an infectious laugh and a love of storytelling.
Matt is sorely missed by all who knew him — in the LIDS community and beyond. As we mourn this loss, we strive, in the words of MIT President L. Rafael Reif in his message to the MIT community, to "take inspiration from Matthew’s marvelous spirit, brilliant mind and generous heart."