Chitra Chauhan (photo courtesy USF)
Temple Terrace, Florida -- The woman who apparently used the deadly chemical cyanide to take her own life at a hotel worked at a University of South Florida laboratory.
Chitra Chauhan, 33, died after being rushed to the hospital Monday night from the Extended Stay America hotel in Temple Terrace. She had apparently committed suicide, police say.
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Before she died, police say Chauhan told witnesses she had cyanide with her. A white, crystalline powder was found in Chauhan's room, which tests showed to be cyanide, firefighters said.
Cyanide is a highly toxic substance that is found as a sugar-like powder and as a gas. It prevents cells from using oxygen, which can quickly kill those cells.
The University of South Florida says Chauhan was a researcher in the College of Public Health and released this statement Tuesday:
"The College of Public Health at the University of South Florida is saddened to learn of the death of post-doctoral researcher Chitra Chauhan, PhD (12.3.1976).
USF is working with the Temple Terrace police department as it investigates her death.
Dr. Chauhan was a molecular biologist doing research in global health at USF. She investigated treatments for tropical diseases common around the world, including malaria, viral encephalopathies and filariasis (caused by parasitic worms).
Potassium Cyanide, the apparent cause of death, is a chemical commonly used by universities in teaching chemistry and conducting research, but it was not used in the research projects she was working on. USF is currently reviewing how she obtained this chemical.
The university will notify the community of public memorial services."
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