UCSB physics graduate student and teaching assistant Mananya Tantiwiwat passed away on April 18 after a three-year battle with breast cancer. She was 28 years old.
Tantiwiwat, known to friends and family as Nammon, died at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara after undergoing a year of chemotherapy and surgery due to the reemergence of her cancer. She received numerous academic honors including a scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Technology from the Royal Thai Government, an Outstanding TA Award in 2006 and a Materials Research Lab Diversity Fellowship in 2008.
Tantiwiwat was awarded her doctorate degree in physics on April 14 and was slated to graduate this spring. A memorial service was held at UCSB on April 21 to celebrate the life of the avid cyclist, hiker and runner who was known for her brilliant smile, optimistic attitude and penchant for ice cream.
Moriah Sandy, one of Mananya’s best friends and a speaker at the service, said Tantiwiwat lived her life with exceptional strength and vigor.
“Mananya always had a way of making life’s road blocks seem trivial,” Sandy said in an e-mail. “Mananya told me that she was completely happy with her life, that she had no regrets and that having cancer made her realize and appreciate everything she had done and experienced in her life even more.”
Originally from Thailand, Tantiwiwat received her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth University before attending UCSB to pursue her doctorate in Condensed Matter Experiment, according to an online physics newsletter. She hoped to eventually return to Thailand and serve as a university professor after graduating this spring.
According to a “Relay For Life” team created in Tantiwiwat’s honor, she continued to be extremely dedicated to her work even after her diagnosis.
“Mananya has been incredibly resilient in the five years during which we have collectively known her,” the page said. “During her first round of treatment, she continued to come to work and do research,
always with a smile.”
According to chemistry and biochemistry professor Thuc-Quyen Nguyen, a memorial fellowship was created in Tantiwiwat’s honor to recognize graduate students who show similar dedication and kindheartedness.
Physics graduate student and instructor Matt Block said Tantiwiwat’s exceptional personality left a lasting impression on all who knew her.
“I have decided that the best way for me to honor Nammon is to be more kind and generous to my friends, family and all who I meet; to give of myself in any way I can without concern for what I’ll get in return; and when faced with adversity in life, I will remember Nammon’s courage and it will fill me with strength,” Block said on a memorial blog. “I want to express my sincerest gratitude to Nammon’s family for sharing her with us for so many years; I am a better man for having known her.”