Peter Reilly

August 10, 2023

I recently heard that one of my high school mentors, Dr. Peter Reilly, passed away last week at the age of 64.

He was a supremely patient, kind, and energizing mentor. I think one of the things that strikes me most is how at the time I didn't understand how rare that is, or how lucky we were to have his help.

When I met him, I had been looking for research projects to work on with my friend Vivek, and he was the first to really take us seriously. Many, many professors turned us away with responses like "come back in graduate school" or "I guess I can put you to use if you want to stack lead bricks". With 10 more years of experience, I can understand now how reasonable a response that is. But Dr. Reilly took the time to explain his work to us, and gave us a small project that we could tackle: translating an ion trap program from SL to Lua. Later this experience with Lua proved surprisingly useful when writing Lua Torch code (remember that?).

What I remember most vividly from this time is that occasionally I would get a confusing result, I would send Dr. Reilly an email, and then I'd poke my head in his office door and ask if he had a second, and pretty much always he would say "Sure!".

He taught me a lot of concrete skills like how to do real scientific work, communicate results, write a paper, and come up with ideas. I regret a lot that I didn't communicate to him enough what an impact he had on my life. With more perspective now I can understand why he and the other mentors in my life have taken a gamble on me: to pay it forward. I hope I can do as good a job.

Rest in peace, Dr. Reilly.