Mal Nicol died on May 7 from a sudden cardiac event, while preparing to go to work. Since 1998, he had been a professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where his research concentrated on the effects of high pressure on molecular solids and fluids.
Prior to joining the UNLV faculty, Mal had taught for more than twenty years at UCLA. While there, he was an innovator who developed the use of communication technology in education, introducing video recordings of experimental procedures into the freshman chemistry laboratory course and coordinating live televised lectures from archaeological digs across the world to classes back at UCLA. He was a much loved, and widely respected, teacher. Among his many honors, Mal was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and a Fellow of both the AAAS and the American Physical Society.
Mal came to Amherst from Briarcliff Manor, New York, where he attended the local public high school. He played freshman football, played in the band, and was manager at WAMF. He graduated cum laude and was awarded the Doughty Prize in Chemistry.
After Amherst, Mal received a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1963, where he roomed with Doug MacLaughlin '60. Doug greatly valued his equilibrium and wise advice: on the subject of one of Doug's girl friends, he said, “I think you should marry her”--and he (Doug) did. Mal also met and married his wife Ann during graduate school. The marriage produced three daughters—Barbara, Kathy, and Virginia—and, eventually, six grandchildren. The couple divorced in 1990 but remained on friendly terms. Two of Mal’s sisters, Susan and Carolyn, also survive him.
Mal’s daughter Barbara, who provided much of the material for this remembrance, commented that the manner of his passing was somehow fitting, since he never wanted to retire. Mal was known among his colleagues for his warm and kind character and for his deep scientific insight; he loved good science and he loved fostering the careers of young scientists. He will be missed.
- David Wood '60