Ernie Esser (May 19, 1980 - March 8, 2015)

I am very sorry to have to report that Ernie Esser – Postdoctoral Fellow at the Seismic Laboratory for Imaging and Modelling (SLIM), passed away from complications of pneumonia on his trip back from Europe.

Ernie – alias "Ernie the Man", was a fantastic researcher working on a wide variety of problems ranging from full-waveform inversion to blind-deconvolution. Ernie was an extremely enthusiastic and extremely talented researcher who was, above all, immensely generous with his time and ideas. This made him a key figure in our group and the ideal "go-to-guy" for anybody who wanted to learn about large-scale optimization and scientific computing.

As a person, Ernie also had a fantastic sense of humour, never complained, and was always in for a double-espresso. He will be dearly dearly missed by his family, everybody he interacted with at UBC, by our sponsors, and by the scientific community at large.

Cards can be send to Ernie's parents
Doug and Rita Esser
19037 90th Place NE
Bothell, Washington 98011, USA
A celebration of Ernie will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Life Celebrations by Washelli, 18224 103rd Ave. NE, Bothell, WA 98011.

Over the next few months, we will work on different ways to recognize Ernie's major contributions to science in the form of a scientific meeting and related activities. We welcome any thoughts or suggestions you may have. Thank you.

On behalf of the SLIM team,

Felix J. Herrmann


Ning Tu (unauthenticated)
Mar 9, 2015

Still could not believe Ernie has left us and his family. Farewell Ernie, you have left great positive legacies to us who are fortunate enough to know you personally as a friend and work with you as a fantastic colleague.

SLIM Assistant
Mar 9, 2015

Ernie was the kindliest soul imaginable. He never had a bad day. No many how often he was pestered with a silly question (which I did many times) he was unfailingly good humoured and kindhearted. He will be terribly missed. What a tragic loss to the world. Thanks for the boomerang lessons Ernie. Thanks for being such a sweetheart.

Ben Bougher (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

Ernie was incredibly friendly and I never saw him without a smile in the short time I knew him. He excelled in everything he did, and was very humble about his talents. It is very tragic to see someone so bright leave us so young.

Xiang Li (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

I still can not believe you left us at such a young age. Ernie is an excellent friend and teacher with a fantastic personality. He has a very positive attitude towards life and always willing to help with all his patience, no matter how simple the problem that we have. I learn a lot of things from him. Death is not extinguishing the light, I will spend all my effect to finish the rest of our paper with Felix. We will also carry on your spirit in our future research and life.

Felix Oghenekohwo (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

The moments I spent discussing my research with Ernie, particularly after regular office hours, are still very fresh in my mind. The shock of this tragedy continues to reverberate. He is patient, very friendly, and has inspired me in many ways and will be dearly missed.

Zhilong Fang (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

I still can not believe that Ernie has passed away from us. We just contacted a few days before, and still waited him for a discussion. Ernie is such a kind and good person that always prepare to help people. I still remember that the day he went to my office to give a new idea about the question I asked him several days ago and almost forgot. Wish him could have a better life in that world.

Ceremonies Office (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

The BC Flag (Main Mall and Agronomy Road) will be lowered on Wednesday, March 11, in remembrance:

Dr. John “Ernie” Esser passed away Sunday March 8, 2015, in Iceland from complications of pneumonia on his trip back from Europe. Ernie completed his BSc in 2003 at the University of Washington and finished his MSc and PhD at UCLA in 2010. Ernie joined the Seismic Laboratory for Imaging and Modelling in September 2013 as a postdoctoral fellow. In the relatively short time we had the privilege of having Ernie in our group, we all benefited greatly from Ernie’s talent and generosity, and his contributions will have a lasting impact on our group and on the scientific community at large.
Details on a memorial service will be posted on a weblog (

Mengmeng Yang (unauthenticated)
Mar 10, 2015

This tragedy is such a shock that I still can not believe that he has already left, just feel like he is around in office as expect. He has such a nice personality, and never lose his patience no matter in the view of 'optimization', how simply the questions we asking are. Everyone gets his generous help . For me the inspire from him would definitely play a important role in my future research. He will be sorely missed.

Igor Fonseca (unauthenticated)
Mar 11, 2015

Before I return to Brazil in December 23, 2015, I had a pleasure to talk with Super Ernie. I am really sad cause Super Ernie passed away. Ernie was very friendly and shared his hobby with everybody, for example Soccer and Boomerang. The world lost a really nice guy and exemplar researcher.
Our prayers and thoughts are with Ernie and his family during this difficult time.

Gabriel Cimino (unauthenticated)
Mar 11, 2015

I am one of the many here who can say I knew Ernie.

I met him in second grade. In Mrs Greenaway's class. What started as two kids playing became a friendship that spanned decades. You will be missed my friend. The boomerang you gave me is now a cherished possession.

Goodbye friend, until I see you again.

Molly Mimier (unauthenticated)
Mar 12, 2015

This is so shocking and sad. Although it has been many years since I last spoke to him, I have so many fun memories of Ernie from Junior High and High School. He was such a kind, good person, and it was nice to know he was out in the world doing important research and making others around him smile. His family and friends are in my prayers. May he be at peace.

Jim Morrow (unauthenticated)
Mar 12, 2015

What a nice, sweet, good natured, generous, clever, athletic, versatile, fun person to be near. Everyone says he is flawless. And nothing is a pretense. He genuinely liked everyone. If you hadn't met him you would dismiss everything as exaggeration. But he is the real thing. No novelist would write about him because there couldn't be such a person.

Art Petrenko
Mar 12, 2015

Ernie was a beacon of positivity. I remember when the SLIM group went to Amsterdam for the EAGE in 2014 he rented a bike and cycled to see some windmills north of the city on one of the days off. What a joyful human being.

His lectures were easy to follow, and he had a knack for taking difficult concepts and approaching them in a casual light-hearted way. He would follow up some technical comment he'd just made with a laugh or a shrug as if to say, "nah, that's not that impressive." We were impressed Ernie.

Take care.

Darren Stott (unauthenticated)
Mar 12, 2015

I am a friend of Ernie's from his soccer team, Meraloma, and we are all shocked and very saddened to hear the news. We will be holding a tribute to Ernie before our soccer game this Saturday at 4pm at Jericho turf field. We will be holding a minutes silence and the team will be wearing black arm bands. Ernie played with us for just under 2 years, but in that short time we were all won over by his generosity, enthusiasm and positivity. We were also in awe of his ability to cycle anywhere in the whole of Metro Vancouver play 90 minutes soccer and cycle back to UBC. Anyone is welcome to come and join us this Saturday for the tribute.

Jeff Giansiracusa (unauthenticated)
Mar 13, 2015

I have so many things to say about Ernie, and yet I'm at a loss for words now. He was amazing. Ernie was my best friend, but It wasn't a symmetric relationship - I think almost everyone who came close to him felt that way. His personality, wit, and sense of humor drew everyone towards him. Everyone wanted to be in his presence. Everyone knew him and loved him because he had a way of seeing the humor in all things and he shared that with all those around him. He wasn't trying to entertain; he just loved the funny things in life. I think he deeply changed the way I see the world because of this. From my first day at UW I admired him and aspired to be like him. I'd never met someone like him, and I know I never will again.

Ernie, I'll never forget kayaking with you, learning about differential equations and boomerangs with you, sitting at the 'troll table' under the stairs at the HUB for hours after exams with you, eating mortadella sandwiches with you, and laughing with you.

Lindsey Boldrin (unauthenticated)
Mar 13, 2015

Ernie was a childhood friend from our days at Westhill Elementary in Bothell, WA. He was always the first to befriend "the new kid," and won the Humanitarian Award year after year by virtue of his humble, caring, hilarious Ernie-ness. He was truly one of the kindest, most genuine individuals I have ever known. I always knew he would grow up to be an amazing person--a special human being that we've lost too soon. Ernie made the world a better place. I remember his constant smile. I'm honored to have grown up with, and spent my childhood days on the playground with him. Ernie, you will be remembered forever by those who were fortunate to know you.

Steve Martin (unauthenticated)
Mar 13, 2015

I first met Ernie as undergrads together at the U of Washington. He quickly became one of my closest friends, eventually captaining quite possibly the most epic soccer team ever fielded at UW, "We Live in a Giant Bucket".

Ernie was quietly brilliant, an athletic marvel, always cheerful, and never said no to anyone in need. I am so shocked that he was taken away so soon. I miss him already, and will never forget him.

Felix Herrmann
Mar 15, 2015

Below some of the comments that reached us via email.

Charles J. wrote "I am very shocked to hear of Ernie's passing, I was with him just two weeks ago and had a fantastic day learning so much from him. He was so proficient at helping us understand our problems and how frame them. His enthusiasm to teach and help people solve problems themselves was really special. Please pass on my condolences to his family and to his extended family in UBC, he will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He certainly deserves permanent recognition for all of his skills and hard work both at Sinbad and in his previous roles."

Gang Y. wrote "I am really shocked by the sad news. A few days ago, Ernie still worked with us energetically and discussed with us about inversion theory. He even suggested me several algorithms for reflection FWI. He was cycling every day from Clapham Junction, where he was living, to uni. However, we heard he had occasionally cough in our office. Is this the start of his pneumonia?

Ernie has very very good personality and is extremely intelligent and willing to help people. We had an agree to meet in Madrid in June. Sigh, life is short and unpredictable. God, please bless Ernie has pleace in the heaven."

Chengbo L. wrote " I am so sorry to hear that. Ernie is an extraordinary researcher and his work in optimization and FWI is impressive. Please pass on my condolences to his family and SINBAD members."

Risto S. wrote "Sad to learn, a so young and talented researcher leaves the real world by taking with him all his future exploits.
A big lost for his family, friends and all geophysical community. "

Carlos T. wrote "Sad news. I have good memories of Ernie’s presentations at the meetings, the friendly and calm way of presenting complex ideas. It is a loss to geophysics."

Daniel T. wrote "Really sorry to hear that. I didn’t know him other than from his talks but he seemed not only very intelligent but a really warm and humble person. My condolences to all his friends in Sinbad. Surely, he will be well remembered and missed."

Tony R. wrote "Ernie was with us for a short time; he was a real inspiration to have around."

James S. wrote "I heard this sad news from Charles and it is hard to believe. Ernie visited with us just two weeks ago and we saw first-hand how generous he was with his insights. We felt very fortunate to be able to collaborate with him."

Honkai Z. wrote "I am really shocked by this terrible news and can not believe it. Ernie is a truly fantastic person in every aspect of life. He is mentally and physically strong too. We played soccer together many times. He will be dearly missed by many people."

Stan O. wrote "Terrible news. The whole community is shocked. What a loss.
We should have a special issue in his honor."

James B. "I'd like to express my deepest condolences for the loss of Ernie Esser to
your team and community at UBC. He was a good and brilliant soul. His loss
is felt deeply by many. I can't imagine the profound grief his family and loved ones
must be experiencing at this time. Our blessings and thoughts go out to them.
It is such a tragedy, and so hard to absorb.

As you know Ernie had very close ties to our mathematical community here in
Seattle. He was a regular mentor at our Summer SIMUW program and contributed his very
popular boomerang talk at our Math Day each Spring Break for many years.
He was scheduled to give this talk again in two weeks. He was also the guru for
our Math Day website. He was such a giving and loving young man.
He is known and loved by many here at UW."

Eva K. wrote "I only met Ernie on two occasions when he popped in to our offices for meetings. He instantly struck me as a totally enjoyable, positive and generous individual; I see now from the many words written about him that this was indeed his very nature. This is a sad time and I'm deeply sorry for the loss; our thoughts are with you and those who were close to Ernie."

Anonymous (unauthenticated)
Mar 16, 2015

It's a tragedy and I was shocked when saw the news. He is so young. REST IN PEACE. His remarkable work will last forever.

Tu Ning
Mar 8, 2016

Felix's email reminds me that it has been a year now since Ernie's passing. One year is a period of time that is not long enough for us to realize what we really lose by losing him, but it is long enough for us to convince ourselves that he is indeed away from us. Nevertheless, whenever I read his paper, I know that despite his young age, he left his legacy to make this world a better place. Thanks for the boomerang lectures, your mead, and simply being a cheerful colleague, Ernie. You will always be missed.

/groups/public/search/index.rss?tag=hotlist/groups/public/search/?tag=hotWhat’s HotHotListHot!?tag=hot0/groups/public/sidebar/HotListNo items tagged with ChangesRecentChangesListUpdates?sort=modifiedDate&kind=all&sortDirection=reverse&excludePages=wiki/welcome0/groups/public/sidebar/RecentChangesListmodifiedDateallRecent ChangesRecentChangesListUpdateswiki/welcomeNo recent changes.reverse5search