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Woman in toxic suicide was at Boston University

A Boston University graduate student who died of an apparent suicide after ingesting a toxic chemical in her South End apartment Monday night, forcing the other tenants to evacuate, was working to eradicate diseases that afflict the elderly, her grief-stricken father said Tuesday.

“Some of her older family members had diseases of the aged, like Alzheimer’s, and she was trying to contribute to society’’ by eliminating those conditions, said Jeffrey Brown, 58, of Virginia, the father of Carolyn Brown, 25.

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Carolyn Brown, a doctoral candidate in pharmacology at Boston University, ingested the chemical in her first-floor apartment on Massachusetts Avenue at about 9 p.m. on Monday, BU and fire officials said. She was pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center.

The situation forced the evacuation of about 12 other tenants from the apartment building, and sent police officers and Emergency Medical Service workers to Boston Medical Center, the Fire Department said.

University and public safety officials have not identified Brown by name, but a message beneath her name on the BU School of Medicine website said, “Our community is mourning her loss on April 9, 2012.’’

Maria Ober, a spokeswoman for the BU Medical Campus, said Brown worked at a biomedical lab and researched the effects of aging on the brain.

“An initial look shows we have no evidence of anything missing from the lab and, as we receive additional [information] from authorities, we will continue to look into this,’’ Ober said.

Fire officials could not determine the chemical she ingested because they did not find toxic materials inside the apartment, said Steve MacDonald, a Fire Department spokesman.

The cause of death cannot be determined until an autopsy, which has not yet been scheduled, is conducted, officials said.

MacDonald said the tenants returned to the building at about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, and the officers and ambulance workers were cleared to leave the hospital at about midnight.

Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Dunbar said at the scene early Tuesday that the chemical in question may have been sodium azide, which is used to make airbags. However, MacDonald could not confirm that report.

Brown’s death follows at least three similar incidents in Eastern Massachusetts.

A Brighton woman in her 70s died in March 2011 in an apparent suicide after ingesting cyanide, and a Northeastern University researcher died in her Milford home the previous September after drinking orange juice mixed with sodium cyanide.

Last May, a Somerville man died about a week after he was found in his home behind a bathroom door with a note attached that warned of poisonous gas.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com.
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