Messages in Memory of Kang


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Kang Cheng was a special talent who was a brilliant scientist, fluent in several languages, and a hub for scientific and social connections. I admired his approach to scientific research, which aimed at doing the highest quality of work, rather than pursuing quantity or fashionability. He and his colleagues at RIKEN Japan continuously produced ground-breaking and high-impact work for decades. He enjoyed travel and interactions with physicists and neuroscientists from Asian countries, the US, Europe, and other parts of the world. Together with a colleague in China (YJ Luo), Kang and I co-edited a Chinese-language textbook of cognitive neuroscience 10 years ago, which included contributions of scientists from all over the world. I am aware that Kang was pursuing an initiative to host a future OHBM in Japan recently. His unexpected passing is a great loss to multiple fields.

A true neuroimaging scientist who studied the visual cortex, he produced beautiful images at the submillimeter scale that extended our understanding of primary visual processing using high-field functional MRI. He also had a passion for taking amazing pictures of sunsets, birds, and cherry blossoms. Many of us received treasured photos that he took while we gave conference talks or at various gatherings.

Linguistically gifted, he was fluent in Chinese (Mandarin and Sichuan dialect), Japanese (learned from singing Karaoke), and English. He also mastered German well enough to fully appreciate the Octoberfest experience. Kang had many interesting stories to tell, always with the same mild manner accompanied by a smile, anecdotes ranging from delivering a lecture at Oxford University to comforting a family dog who was jealous of his young son.

I offer my deep condolences to his family for losing him at such tender age, in his early 50s. Kang Cheng will be remembered by many of us as an extraordinary colleague and unforgettable friend.

Yang JIANG, University of Kentucky, USA, on Mar 04, 2017 at 06:09 (JST)
Kang was extremely kind and gracious in hosting myself and my colleague Dr Claire Sexton on a visit to RIKEN BSI in October 2016. We are extremely grateful for his warmth and generosity during our time in Japan. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.

James Kolasinski, on Jan 09, 2017 at 02:12 (JST)
I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Kang's passing.

Kang was one of my very favorite scientists, colleagues, and people.

Amir Shmuel.

Amir Shmuel, on Dec 30, 2016 at 23:58 (JST)
November 11, 2016

My old friend,
so far away,
and now, so quickly,
I must try to say good-bye.
I hear your voice….warm, considerate, wise.
I have only memories to paper over the hole left by your passing.
The conversations. The laughter. The simple pleasures of a bowl of rice.
And of course, the special tuna bone sushi.
I will miss you.

Paul Bullwinkel, Avotec, Inc, on Dec 23, 2016 at 05:35 (JST)
It was too sudden and sad news. I am still at a loss since then. He has been a great mentor of my fMRI study. We all loved his gentle, generous and warm personality.

It was a great honor that I could have contributed in a series of his exploration on high-resolution imaging of human visual cortex with my expertise, i.e., human color vision.
Our collaboration started about 10 years ago. Meanwhile, we've encountered several difficulties in understanding the results during pilot experiments. They were really puzzling.
Kang always told me to take as much time as I needed, and, in fact, it took several months or years to realize the implication/achievement of our results. I learned that some discoveries really need the time to be discovered.

I am (perhaps “we are”) still in the middle of deep sorrow, but we'd better keep stepping forward to carry on studies that he might have been willing to explore together. I believe that it is one of the best ways of expressing our appreciations and condolences to Kang.

Before ending, I would like to express that my thoughts are with him and his family.

May he rest in peace.

Ichiro Kuriki, on Dec 17, 2016 at 00:34 (JST)
I am extremely sorry to hear of Kang's passing. It is hard to find words to express condolences for a such a loss, at such a young age. I have known him since the very early days of 4 Tesla in Riken, and always enjoyed his company scientifically and socially whenever I met him. He will be missed in the field.

Kamil Ugurbil, on Dec 14, 2016 at 23:03 (JST)
I too was shocked and saddened by the sudden news of Cheng-sensei's passing. I am still at a loss for what to say. But I have always been grateful for his support and encouragement in our (still ongoing) collaboration. He was always a pleasure to talk to and his kindness, patience, and open mindedness will not be forgotten. He will be greatly missed.

Antony Lam, on Dec 14, 2016 at 14:25 (JST)
I am deeply sorry to learn of Kang-san's passing.

I could imagine how this is hard for his family and research team members. At this point, I still could not figure out what to say, however, please accept my sincere condolences.

While I did not have a chance to work with Kang-san ("-san" is like Mr./Ms. in Japanese, and I often called Dr. Kang Cheng as "Kang-san"), I have always felt that Kang-san was my closest colleague. In particular, since I have started MRI research on human, I often asked him opinions. Kang-san was always very thoughtful, inspiring and encouraging. I enjoyed to visit RIKEN BSI many times, particularly throughout the discussion with Kang-san. Especially since I came back to Japan, we frequently had conversations with many things. I always saw his work with a great respect, and I was always wondering why Kang-san can be so inspiring, while he can be so solid and rigorous.

Even while Kang-san was not my mentor, he has helped me so many ways. First, Kang-san encouraged me many times about my research. When I gave a talk at conference, Kang-san gave me insightful questions, and also gave me encouraging comments in person. Second, as an internationally recognized scientist, he often gave me a chance to talk with many other international scientists during conferences. I have learned a great deal from these conversations. Third, especially when I was in the US, I had a chance to meet and work with several scientists who have worked with Kang-san in RIKEN. Without the support from people who had experience in working in Japan, I must feel much harder time to adapt to the US.

I feel very sorry to miss a chance to work with Kang-san. I also feel very sad. Kang-san always told me about the importance of human brain study, and we often discussed about what is a future direction in this field. I will promise that I will never forget Kang-san's enthusiasm for human neuroscience studies, and I will do my best in the rest of my research career.

Kang-san, please rest in peace.

In deepest sympathy,

Hiromasa Takemura (竹村 浩昌) , on Dec 14, 2016 at 00:52 (JST)
I was sucked into deep sorrow after I knew Kang passed away by emails on Nov. 9, 11:00 pm. I could not sleep that night, Kang was so vivid in my memory as I have worked with Kang together for 11 years. Kang is my mentor, my closest friend and I always treat him like my elder brother.

I should say, I have very little knowledge of fMRI when I joined Keiji and Kang’s lab in 2002. Kang and Allen trained me by giving lectures from the very basic concepts. Kang once told me, ‘Here we do everything by ourself, you should learn as more as possible skills related to fMRI experiment’. I still remember that he taught me how to make a comfortable bit bar for participant in the MR Simulator room, how to make a bakelite piece to fix goggle on the patient table in RIKEN workshop, and how to write paper clearly by reading each sentence out loudly and repeatedly.

I believe that every body loves Kang as he is a very kind person. I remembered clearly he picked my wife and I at the Narita airport when we first arrived Japan, he took care of almost all the guests and visitors of our lab, he always gathered friends together and arranged parties on meetings such as SFN, ISMRM, HBM etc. His kindness made him as a key hub for all the friends.

Kang and his wife Mariko had a son, named Kai (海), in 2006. Kang wished to let Kai learn Chinese and I helped him to arrange Chinese lessons in Beijing in both 2013 and 2015 summer holidays. Kai enjoyed these lectures very much and wanted came back last summer. But as he is going to be in the middle school, Kang said maybe wait for 2017 or 2018. I would like to share with you one interesting thing in Kai’s language development. During our visit to Summer Palace, Kai said he wanted to go toilet, then Kang asked him pee (小便) or stool (大便), then Kai answered choubian (中便), something between or middle, we all started to laugh loudly. Kai always called me Pei-san, he is very close to me, I really hope he can handle this difficult time smoothly.

So long, my mentor, my dearest friend, my elder brother! Please rest in peace.

Pei Sun, Tsinghua University, China, on Dec 12, 2016 at 20:56 (JST)
Kang has been one of my closest friends and scientific colleagues for more the 20 years. Even now it is hard to believe that he is truly gone. Kang taught me about neuroscience and I taught him about MRI. He was clearly the better student.

Those of us honored to know him well, could see not only his love for science but also how deeply he cared for his wife, Mariko, and son, Kai. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Kang, the world is a sadder place without you, my friend.

Allen Waggoner, on Dec 12, 2016 at 19:42 (JST)
Messages at the OCSMRM Memorial Site for Kang

Kang Cheng
Memorial home
Laboratory for
Cognitive Brain Mapping