PSU, international community mourn loss
Marcus Clem | Collegio Reporter
Pittsburg State University and the international science community lost a dear friend and colleague this month.
Alexander Konopelko, physicist and associate professor at PSU, died in a car accident outside Pittsburg on Aug. 10. The Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science called Konopelko, known to his colleagues as Sascha, “…a very likable person,” describing him as “not outgoing, sometimes even shy, but he had a good sense of humor which made life with him pleasant and enjoyable.”
Konopelko visited the Society in Germany with a group of Pitt State students last year, where they heard scientific presentations at Max Planck’s research institute in Heidelberg.
Surviving Konopelko are his wife, Tatiana, and daughter Nicole, who were injured in the crash, which occurred as Konopelko attempted to make a U-turn and was struck by oncoming traffic. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to The Joplin Globe. Konopelko is also survived by his daughter Valentina.
The research team led by Konopelko had recently been awarded a $140,000 grant from NASA for the study of the deep space anomalies known as black holes.
“My research is trying to understand black holes – just the fundamentals,” Konopelko told The Globe in 2009. “They’re very powerful and can generate a lot of energy. You can capture that energy from a million miles away. Maybe we can use it someday.”
Konopelko arrived at Pitt Sate in 2008 from Purdue. He was set to work with 100 scientists across the nation and with two PSU students on the research project.
“Konopelko was probably one of the most important people to be hired here at PSU in the past couple of years,” said Harry Humphries, associate professor of sociology and close friend. “To illustrate how important he was: three years ago, I had one publication compared to his, like, nine.”
In a statement, President Steve Scott praised Konopelko’s “…incredible passion for research and for instructing students.” Scott also offered his thoughts and prayers for all those involved in the accident and wished Konopelko’s wife and daughter a speedy recovery.
A memorial service for Konopelko was attended by more than 250 friends, colleagues and well-wishers.