Chem. Graduate Student Dies

Fung Lam, a first-year graduate student in the chemistry department, died Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), two days after apparently collapsing unconscious on the floor of his laboratory.

Lam was working in the laboratory of Emery Professor of Organic Chemistry Elias J. Corey last Thursday morning when he fell. He was found unconscious at noon and taken to Cambridge Hospital.

Later that night, Lam, who was in his mid-20s, was transferred to MGH, where he died on Saturday. The official cause of death is unknown, pending a coroner's report.

"He was at my lecture the morning he died, I didn't have any indications that there was a problem," Corey said. "It was a tremendous surprise."

A native of Hong Kong, Lam earned his master's degree in chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), and this spring was in his second semester in the Ph.D. program.

According to Surya G. Prekash, a professor of organic chemistry at USC, Lam was an "excellent student," but had said he was unhappy at Harvard and was attempting to transfer to USC.

"We were going back and forth on e-mail, because he was not happy at Harvard, and we were willing to accept him back," Prekash said. "When I heard [about Lam's death] I was shocked. It made me sick to my stomach."

"He came to us highly recommended, and he did very well in his classes before he got the offer to come to Harvard," Prekash said. "He took one of my classes and got the highest grade of anyone."

"He had a fine mind, and he was a very nice person, too," Corey said, adding that Lam had received A's in all of his classes in the fall semester.

According to the student phone directory, Lam lived in Perkins Hall, one of the four graduate dorms.

"He was an excellent student, and doing very well here," said Alan K. Long, director of the laboratories of the Departments of Chemistry and Earth and Planetary Sciences. "All of which just adds to the mystery."

--Martin G. Hickey '98 contributed to the reporting of this article.