Research Assistant in the SIR Department, Vandana Chinwalla, passed away peacefully on Monday, May 21st, 2018. Dr. Chinwalla had been fighting cancer for nearly three years: nevertheless, her death came as a shock to both IMSA students and faculty. In the days following, students attended her wake and staff honored her with a eulogy at IMSA’s end-of-year Community Day.
Hailing from Hinsdale, Illinois, Dr. Chinwalla worked with IMSA for three formative years as a member of the SIR Department. Students had the opportunity to perform research under her mentorship, and she guided every single student in the SIR program through the assignments and operations of the department. When undergoing treatment for breast cancer, she took leave from her post. The news of her death followed several months later.
IMSA alum Chandana Tetali (’18), worked with Dr. Chinwalla during her time at IMSA. She remembers how Dr. Chinwalla always went above and beyond for her students: “Dr. Chinwalla was more than a research advisor to me. She was my mentor, who welcomed my questions and explained patiently; my friend, who listened to me and advised me; and my supporter, who always believed in me even when I doubted myself.”
Miriam Franks (’19), another student who worked closely with Dr. Chinwalla, shared the legacy she left: “Dr. Chinwalla is someone who inspired me and continues to inspire me to this day. She allowed me to explore something I am extremely passionate about in the lab and guided me with her knowledge. I will always be grateful for what she taught me and I know I will always look up to her.”
On August 16, 2018, Dr. Chinwalla’s husband and three children were involved in a serious car accident while on a family trip in Wyoming. Her husband, Juzer, passed away while two of her children suffered severe injuries. News reached the IMSA community just a few days later after a family friend began spreading methods of supporting the family. Efforts have been made within their home community to support the family in this time of tragedy.
A GoFundMe page has been set up in the children’s names by a family friend. For the next month, the page will be open to the community for donations. If you are able to donate, please do so at this link. If you are unable to do so, please keep the surviving members of the Chinwalla family in your hearts as they recover and begin to navigate life without their parents to guide them. Please also consider signing the card left in Student Life to be delivered to Dr. Chinwalla’s children and relatives.
On behalf of the IMSA community, we extend our condolences and love to all those mourning the loss of a mentor, coworker, parent, and friend.