Rice mourns the loss of CAAM faculty member and her baby

Jennifer Young, a member of the Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAAM) faculty and a faculty associate at Brown College, died Tuesday after a car-pedestrian accident. She was struck by a car as she was walking across Main Street to campus around 9:20 a.m.

Young, 30, was seven months pregnant. Her baby was delivered by emergency surgery after the accident and was listed in critical condition but died the next day.

“With great sadness I write this to let you know that we lost a dear and exceptionally talented member of our faculty,” CAAM Department Chair Matthias Heinkenschloss told the Rice community in a campuswide email Wednesday. “Jennifer was a very accomplished, very well-rounded, very mature, very confident and yet very gracious postdoc,” he said.

Jennifer Young

Young was the Pfeiffer-VIGRE Postdoctoral Instructor of Computational and Applied Mathematics. She arrived at Rice two years ago with a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Delaware and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her interests included biomechanics, multiscale modeling, scientific computing and math education.

“Jennifer’s talents permitted her to take full advantage of the many things Rice has to offer,” Heinkenschloss said. “While establishing new research collaborations, she also greatly enhanced our department’s teaching and mentoring roles. The bonds she built with her students led to some of the best teaching evaluations in CAAM’s history. The bonds she built with her fellow professors led to significant and lasting enhancement of content and pedagogy in the courses she touched. Her mentoring extended naturally to the high school arena. She was a joyful yet serious mentor for our Worthing Rice Apprentice Program.”

CAAM Professor Steve Cox is principal investigator for the grant that brought Jennifer to Rice. “I had never seen such an ardent junior faculty member as Jennifer,” he said. Cox, who is a master at Brown College, noted that Young and her husband, Gavan, were “treasured faculty associates” at Brown.

CAAM Associate Professor Beatrice Riviere, who was Young’s postdoctoral adviser, said Young was “an exceptional researcher with a passion for mathematical biology” and “a true collaborator and a key partner in establishing a working collaboration with scientists at the Texas Medical Center.”

“Jennifer’s positive attitude and her joy for her work and life have left a deep impression with everyone she interacted with. Her tragic death left them devastated,” Heinkenschloss said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gavan and his family at this very difficult time. Let’s support one another as we cope with the extremely painful loss of Jennifer and her baby.”
The CAAM Department will plan a Rice memorial service for the early part of the fall semester, he said.
Young’s family will participate in a Mass at the Rice Catholic Student Center, 1714 Rice Blvd., at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 24. This will not be a memorial service for Young, but her family will be available to greet friends privately after Mass.
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