Postdoctoral fellow Bart van Alphen dies

This article mentions suicide.

Postdoctoral fellow Bart van Alphen died by suicide Tuesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Van Alphen was found dead on a jogging path at 1181 Lake Shore Blvd, authorities said.

Van Alphen was a researcher in neurobiology Prof. Ravi Allada’s lab, where he studied and published research on the effects of sleep in fruit flies. Last month, van Alphen co-authored a study finding that deep sleep allowed flies to clear waste more effectively and recover from traumatic injuries.

Prior to his death, allegations had circulated on Twitter for several months that van Alphen was behind the since-deleted Twitter account @The_Dr_Caveman that used racist slurs and transphobic language, featured Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and expressed support for political violence, such as shooting protesters.

One day before his death, van Alphen took “full ownership” of the account and apologized for its content in an email addressed to colleagues that was obtained by The Daily. The email said the account was made as part of a “subculture that traffics in dark, cynical humor and deliberate attempts to be as offensive as possible” and did not reflect his personal beliefs.

In a Tuesday evening email, Provost Kathleen Hagerty extended condolences to van Alphen’s wife, family and friends and encouraged members of the community to seek support in each other and from the University.

“I know this news will be shocking to many of you and that the loss of a Northwestern community member can impact people in many different ways,” Hagerty said in the email. “Please help those around you who might be struggling today and in the days ahead, and provide a shoulder, encouragement or a kind word to those who need it.”

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information becomes available.

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