Sonia Stanciu (1966 - 2002)

Sonia Stanciu was a brilliant theoretical physicist who lost a brief battle against a devastating cancer at the age of 35.

She was also my wife.

I met Sonia in 1991 in Bonn oder so: I was on my second postdoc after having spent two very memorable years in Leuven and she was a doctoral student who had arrived from Bucharest the year before, shortly after the end of the Ceauşescu dictatorship.

We shared an office and in time we enjoyed many long conversations about life, the universe and everything. We also shared many passions: music, literature and, most of all, Mathematics and Physics. It was natural, and even a little inevitable, that we would fall in love.

When I left Bonn for London in 1993, Sonia was already writing up her dissertation and was allowed to spend the academic year in Queen Mary and Westfield.

We were married at the end of the summer of 1994 and at once became reluctant participants in the well-known academic two-body problem: Sonia spending two years (1994-1996) as a postdoc at the ICTP in Trieste, while I remained in London.

Those two years were not easy. My citizenship at the time (Cuban, but without a passport) made travelling very difficult. Sonia could enter the UK at any time, but her employers did not look kindly to her travelling. As a result we would spend weeks without seeing each other.

In 1996 Sonia was awarded a PPARC Postdoctoral Fellowship and she returned to London, this time to Imperial College. The ensuing three years would bring us much happiness, if marred occasionally by the uncertainty of fixed-term academic contracts.

In 1999, at the end of her fellowship, Sonia took up a postdoc at the Spinoza Insitute in Utrecht, while I moved to a permanent lectureship in Edinburgh. Luckily there were (and still are) direct flights between EDI and AMS, courtesy of KLM, in whose Flying Dutchman programme we quickly enrolled and almost as quickly rose from their ranks.

Two years later, in 2001, Sonia returned to Imperial and in early 2002 she was awarded a 5-year PPARC Advanced Research Fellowship. For a brief time we were very happy, but it was not meant to last.

In April 2002, Sonia was diagnosed with cancer. Her condition deteriorated very rapidly: the cancer, a primary gastric adenocarcinoma, had spread to the lymphatic system and, crucially, to the cerebro-spinal fluid and on to the brain. It was devastating and her rapid decline was noticeable on a daily basis. Finally, on the morning of 20 May, while I held her hand, Sonia passed away listening — I would like to believe — to one of her favourite recordings, that by Friedrich Gulda of Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Klavier.

Somewhere drowning in the intense pain of Sonia's absence there is the feeling that I was indeed fortunate that our paths crossed. These pages are my public tribute to her memory. In them I have tried to collect the output of her all-too-brief scientific career in the hope that, in some small measure at least, these pages honour her tireless dedication to the work.

Sonia had a highly developed sense of aesthetics and I would like to believe that these pages would have pleased her despite what she termed my typically male minimalist style.

ソニア 去って その のち いまだ 年暮れず。

sonia at cafe florian (venice)

sonia hiking (skye)

sonia at home (york)

sonia (leiria)

sonia (tomar)

sonia (lisbon)