Yale University Offers $10,000 Reward for Help Finding Missing Grad Student

Yale University announced a $10,000 reward for help finding a graduate student days before her wedding, after investigators find no clues after searching her laboratory and apartment.

Annie Marie Le, 24, a doctoral student in pharmacology at Yale's School of Medicine, vanished Tuesday. She was last seen that morning on surveillance camera outside a lab in the medical school complex, less than mile from the main campus in New Haven, Conn.

The California native was to be married on Sunday to fiance Jonathan Widawsky, a graduate student in physics at Columbia University. The two met as undergraduates at the University of Rochester.

Her purse, cell phone, credit cards and money were found in her office. She has not contacted her fiance, family or friends since Tuesday.

“We are responding to this at this point as if it could be any kind of bad situation,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer told the Yale Daily News. “You don’t just not go home for a couple of days.”

Widawsky has been cooperating with the investigation, she told the paper, and "there's not a worry about" any potential involvement he might have had in Le's disappearance.

Le was in her lab at the Sterling Hall of Medicine Tuesday morning, and then walked a few blocks to another lab facility at 10 Amistad Street. A security camera captured her going into the building at 10 a.m., the same time she swiped her Yale ID card at the entrance.

There was no image of her leaving, but Yale security officials were scanning all footage from surveillance cameras at each of the facility's entrances and exits.

Le was reported missing after she did not return to her office or show up for a pathology class where she was a teaching assistant, The New Haven Register reported.

Asked about the possibility of foul play, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said Thursday that "there's no evidence of it at this time."

A fire alarm set off by a faulty smoke detector about 12:40 p.m. at the Amistad Street building isn't thought to be connected to Le's disappearance, university Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith told the Yale Daily News.

On Thursday, Connecticut state police with bloodhounds searched the area where Le was last seen, and authorities went through nearby trash bins.

Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said the FBI was assisting in the investigation, and Le's fiance, professors, colleagues, friends and family also were helping in the search.

Ironically, Le wrote a magazine article earlier this year about how to stay safe on the Ivy League campus.

Annie Le's article, called "Crime and Safety in New Haven," was published in February in a magazine produced by Yale's medical school.

It compares higher instances of robbery in New Haven to cities that house other Ivy League schools and includes an interview with Perrotti, who advised students to "pay attention to where you are" and "avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim."

"In short, New Haven is a city and all cities have their perils," Le concludes. "But with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic."

Le was excited about her upcoming wedding on Long Island, N.Y., said friends and colleagues including Debbie Apuzzo, who works in the pharmacology department. Apuzzo described Le as energetic and conscientious.

“Lucky I’m in love with my best friend,” Le wrote in a posting on Facebook, one of several about the marriage, according to the Register. Others included details about the ceremony, the reception and the honeymoon in Greece.

She received her undergraduate degree in bioscience in 2007 from the University of Rochester in New York state, said school spokeswoman Sharon Dickman.

While at the University of Rochester, she did a summer project at the National Institutes of Health on bone tissue engineering with a goal of regenerating tissue for people suffering from degenerative bone diseases. She said her career goal was to work as an NIH investigator or as a professor.

Her mentor, Rocky Tuan, described her as bright and hardworking, saying the NIH undergraduate scholars program was very selective.

"She's a very happy person," Tuan said. "Everybody got along with her. She's always smiling, laughing."

Le is 4-foot-11, 90 pounds and of Asian descent with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information on Le’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Yale Police Department at (203) 432-4400.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.