I met Sam when he arrived at Gatsby in early 1999. I remember him bounding around the unit at all hours, eager to talk about his latest ideas, and to hear what everyone else was working on. In those days I was the lone experimentalist in the unit, and I always appreciated his willingness to run in experiments or check out my latest demos. At the time we were doing very different things, but he was nonetheless a big influence on me - I think he was the first person to encourage me to start thinking about audition, as he was interested in analogies between Bregman's demos and the visual segmentation work I was then doing. His work on single microphone source separation made a lasting impression on me and many others, and years later, I moved into auditory research. To this day I wish I'd done this sooner, so that we could have worked on things together while at Gatsby. I was looking forward to finally getting a chance to do this now that we were both at NYU.
The start of the Gatsby unit was a time of great excitement for everyone involved, both scientificaly and personally. It coincided with many of us moving to London for the first time, and we all explored the London night life together. Sam was a huge part of this, always up for anything. I have vivid memories of an expedition to the world breakdancing championships in Brixton, after which, late at night, we all walked together back to central London. I remember Sam convincing me that night to try the chips at the place on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford St. I was henceforth addicted, and it became a regular late night destination. I remember another night when we went to see old school house pioneer A Guy Called Gerald, deep in south London; Sam was the first person on the dancefloor.
We stayed in touch after Gatsby in part through the radio show I did during grad school. Sam would tune in online from Toronto as he was grading papers. On occasion he would email or call the station when I played a song he liked, and I would say hi to him over the air. During the second year he spent visiting MIT, I recall Sam and Sebastian Seung repeatedly crashing the grad student parties I DJ'd at the time, much to my pleasure.
Our lives intersected again when he moved to NYU this past fall. I was tremendously excited when I heard he was coming, as were many others - the room was packed for his first talk here, with 20+ people sitting on the floor or lined up outside the door. Although his profile was much larger 10 years later, his youthful enthusiasm hadn't changed a bit. He came to our lab meetings regularly, always chiming in with insightful comments. I still have the xerox copy he made for me shortly after arriving of an old paper of Fletcher's on speech acoustics. He just thought it was cool and wanted to share it. I was so happy he was here, and excited about the plans we had made for collaborations.
It's hard to express how deeply sad and disappointing his departure is, but I am just as deeply grateful to have known him when I did. Sam, we'll miss you.
Sam Roweis died unexpectedly on January 12, 2010.
He was a truly wonderful person; a beloved son, husband and father; and a treasured friend and colleague.
This is a place for all of us who were lucky enough to know Sam to share our memories and to help celebrate his life.
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