Entering as an undergraduate in 2017 and continuing on as a graduate student pursuing a PhD in 2021, Priya Srikumar became an integral part of the Cornell community. Tragically, on August 26th, 2023, we lost them to a car accident during their cross-country trip back to Ithaca.
In their time at Cornell, they worked with Nate Foster, Andrew Myers, and Adrian Sampson (in chronological order), had several internships at Amazon, and were in the beginnings of a promising internship at AMD.
Priya Srikumar ASPLOS WACI 2023
Eric Campbell, William Hallahan, Priya Srikumar, Carmelo Cascone, Jed Liu, Vignesh Ramamurthy, Hossein Hojjat, Ruzica Piskac, Robert Soulé, Nate Foster. NSDI’21
Talks and Presentations
While these are just some of the accomplishments and contributions we can sum neatly in a list, it is harder but far more essential to capture the every-day light Priya brought to our community. Below, several members have offered their thoughts. In addition, Rachit Nigam and Griffin Berlstein have captured their own thoughts and collected those of others on their personal blogs here and here. The UW PLSE community has also created a touching page that inspired our own, here. Please spend a moment to read through them all.
Special thanks to Joshua Turcotti for the photos.
Priya was such a force for good, and I hope these words will honor their being. I had the privilege of asking them for advice as an incoming Ph.D. student a couple months ago, and I’ll always remember how their eyes lit up when they discussed their research. Their driven purpose in the PL community and willingness to help new Ph.D. students was incredibly uplifting and inspiring; it was through her kindness that I had the confidence to begin my graduate journey. Afterwards, we even made plans to meet up after Labor Day, and it felt like such a given that we’d see each other around campus and at PLDG. I was completely shattered when it wasn’t. Though I met them only once, their encouraging personality left an indelible mark beyond that short interaction, and most certainly they created a safe space for all those who had the pleasure of meeting them. Priya, I hope this page will show you just how much you are dearly missed and how much goodness and light you brought with you in this world.
Cornell BS ‘13 MEng ‘14
I met Priya briefly during virtual ICFP’20, which I attended from Northeastern while suffering from poison ivy and not writing my dissertation. Priya was great fun to talk with. I also met Lucas Silver and Harry Goldstein at that ICFP; it was really a pleasure to meet them too, but somehow they were less fun to talk with … for one, those guys didn’t ask if I was 60 for not having a cell phone and not knowing the standard herb for recreational breathing activities. At the time, Priya was looking for a home for phd studies. I offered to talk more afterward. We never did. I was happy to hear Cornell was a match again.
I first met Priya in New Orleans at POPL 2020 and have fond memories of the time we spent together at that conference. We had a really engaging conversation about the PL community and how it was a nice community to be part of! Priya had been working with Nate as an undergraduate and was considering going to grad school, and we talked about my career path, my struggles along the way, etc When I joined as faculty in the summer of 2021, Priya was one of the first people to make me feel welcome and we had since then maintained a really friendly relationship, with Priya sometimes dropping by my office to ask for advice on different aspects of academic life and me always enjoying our catch-ups whether in person or on slack! The last time we talked was just before the summer break and Priya was so thrilled about her time in Seattle! I was so looking forward to catch up now and hear about all the adventures… I am beyond sad at the loss of such a bright light in our PL-Cornell community and I know we will be grieving Priya’s loss for a long time. But I also know that if Priya was here, they would be the first person to try and help everyone find ways to move forward in a positive way and to honor their memory that is exactly what I hope we all can do.
I first really got to know Priya when they were still an undergraduate—but already a TA in Cornell’s challenging programming languages class. The care and dedication Priya showed to our students was representative of who they were as a person and as a researcher. Priya was always, always helping someone with something—organizing discussion groups when they were still a first-year Ph.D. student, rallying enthusiasm for department picnics, commiserating and offering me tips as we both were training puppies. Over the years, Priya and I would meet for Gimme coffee chats to talk about life in the department and what would come next. I had assumed that those chats would continue for many years to come. The CAPRA lab and the entire programming languages community will sorely miss Priya and the incredible enthusiasm and care that they shared with the world.
Priya put their all into everything in a way few others would. We entered the PhD program at the same time, though they had been here as an undergrad. Before I knew anyone else, I knew Priya as the one who had the initiative to organize a discord server for the incoming 2021 graduate cohort. Eventually I’d come to know them as someone who could always point me towards the best parts of Ithaca, someone who could easily turn a quick comment at the coffee machine into a long conversation about the stress of deadlines, someone who would put their all into preparing a talk, and someone who was always ready to (co-)organize things and step in when things weren’t going well.
The last exchange we had was over Slack. They wanted to know more about a proposal Adrian had to blog as a group but weren’t able to attend the next meeting. I remember, afterwards, wondering what additional information to give them and finding it odd that they hadn’t already messaged me given how proactive they were. When I found out that they had passed shortly after our last exchange, I could only wonder what they were thinking about when they messaged me and what they would have written if they had the chance. Knowing them, I bet they would have put their all into this too.
I think they had a strong sense of duty to the world, the community, and their place in it. They were always eager to step into a place and shape it into a better one. It pains me that they weren’t able to let the world know who they were in their own words.
I was always delighted to hear Priya talk about their many interests with verve. We had some fond memories together in time we knew each other at Cornell, from cooking pasta (from scratch!), kayaking in Cayuga Lake, attending concerts, going to weird David Lynch movies.
I knew Priya grew up in New York City, and when I am there among a crowd of people on a busy street, it strikes me that what Priya possessed is the thing I love most about the city: a spirit that knows no limits.
Priya was a dear friend and I miss them terribly.
Priya has always been an energetic and lovely person. They brought sunshine to the Syslab that will forever be missed.
I’ve talked with Priya a ton of times over the years, but I’ll always remember two times: when we had a great meal in New Orleans at POPL right before the pandemic, and when I was interviewing at Cornell on zoom. Even over gather.town, possibly the most awkward possible way to chat with people before giving my talk, Priya had a ready supply of corny jokes and just a way of putting people at ease. You will be missed.
Priya’s unique energy filled every space they entered: they had a rare ability to engage, generously and enthusiastically, with other people’s ideas and thoughts. Within just a few hours, you would feel as though you had gained your new biggest fan, your most empathetic listening ear.
I feel as though Priya and I were on the cusp of a lovely friendship that will now not be deeply realized. There is so much trivia that will not be played, so many homey meals that will not be cooked, and so much brilliant research that will not be done. I will miss them, as will our research lab and all the other spaces that they touched.
Priya had an incredibly positive presence. Every time I think of them, I remember their smile and enthusiasm towards all aspects of life. I will miss them dearly.
Thank you Priya for being one of my first and closest friends here in Ithaca. You genuinely radiated the brightest beams of smiling joy (instant sunlight in any room), gave the warmest coziest hugs (so comfy and comforting), and had the sharpest eyeliner wings (skill level insanely OFF THE CHARTS) of literally anyone I’ve ever known. Pokki and I miss you endlessly, and it’s still hard to believe you’re gone – there’s so much more we were going to do together – but I believe we’ll meet again one day <3
By luck, my desk was set next to Priya’s in the first-years office. The office can be a pretty gray place, but the first time I met Priya, they were so kind and warm and lit up my day with their interests and desire to share hobbies. Priya’s genuine nature shows in relationships she has built with individuals and the community at large. I will miss you, Priya <3
I only had the privilege of interacting with Priya two times, once in a class and once when I saw them walking their pet dogs in Downtown, but even in those two interactions, Priya came across as a sweet and helpful person. I remember I had asked them something about an assignment, I don’t even remember what the assignment was, but I remember Priya was kind and helpful in their response. The other time when I met them with their dogs, they talked fondly about them, like any dog parent does. I’m sure their dogs miss them terribly and will always remember them with love. I pray Priya’s soul rests in peace, and I for one, will always remember them as a sweet person who I would have loved to be friends with had I had the chance. Sending strength and prayers to their family and loved ones, particularly their pet dogs.
I remember Priya as an undergrad, and as a PhD student, and as a friend. I remember a bright spark of joy who would always strive to be the best version of themselves in every scenario. I remember the star-struck look of awe and excitement as they became acquainted with the field, and with everyone within it. Nothing was too small to matter to Priya; everything was impressive, beautiful, exciting, and maybe a little bit intimidating to behold. I wish I could see the world the way that Priya did; as this spectacular manifestation of possibility at every turn.
Priya was that spectacular manifestation, for so many of us. May their memory be a blessing for us all.
I think about you everyday. You were the sweetest and most passionate. I‘m so happy I had a glimpse of you in my life❤️
Priya’s love of PL was so infectious and fun to be around. That love came through in every conversation I had with them and each of their talks. Priya, we miss you terribly.
honestly I never met Priya but I felt that I should say something because I wouldn’t want a member of my community to feel alone in a moment of their transition into the next world. You are beloved here and in the beyond. In whatever form you may take may you shine powerfully amongst the stars so we may continue to look up to you. I feel nothing but warmth for you, your family, and your dear friends in their moment of grief and celebration of your life.
Priya Srikumar was a shining star among us—exceptionally talented, intelligent, and endlessly loving. Her presence was a beacon of kindness and compassion, touching the lives of many.
Priya’s heart was a vast ocean, welcoming everyone she met with a warm and friendly smile. Her absence is a void that can never truly be filled, and her memory is a constant presence in our lives.
She was not only one of the most hardworking and dedicated individuals I had the privilege to know, but she was also on the path to becoming a true luminary in the world of computer science research and a boon to society at large.
Conversations with Priya were nothing short of stimulating and inspiring. She had the remarkable ability to ignite a passion for personal growth and a desire to be a better human being by simply setting a great example. Her legacy lives on, not only in our memories but also in the way she continues to inspire us to reach for the stars.
She was one of my closest friends, we lived together for a year and we were supposed to meet when she got back to Ithaca. I still have the food her mom cooked for her in my freezer but do not have the heart to throw it out.
I’ll miss you. It feel a bit strange that there are places I can’t go without thinking of you.
Priya was a delightful person - I loved bumping into them in the 3rd floor kitchen or climbing wall. Even when our chats were brief, they got surprisingly deep quickly because Priya was never afraid to share what they were thinking and ask you deep questions about what was on your mind. I miss their thoughtful and kind presence - Gates feels emptier without them.
One of my earliest memories of Priya is also one of the most characteristically Priya-like. As a sophomore at Cornell, they were taking CS 6110: our classic, wide-ranging PhD-level programming languages. Most grad students find 6110 challenging, and—as a freshly inducted undergrad CS major—they were also pretty overwhelmed. But the difference with Priya is how determined they were. We talked about their determination to learn this stuff and to grow into a full-fledged researcher, no matter how hard it was, and even if it meant dropping the class and taking it all over again. Their passion and clarity about what they wanted out of school was totally, astonishingly unique.
That same force of will was obvious to everyone they met. I’ve lost track of how many times someone met Priya and later mentioned how immediately impressed they were, for some reason or another: Priya’s curiosity, their kindness, their bright-burning enthusiasm for so many technical things. Priya touched so many people in our community at Cornell and beyond that their memory will be a part of it for decades.
We miss you, Priya.
The most special people use their eyes to make you feel like you’re the only thing in the world that matters when they’re speaking to you. That was Priya. If someone tried to accumulate all the love that we as a species with millenia of experience knew how to feel, they would fail. But if they saw Priya smile, they would find peace and feel it had already been done. So many of us at Cornell have had Priya’s words and smiles reach us. This is no coincidence: Priya saw their own life as most glorious chance ever given to lift everyone else’s up and so they did.
We remember so much about what it meant to live in a world with Priya. In a world without Priya, here are some reminders:
The tender touch of a heart that knew how to hurt, but didn’t know how to do anything but pour itself into you to seek out and fill your own hurt;
the playful style of 23 years of self love learned and practiced with industriousness and inventiveness;
the inadqueacy of trying to stop electric current if you sought to lessen their ambition or temper their raging determination.
the vision of our world given color through the limitless joy every path, every art, every challenge, every morsel of it could provide;
the strength to never fear a new experience that could rattle and reform their soul;
a laugh that met no resistance as it rocked their body and they made only the most feeble attempt to contain it with a hand raised to their mouth;
a hug warmer than you knew you could be;
an energy that forced you to take pause to wonder if you really just witnessed what you did;
a tear that always came when they saw one of the parts of the world that is just so, so wrong;
a joy; a hope; a strength; a passion; a life; a river; a fire; a love.
One eternity ends in a miracle when a new life is created, and another begins with a tragedy when a life is taken. If we were wise, the weight of all the miracles to come and the weight of all the tragedies we remember would match each other, and we would be at peace. And yet so many of us are human instead of wise, and with a tragedy like this in the past we cannot seed the future with enough miracles to find peace in our present. Because we are human we feel love - in fact we feel love in so many more places than we dare use the word for - we feel love for neighbors, for friends, for teachers, for doors held open, for any who share a warming meal or a blissful moment of play. If you felt love for Priya in any way, you are probably not at peace right now. There is no miracle that can come that will bring the peace we’re tempted to seek.
This beautiful page contains so many words about Priya, but none of them matter. If you’re reading them it means you are putting everything on pause to read about a beloved friend that fell victim to a force we have no way to protect ourselves or those we love from. You may be a little more afraid of it than you were before. You may be a little more humble. You may be a little more weak. Whatever you feel, when you are done reading this page, please, let the space you have created for reflection extend a little longer. Listen to your own mind as it grapples with the love it felt for Priya and the horror of their loss. Only you can hear those words, and even those of us that have tried to share them have at most succeeded partially. By listening, you let Priya continue to live in the way that mattered most to them: through love and the rawness of our humanity.
Priya, we love you, we remember you.
Fred B. Schneider
Priya was a refreshing student, who often chatted with me about the bigger picture and where she might fit in. She was quite smart, which made these conversations a welcome break. And they often prompted me to reflect more broadly. I shall miss her.
You will forever be loved and missed by this community
I met Priya working as course staff for CS 4120, Cornell’s introductory compilers class. They brought a positive atmosphere to course staff meetings with their presence alone, and could make even discussions regarding carpal tunnel seem exciting. Though they undoubtedly had a lot on their plate as a PhD student, they volunteered to take on extra responsibilities for the course, and went out of their way to make sure students felt supported. Priya, I’ll miss you.
Priya and I shared a love of music. I was Priya’s instructor in a couple courses and we had a shared interest in programming languages too, but it was through music that we really connected. Singing together was a great source of joy for both of us. I will always cherish that memory.