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Campus groups raising funds for visiting researcher who died after campus bike crash

BY LISA LAPIN

Editor's note: Yichao Wang did not survive his traumatic injuries and died on Friday afternoon, Feb. 19. His family is making preparations to return with him to China, and is still in need of support for their journey and expenses from the tragic episode.

Campus and community groups have joined efforts to raise funds for medical care and family expenses for Yichao Wang, a visiting graduate researcher who suffered critical brain injuries and remains in a coma after a bike crash on campus Feb. 3.

Wang, a Ph.D. student at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, had been attending Stanford for the winter quarter through the Singapore-Stanford Partnership, a research and teaching program between Nanyang and Stanford's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was studying how membranes can absorb pharmaceutical residues in the wastewater treatment process.

Wang, 25, had just left his campus laboratory for his downtown Palo Alto residence at about 9:30 p.m. when his bicycle collided with a car at Palm Drive and Museum Way.  The California Highway Patrol has been investigating the incident.

Wang's parents have been holding a vigil by their son's side at the Stanford Hospital for the past week, after arriving from Wang's hometown of Harbin in far northern China. His wife of two years, Gao, a fellow student in Singapore, is also with him.

"His parents are very, very sad.  They keep preferring to wish a miracle will happen in the future," said Sujie Qin, a post-doctoral researcher in Wang's lab who, along with many of her colleagues, has been serving as a translator and liaison for the family.

"They put every hope on their son," Qin said of the parents, whose only child is Yichao. "They are wishing that Yichao will wake up. They want to transfer him back to China and take care of him there, but that's not possible right now."

Qin said Yichao "really valued the chance to study at Stanford and worked very hard. He stayed late in the lab every day, doing experiments.  He is a very nice person, one of those people who always smiles."

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford Hospital and the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Stanford University have been working to assist the visiting family members. The groups are supporting a fundraising drive for the Wangs, who have a very limited income to cover travel and medical expenses. Funds are being raised through the Chinese Mutual Aid International Network and the group's website, www.cmain.org, includes options for how to make a donation.

"This is a very tragic circumstance that we hope will serve to alert members of our campus community to the importance of wearing bicycle helmets, and the need to be vigilant about safety at all times, whether you are a bicyclist or driving a vehicle," said Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson.

The university has long made bicycle safety education a high priority and is recognized as a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The campus actively promotes bicycle safety with programs throughout the year, including bike safety road shows in student dorms, and by offering bike lights, helmets, reflectors and other safety gear to students and employees for free or at significant discounts.

The Stanford Department of Public Safety and Parking and Transportation Services have established a bike safety course for bicyclists who receive citations, as well as interested members of the community who can take the course for free.  More information about bicycle safety at Stanford can be found at http://transportation.stanford.edu/bike.

An average of 49 bicycle accidents have been serious enough to be reported to the Department of Public Safety at Stanford each year for the past four years, though very few have resulted in serious traumatic injuries or head injuries.