IU doctoral student was passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight

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Two of the victims from Thursday's plane crash in Ukraine had Indiana University connections.

An official with Indiana University has confirmed that doctoral student Karlijn Keijzer was a passenger on the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down Thursday in Ukraine. The 25-year-old was from Amsterdam.

Also, the airliner's pilot, Capt. Wan Amran Wan Hussin, studied computer science at IU Bloomington from 1982 to 1984.

Keijzer was a doctoral student in the university's chemistry department. She was on the rowing team during the 2011 season.

"Deepest sympathies to the family and friends (of Keijzer)," read a tweet from U.S. Rowing.

Asja Zero was a member of IU's rowing team who knew Keijzer.

"There's not one negative thing about her. She was always so positive and willing and hard-working," said Zero. "She had it in her. Not only a leader but a friend. Like a mentor. Any team would have been honored to have her on the team. Everybody loved her."

Whether she was rowing on the IU Varsity 8 Boat in 2011 or pursuing her doctorate by working with a new anti-cancer drug that showed real promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's, Keijzer was always upbeat.

"Obviously you are in denial at first and then yeah, it hits you," Zero said.

It's taken friends and teammates time to absorb what has happened. IU is saying Keijzer was enjoying a brief summer vacation before she was expected to return to continue her work at IU. Asja Zero was only a freshman when Karlijn was on the rowing team but the bond forged by that time was for all time.

"She was just amazing at everything she did. She was a chemistry major. She was super smart. She was an amazing athlete. Whatever she felt, she was really good at expressing that, even though English wasn't her first language. Nothing stood in her way," said Zero.

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. 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.

"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.

"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," said Michael A. McRobbie, president of Indiana University. "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."

Statement from Mu-Hyun Baik, associate professor of chemistry and informatics and Karlijn Keijzer's doctoral advisor:

"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. 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.

"Ms. Keijzer worked on several research projects, all related to improving human health. 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."

IU Rowing Coach Steve Peterson also expressed condolences.

"The Indiana Rowing family is deeply saddened by the news of Karlijn's sudden passing," he said. "She came to us for one year as a graduate student and truly wanted to pursue rowing. That year was the first year we really started to make a mark with the First Varsity 8 boat and she was a huge reason for it. Our condolences go out to her family and friends in this very tough time."

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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.

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."