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University Sophomore Died of Cyanide Poisoning Medical Examiner Says

Matthew Hersh

The Mercer County Medical Examiner's office has determined that the sudden death of a Princeton University sophomore earlier this month was the result of a toxic overdose of cyanide.

No foul play is suspected, a spokesperson from the office said.

The student, Melissa M. Huang, 19, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was discovered Sunday, September 5, by her parents and a University custodian. Ms. Huang's death occurred as students prepared to move into their dorms for the semester.

An autopsy, which was initially found to be "inconclusive," has now found that Ms. Huang had a "high dose" of cyanide in her blood and stomach after it was determined that she had ingested the substance herself, said Casey DiBlasio, spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

Ms. DiBlasio could not confirm that the death was a suicide.

Particular details of Ms. Huang's personal circumstances will come forth in the investigation, which is currently being conducted by the county prosecutor's office and Princeton Borough Police, who are working with the University's Public Safety Department.

Shortly after the medical examiner's report was released, Shirley Tilghman, University president issued a statement saying Ms. Huang's parents, Leon Keng-Lock and Sauling Huang, had been notified of the findings.

"I know that all of you join me in feeling an enormous sense of sadness and loss," she said in a statement prepared for the University student body, faculty, and staff after Ms. Huang's parents were notified.

Student counseling is available on a voluntary basis and students will receive counseling "if they need it and when they need it," said Patty Allen, University spokesperson. Dr. Daniel Silverman, the University's chief medical officer and a psychiatrist, has assembled counseling groups from the University's Counseling and Psychological Services unit for University students and students personally close to Ms. Huang.

Ms. Huang, a member of the Class of 2007, was a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Throughout the summer, she worked on a chemical engineering research project with Professor Jeffrey Carbeck, director of the Program in Engineering, and Professor Ilhan Aksay, head of the Ceramic Materials Laboratory and professor of chemical engineering.

She is survived, in addition to her parents, by a sister, Alina, and a brother, Kevin, all of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Students and other acquaintances who wish to receive counseling or guidance can call the University's Counseling and Psychological Services, 24 hours a day, at (609) 258-3285.

The University's Wilson College has established a fund in memory of Ms. Huang. The fund was created with the approval of the Huang family, who will decide how contributions will be appropriated. Donations can be sent to: Melissa M. Huang '07 Memorial Fund, Princeton University, c/o Nancy Kalmikoff, Gift Records, P.O. Box 5357, Princeton, NJ 08543-5357.

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