A “brilliant” and “vibrant” senior was found dead early Wednesday after her hair apparently got caught in a lathe during a laboratory accident. The Yale Community is in mourning.
The astronomy and physics major was just weeks away from graduation and was looking forward to beginning a career in oceanography after she graduated. She had spent last summer working as a student fellow in the competitive Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
The young scientist was working on a class project when the accident occurred. She was in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory. Other students working in the building found her body and called police between 2 and 3 a.m.
The Medical Examiner said she died of accidental asphyxia by neck compression.
The Yale President and Vice President met with the young woman’s family to express condolences and to relay that the university’s practices were under investigation. They said that her parents are planning to return to the campus before the end of the semester to attend a memorial service in their daughter’s honor.
The incident has prompted Yale University to conduct a thorough review of safety policies and laboratory practices – even of the procedures taken in the machine shops and other facilities with power equipment that is accessed and operated by undergraduates. According a NY City Injury Lawyer following the case, Yale is limiting access to facilities until the review is complete. Students must submit lab working schedules and be approved to work only during specified hours.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation as well. They are exploring conditions in the laboratory. The NY City Injury Lawyer said their purpose is to “determine what safety standards apply and whether or not the employer complied with those standards.” Colleges in Nassau and Suffolk Counties are trying to protect their student from accidents like this.
“By all reports, [this young lady] was an exceptional young woman, an outstanding student and young scientist, a dear friend and a vibrant member of this community,” Yale’s Vice President wrote on the school’s website. “We will find ways in the next days to gather to celebrate her life and grieve this loss.”
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