Yang Dai passed away on January 1, 2021, with her husband Dustin Mennella at her side. Yang was born on January 16th, 1987, in Jilin Province, China, and spent her childhood in Little Rock, AR, after moving to the US when she was five.
Always a brilliant student, Yang graduated from high school in three years and attended Princeton University at seventeen, earning a BSE in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. For her senior thesis, she designed a swimming robot inspired by the mechanics of lamprey locomotion. At Princeton, Yang was also an active member of the Ballroom Dance team and Quadrangle Club.
After graduation, Yang moved to Seattle to join The Boeing Company as a Flight Test Engineer. After eight successful years at Boeing, she pursued a passion for engineering consumer products and joined Facebook Reality Labs, working on cutting-edge AR/VR products as a Mechanical Engineer.
While living in Seattle, Yang was lucky enough to meet the love of her life, Dustin Mennella, whom she once described as “too perfect to be real.” Yang and Dustin were married in 2018, and the two found great happiness in each others’ company. Ever the active couple, together they learned to sail, caught crabs, climbed mountains, and explored far and wide from their beloved Pacific Northwest to Argentina, Vietnam, Scotland, New Zealand and beyond.
Yang will be remembered as a brilliant mind, a generous and loyal friend, and for her quick, dry wit. To her friends and family, she has served as an inspiration for hard work and perseverance, learning, loyalty, and for dedication to charitable causes and racial, socioeconomic, and environmental justice.
Yang is survived by her husband, Dustin Mennella, and her parents, Zhao Yang & Gonghe Dai. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to National Birth Equity Collaborative, Every Mother Counts, or Northwest Harvest.