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Wednesday
Apr132011

Yale University Student Killed in Lab Machine Shop Accident

Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A star Yale University science student was killed early Wednesday in an industrial accident at a campus machine shop where equipment for experiments was constructed.

Yale Vice President Linda Koch said the student, Michele Dufault, of Scituate, Mass., died after a "terrible accident involving a piece of equipment in the student machine shop."

Sources told the New Haven Register that the student's hair got caught in a spinning lathe and it pulled her in.

The university said in a statement the accident occurred at the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, but provided no details of what happened. Dufault was an astronomy and physics major who was expected to graduate with a bachelor's of science degree this spring.

David Johnson, the machine shop instructor, could not be reached for comment. Yale's chemistry department says it has a state-of-the-art machine shop to allow students to construct or modify research instrumentation. Access is strictly limited to those who have completed the shop course. The laboratory was closed Wednesday, with all classes and labs in the building cancelled.

"By all reports, Michele was an exceptional young woman, an outstanding student and young scientist, a dear friend and a vibrant member of this community. We will find ways in the next day to gather to celebrate her life and grieve this loss," Koch said.

Dufault's uncle, Frederick Dufault, said he spoke with her parents Wednesday morning and they were heading to the university. He did not have any information on her funeral arrangements.

"She was an exceptional student and a wonderful person, just the best kid in the world. The world is going to be sadder place without her. I'm just still in shock," Frederick Dufault said. "She was gifted in many areas not just science, she was a gifted musician, she was a gifted athlete and did crew, she was just a super talented kid just beyond belief, it's a loss not only for her family but for the world."

Dufault was a member of the "Yale Drop Team," an organization that allows students to perform reduced-gravity experiments with NASA programs.

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