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Indiana University | July 21, 2014

Former IU athlete Keijzer dies on MH Flight 17

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Karlijn Keijzer, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University, was among the passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down Thursday over Ukraine, leaving no survivors.

Keijzer, 25, also had been a member of the women’s rowing team during the 2011 season.

“On behalf of the entire Indiana University community, I want to express my deepest sympathies to Karlijn’s family and friends over her tragic death,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “Karlijn was an outstanding student and a talented athlete, and her passing is a loss to the campus and the university. Our hearts also go out to the families of all the victims of this senseless act.”

"We are heartbroken by the tragic death of our student, Karlijn Keijzer," said Larry Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Karlijn was, by all accounts, a bright star in the IU constellation, a gifted student and athlete, and a talented researcher with a passion for making the world better through science. This is a profoundly sad day in the College. We offer our deepest condolences to her family, colleagues and friends."

In the chemistry department, Keijzer was part of a research team that uses large-scale computer simulations to study small-molecule reactions involving certain metals. She was co-author of a research article published this year in the Journal of the American Chemistry Association.

"Karlijn was a bright, talented doctoral student, a diligent researcher and a dear friend to all of us who worked with her in our research group," said her doctoral advisor, Mu-Hyun Baik, associate professor of chemistry and informatics. "She was a kind, happy young woman full of ideas about the future. She inspired us all with her optimism about how science will make Earth a better place."

The victims aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 came from around the world and held a wide range of hopes and dreams. Their stories are being shared online, in traditional media and among friends and loved ones of passengers aboard the Boeing 777, which was shot down by unknown attackers Thursday in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine.
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She also served as an associate instructor in the chemistry department, teaching introductory organic chemistry as well as 400-level courses in biochemistry and biosynthesis.

"She worked on several research projects, all related to improving human health," Baik said. "The last piece of research work she completed before heading out to catch her flight to her short summer vacation was preparing a computer simulation on bryostatin, an anti-cancer drug and a promising drug candidate for treating Alzheimer's disease.

"We are devastated and mourn the loss of a brilliant, beloved member of IU's chemistry family."

"It's a very sad day for the department," added David Giedroc, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. "She had a lot of friends in the community, and they'll take this news very hard."

Giedroc said he met Keijzer when she arrived at IU in 2010 and, over the years, watched her become part of an increasingly cohesive group of students. About 200 graduate students are in the department, and Keijzer was registered to take classes this fall.

"She struck me right then as a very smart, very confident young woman who had a passion for science and for sports that we don't often see," he said. "She was always just a delightful individual."

The "stroke" of Varsity 8 boat

Keijzer was a member of IU’s Varsity 8 boat during the 2011 season, helping them to a 14-5 record. A talented rower in the Netherlands, she was recruited to row at IU even though she had only one year of eligibility. She earned Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete honors as well as Academic All-Big Ten accolades following the 2011 season. A decorated junior rower, Keijzer participated in the European Rowing Junior Championships in 2006 and the World Rowing Junior Championships in 2007.

“The Indiana Rowing family is deeply saddened by the news of Karlijn’s sudden passing,” Indiana head rowing coach Steve Peterson said. “She came to us for one year as a graduate student and truly wanted to pursue rowing. Our condolences go out to her family and friends in this very tough time.”

Her impact was impressive.

“Karlijn was the ‘stroke’ of the Varsity 8 boat for us," Peterson said. "That is the person who sets the rhythm for the boat and everyone follows her. She was unquestionably the leader of the best boat we had that year. It was the first boat that got us into the national rankings and had a great season. It also helped propel our program towards the success that we had this past season, and we all know that we can trace it back to that boat that was led by Karlijn.

“Academically, she was straight A student, so she was outstanding there. But her biggest strength was her personality on the team. Any picture she you see of her, she was always smiling or happy or joking around with someone. She was extremely supportive of her teammates and had a tremendous enthusiasm. She was exactly the type of student-athlete any coach would want on their team.

Peterson said that when he met with Keijzer after she finished her eligibility, all she wanted to talk about was the future of the rowing program.

“She knew that we were headed in the right direction, and she was genuinely excited about it. Then this past year, we saw that come to fruition and she contacted me and said ‘I told you so.’ So she was as excited as anyone else for us as a program and the success we had.”

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