Yale Senior Dies in Campus Laboratory Machine-Shop Accident

A Yale University student died last night after her hair caught in a lathe while she worked on a project in a laboratory machine shop on campus.

Michele Dufault, a senior, was killed “in what appears to have been a terrible accident,” university Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer said in a statement posted on the New Haven, Connecticut-based college’s website. Her body was found by other students who had been working in the building, Yale President Richard Levin said in a separate statement today.

Yale closed Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, where the incident took place, for the day, and canceled classes and labs there, according to Lorimer’s statement. Levin, Lorimer and Yale College Dean Mary Miller met with Dufault’s family today, according to Levin.

“Michele was an exceptional science student who was pursuing a B.S. in astronomy and physics,” Levin said. “She also had keen interest in oceanography and was intending to undertake work in that field after graduation.”

Safety Policies

While Yale has programs to train students in using power equipment, the university will assess safety policies and practices in its laboratories, machine shops and other facilities where undergraduates are permitted, Levin said. During the review, students’ access to these areas will be limited and monitored, he said.

Support and counseling services are available, the university said.

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

New Haven Police aren’t investigating the death, said Officer Joe Avery, a department spokesman.

Access to the machine shop is limited to those who have completed a shop course, according to the chemistry department’s website.

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