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THE FOUNTAIN HOPPER

the weather: sunny, 70s. welcome to spring quarter.
Twenty First Edition: March 31, 2015

IN THIS EDITION:

 
What We're Reading

Grad Student Poisons Labmates

Stanford Pilots CS + Community Service Major

Stuff You Might Care About

WHAT WE'RE READING

Stanford was shocked, shocked to find that students sometimes break the Honor Code. Etchemendy wrote a letter to faculty about "unusually high number" of cheating allegations in intro classes (CS106A, CS103, PHYS40 with more to come), and America Cares™ (CBS, SFGate, Reuters and so on.)

We have more on this below, but please send along any letters you might have received so we can put together a broader picture for next edition.

Manzanita Park is getting a new dorm intended to, ahem, "serve as a residential, cultural, and intellectual hub for humanities programs." 

The Review argues that Stanford is not as much of a liberal bubble as they thought, finding that "students become more socially liberal upon coming to Stanford" (shocker) though the political average was more moderate than perceived.

Briefly: The Stanford Arts Review writes that bros should be proud of their masculinity, Palo Alto Police are looking for a man who flashed 3 at the Shopping Center, Stanford admits the lowest percentage (5.05%) of applicants yet, and Oprah is coming to campus.

The Fountain Hopper staffers have spent hundreds of hours working on the poisoning story and, to be perfectly honest, we don't think we can do it justice with our email-based format. We're sure someone will come along and write a nice long magazine piece on it soon enough, but in the meantime, enjoy our take below.
-- xoxo,
FoHo editorial team

THE FOUNTAIN HOPPER
&
 

 

GRAD STUDENT SPENDS THREE MONTHS POISONING LABMATES, CHARGED WITH FOUR FELONIES, CONFESSES, TO PLEAD NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY

TL; DR:

  • A Stanford grad student working in a cancer research lab goes off the rails, spikes labmates' drinks with paraformaldehyde while sabotaging their stem cell experiments (for three months straight), seeks mental health help at CAPS (but doesn't stick to her pills); eventually Stanford catches her poisoning cells; grad student breaks down and gets 5150'd (involuntary psychiatric hold) by Vaden, released (by which time Stanford had worked out that she was probably responsible for spiking drinks); matter referred to SUPD who served her a Stanford Stay Away letter (she lived in EV); she breaks down once more and admits poisoning labmates and sabotaging their experiments, claims "it was me crying out for help and I didn't know," arrested and ignores Miranda rights to continue confessing, transported to jail and released on $50K bond, charged with four felony counts of poisoning, each carrying up to five years in jail, attempting to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

And, amazingly, Stanford managed to cover it up for four months.

Now, if that sounds interesting, FoHo suggests you read the full, unredacted 267 page felony complaint. 

(full PDF here [13mb], scribd mobile friendly version here).

It takes about 30 minutes to skim and reads better than a Dan Brown novel. We're thrilled to have worked on this story with Vice Media, and they've put up their story on our investigation here (it's really pretty awesome). 

We've put together a more detailed narrative below, but you should really all just go read the PDF; it's far more fun.

THE LONGER VERSION

A second-year graduate student working in an internationally-renowned cancer research lab has been charged with poisoning her labmates with paraformaldehyde (PFA) over the course of three months. The student claims to have been suffering from depression, severe insomnia, and dizziness starting last September, and had sought treatment from CAPS.

Xiangyu Ouyang, a graduate student from Singapore, joined the Nusse stem cell cancer research lab in September. She was part of the A*STAR program, where Singapore pays for a national's undergraduate and graduate education abroad in exchange for several years of public service on return. (If you fail to complete your studies or return after graduation, you generally have to pay all the money back — one lab member described it as a form of 'indentured servitude' [wiki].)

In court documents, victims describe Ouyang as "very shy, quiet and awkward;" others told the investigation "she's very reserved and quiet... appears to be very anxious about things... She had never had a boyfriend and envied those that did."  Nusse, the lab boss, described her as "odd, shy, withdrawn, and obviously very different from the other females in the lab." In interviews with FoHo, lab tipsters added that she kept "odd hours" and was often last to leave the lab. She "often appeared to be putting herself under a lot more stress than was actually appropriate."

By her own admission, Ouyang was not well. She complained of being "psychologically unstable, depressed, stressed and very dizzy." She told the lab's faculty director that she had been sleepwalking and was unable to explain why she did certain things. According to court documents and lab tipsters, Ouyang went to see a CAPS person. After four visits, she was referred to a CAPS psychiatrist, who prescribed her antidepressants. However, Ouyang did not take the medication because she felt they intensified her headaches and dizziness. Court records suggest that CAPS made no attempt to follow up with Ouyang. 

Over the course of several months, students at Nusse's lab experienced the unexplained death of their stem cells. As one might expect from cancer research grad students, they kept phenomenally meticulous notes (p155 on) that, over time, seemed to point toward Ouyang's involvement. One of the victims raised her concerns with Nusse, who began to work on pulling tapes from the few CCTV cameras in the building.

Meanwhile, the lab was experiencing another mystery. It appeared the contents of water bottles left in the lab overnight became, for lack of a better word, undrinkable. Per the police report of a victim's interview: "She drank some water from the bottle and felt a burning sensation in her throat. She began to salivate uncontrollably and felt her esophagus contracting. The water smelled faintly of PFA... Due to the incident, she started to smell her water before drinking. She smelled the tainted water at least one or two times a week, especially if she left her water bottle out over the weekend." 

The tainted water made it clear that something was going wrong in Nusse’s lab. At this point, administrators had managed to pull the CCTV tapes to find Ouyang was the one sabotaging the stem cell experiments. Nusse put two and two together and reported Ouyang to his bosses for the sabotage and the poisoning. Because Stanford is Stanford, a veritable platoon of vice provosts and other college administrators were parachuted in to discuss 'next steps' and how to ‘follow up,' to use their parlance. Lab students were kept in the dark.

On November 10th, Ouyang met with a School of Medicine administrator and admitted that she had "done some things that were very strange... some things that were not good." She then went to Vaden, where she was placed under a W&I 5150, meaning she would be involuntarily confined to a mental health ward for 72 hours for "presenting a danger to self or others." 

Early November 12th, while still under 5150, she called a Residence Dean asking for help leaving the hospital. She told the RD that she had agreed to go to the hospital voluntarily, and was confused why she was placed on a 5150. (It's unclear to what extent her 5150 was actually "voluntary.") The Residence Dean told her that he couldn't help her leave the hospital. Two hours later she called the RD again and admitted to poisoning the water and to killing the cells.

After being released on Nov. 15th, two cops went to visit Ouyang's residence in EV to serve a Stay Away Letter (p152). During their 'chat', Ouyang admitted to poisoning at least two water bottles and sabotaging experiments (p109 on). She claimed she was not fully aware of what she was doing at the time, stating that her actions felt "something like sleep walking" and that "sometimes the dizziness caused her to not be fully conscious of what she was doing."

"It was me crying out for help and I didn't know."

She was arrested and transported to SUDPS, where she stopped talking once she acknowledged her Miranda rights. She was transported to San Jose jail, and released on $50K bail. 

She has had several court dates over the past few months. As far as we can tell (we've had contributors at one of them but are waiting on court transcripts), they've all been to obtain a court-assigned psychiatrist, who will advise if she was actually insane when she poisoned her labmates' water. If the jury rules that she was insane, then she will be committed to a mental institution instead of prison."

Happy Tuesday.

Professor Nusse referred us to university spokesperson, Lisa Lapin.

Lapin (who, unsurprisingly, really really doesn't like us) sent a statement [pastebin] saying the University immediately reported its concerns to SUDPS. (FoHo notes, however, that her claim that "no one is aware of any prior incident of this nature," is incorrect. Jane Stanford, husband to Leland Stanford Sr., was poisoned with strychnine in 1905, making this at least the second high profile Stanford affiliated case of poisoning.)

Ouyang is represented by San Mateo lawyer Jeffrey Hayden, who declined to comment on the record.


Our thanks to Vice Media for working with us on this story. You can read their coverage here. It's pretty awesome.

To stay independent, we don't take any money from Stanford or ASSU, because then you end up with The Daily.

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STANFORD PILOTS CS+COMMUNITY SERVICE MAJOR
or
KAREL TURNS RIGHT, BREAKS ROBOT HONOR CODE
or
STANFORD SOLVE UNDERGRADUATE HOUSING CRUNCH, HUMANITIES DEFICIT BY SUSPENDING CS MAJORS
or
KAREL DROPS BEEPER INTO MOSS
or
NATASHA THE ROBOT CAUGHT CHEATING ON KAREL WITH KEITH
 

Hello, lovely CS 106Aers (and CS 103ers, and PHYSICS 41ers, and who knows who's up next!)

We hear it's been a sort of stressful week. 

We'll be addressing the Honor Code brouhaha in later editions, but for now we'd like to ask you to help us out. We'd appreciate it if you could send us emails, tips, experiences, thoughts, and anything else you feel is relevant to tips@fountainhopper.com. As always, we guarantee anonymity.

We're also planning to have a rundown of how MOSS (the thing Stanford uses to detect cheating) actually works (hint -- copy and paste whitespace is different from Eclipse whitespace.)

STUFF YOU MIGHT CARE ABOUT

Edusalsa is a sort of hybrid CourseRank and ExploreCourses and it's by far the most polished version we've seen. It's sort of awesome. We like them so much that we've given them 114 words to explain what they are and what they do:

It’s time ExploreCourses met Courserank. Passionate about the field of education, we started Edusalsa a year back with the goal of connecting students to their passions. In the process of building Edusalsa, we studied how Stanford students go about navigating their education, and we learnt that there was a gap in understanding how knowledge and skills gained in one class can be further explored. Edusalsa features classes as part of a network, where a Knowledge Linker and Course Prerequisite Graph let students approach their interests from a variety of perspectives. Over the past month, Edusalsa has equipped over 2000 Stanford students with the data they need to make smart decisions about their Stanford education.

STUFF YOU ALMOST CERTAINLY DON'T CARE ABOUT


DEAR FACULTY, STAFF, AND ALUMNI


Faculty and Staff (and a special hello to the Nobel laureate in our midst) -- FoHo is Stanford's most-read publication and far and away the best way of getting information out to the undergrad community. We heartily welcome any hints, tips, pointers, or declarations of love. Get in touch! We guarantee anonymity and breathtaking quantities of karma.

Alumni: We can help make sure your donation dollars get to the places undergrads actually need them. Get in touch and we'll hook you up with people that can help (hint: they're not in the development office)
 

ABOUT US, AKA WTF IS FOHO


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