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Zara Khan

NEWS 10/21/13 7:00pm

Thief steals student's laptop in Craigslist scam

Hopeful of receiving a good deal on software, one Rice University student instead received the shock of watching someone steal his laptop in broad daylight.According to Rice University Police Department Sgt. Gary Spears, the student, who asked to remain anonymous, responded to a Craigslist advertisement offering installation of Microsoft Office 2011 software for only $40. Spears said the student arranged to meet the seller in the parking lot near the D. Kent and Linda C. Anderson and Robert L. and Jean T. Clarke Center at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, during midterm recess."The scammer told the student that he needed to take the laptop to his car so he could install the software with a thumb drive," Spears said. "When the student gave the laptop over, the scammer got in his car and drove away."Spears said that the student reported the theft to RUPD and that Police Detective Yolanda Avalos was assigned to the case. She began her investigation by searching through Craigslist, expecting to find the stolen laptop listed for sale. Unsurprisingly, the laptop appeared online the next day."You don't always catch the smart crooks, but you should certainly always catch the dumb crooks," Spears said. "The scammer used the same phone number for his 'I'm selling a laptop' ad as in his 'I'm selling software' ad."According to Spears, RUPD arranged a meeting with the scammer the night of Oct. 8 at a Starbucks on Kirby Drive. At the meeting, RUPD arrested Jerome Anthony Goodson, 25, on the charge of misdemeanor theft."Goodson is not associated in any way with Rice," Spears said. "He is a Texas Southern University student. He looked legit: clean-cut, sharp, fits into the area well. He's had one traffic arrest, but this is his first real arrest."After posting a $1,000 bond, Goodson was released Oct. 10 from the Harris County Jail. His next court date is Nov. 13.Lovett College sophomore Daniel Lee said he was surprised Goodson was able to commit the crime on campus."It definitely makes me question the safety of Rice's campus," Lee said. "That said, I think RUPD did a superb job in nailing the robber."While this has been the only Craigslist-related scam to occur at Rice in recent memory, RUPD still urges students to remain vigilant, Spears said."Just be careful," Spears said. "Don't believe everything you see on the Internet, and be skeptical when answering ads on Craigslist. When something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The software that this student was buying runs somewhere from $200 to $250, and the student was getting it for $40. That's a pretty unbelievable deal. This was a case of 'too good to be true.' "Spears said RUPD wanted to also bring attention to the regularity of laptop thefts on campus. "Laptop theft is one of the popular crimes of opportunity that happen on college campuses," Spears said. "Students will leave laptops lying around or in an unlocked locker. They should, again, just be careful."Lee said he plans on taking RUPD's advice more seriously in the future."There were many times when I left a personal belonging of mine lying around [Fondren Library] or in a classroom," Lee said. "Now that I look back, I have been really fortunate."According to the RUPD website, students can register valuable items like bikes and laptops with RUPD, making it easier to later locate lost or stolen items. The form is available at rupd.rice.edu.Rice Director of Procurement Brian Soika said there are resources on campus to assist students in purchasing hardware and software rather than finding it on Craigslist."Students may contact the IT Help Desk, located in the Mudd Building, for information on hardware or software purchases," Soika said. "The Help Desk staff will assist the students and/or refer them to the Office of Procurement for additional information."

NEWS 9/30/13 7:00pm

SparkMatch dating site idea wins Rice Launch

A novel take on the dating website idea won first place at the Entrepreneurship Summit held Sept. 21 by Rice Launch, the entrepreneurship organization on campus. The winning team, composed of bioengineering graduate student Meghana Govindarao Appurao, Brown College senior Karen Ding, Jones College sophomore Francie Hessel, Master of Business Administration student Scott Schubert and statistics graduate student Duncan Wadsworth, engineered a project to create a dating website that would match people based not only on the compatibility of their personalities, but also on their genetic composition.

NEWS 9/30/13 7:00pm

Alex Zhou, 20, dies after battle with bone cancer

Alex Zhou, 20, a sophomore at Sid Richardson College who transferred to Rice University this fall, died the morning of Sept. 23 from osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Zhou, who completed his freshman and sophomore years at the University of Texas, Austin, had been hospitalized at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center after the Labor Day holiday. He had planned on taking a medical leave this semester and returning in the spring to pursue a major in bioengineering, according to an email sent by Sid Rich Coordinator Corinne Cammarata.Martel College freshman Daniel Fan said he was a family friend of Zhou and knew him for many years. Fan said Zhou's illness motivated Zhou to change for the better and gave him a new outlook on life."Before, he'd be content with just playing video games all day, but the illness gave him a purpose," Fan said. "It was because of cancer that he chose to major in bioengineering, and it also motivated him to transfer to Rice."Fan said Zhou, despite undergoing aggressive treatment that included the amputation of his right leg, remained his normal self."I'd go on regular trips to his house to drop off things - vegetables from my mother's garden, food and the like," Fan said. "Sometimes, I'd stay and talk [to Alex] for a bit. We were always able to talk about normal things. He could still just be a normal person. ... Even in the hospital, he was still a normal person."Martel College sophomore Elizabeth Sok, one of Zhou's Orientation Week advisors, said Zhou was friendly and optimistic."[Alex] gave no indication of his illness on his O-Week forms," Sok said. "On Move-In Day, when he first stepped out of his car, no one knew what to expect. Within minutes, though, he was really able to put everyone at ease."Sok said Zhou was outgoing and involved on campus despite his illness. "He participated so fully in all of the O-Week activities, going out to 59 Diner at 2 a.m., attending all of the talks across campus, never once complaining," Sok said. "It just goes to show how strong he was, how courageous he was, that he never once mentioned his condition or let it limit him."Zhou's roommate during O-Week, Steven Loyd, said he missed Zhou and wished to have been able to spend more time with him."Alex was a such a soft-spoken, go-with-the-flow sort of guy," Loyd, also a sophomore transfer student at Sid Rich, said. "I knew ... he had some sort of condition, but he never talked about it. I was stunned and had to sit down for a while when I heard the news. ... I'm just glad that he was able to experience Rice, even if only for a little while."At the Sept. 29 memorial service for Zhou held by his family, Zhou's longtime friend Lucy Xie said he would be remembered for his cheerfulness."Alex was addicted to happiness," Xie, a junior at UT Austin, said. "A song, an episode of Friends, a trip to the dining hall. ... All of these simple things cheered him up, and then he would make it his job to spread the happiness that he felt. He was always smiling."Duncan College junior James Ragan, an osteosarcoma patient and co-founder of Triumph Over Kid Cancer, a foundation that aims to make a difference in the lives of children with pediatric bone cancer, said that although he did not personally know Zhou, his heart went out to Zhou's friends and family."I've met so many bright and promising young men and women whose lives we have lost to pediatric bone cancers like osteosarcoma," Ragan said. "We lose bright, creative, hardworking kids like Alex who endure so much pain and suffering yet still fight and persevere to excel in school and extracurricular activities. His memory will always be cherished in the hearts and minds of his Owl family."In a campuswide email Sept. 22, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson wrote, "We can feel honored that [Alex] chose to join Rice at this challenging time in his life. Let us pause to remember him and to appreciate how fortunate we all are to be part of a caring campus community with exceptional people like him. Let us also pause to take care of each other during our times of sadness, to reach out when we need help, and to reach out to those who need help."

NEWS 9/16/13 7:00pm

Rice Launch unites students in entrepreneurial ventures

Entrepreneurs at Rice can now find support and opportunities through Rice Launch, an organization that is the amalgam of three formerly separate entrepreneurial clubs on campus, according to Launch Director of External Relations Rohan Shah. "[Launch] is the result of the merging of three separate groups on campus: OwlSquad, Rice Business Collaborative - Entrepreneurship and Rice Sprout," Shah, a Jones College senior said. "We aim to connect, energize and enable Rice undergraduates, graduates and [Master of Business Administration] students to initiate and pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures."Launch External Relations Associate  Hersh Agrawal said part of the reason for the rebranding the three clubs into the umbrella organization Launch because of the confusion of the student club OwlSquad with OwlSpark, which is a three-month summer accelerator program for teams of entrepreneurs.  OwlSquad co-founder and Isabel Scher said all of the events hosted by the three separate clubs in the past will also be held this year."The Launch leadership team and advisors are made up of students from all three organizations," Scher, a Wiess College sophomore, said. "We decided to take on events thrown by OwlSquad like the Entrepreneurship Summit and 3-Day Startup, as well as events thrown by RBC-E like the Undergraduate Venture Challenge. In addition, we are working diligently to bring in speakers for workshops similar to those that Sprout offered last year."Scher said she is particularly excited for the Entrepreneurship Summit, Launch's flagship event that will take place on Sept. 21. "The summit is a day-long event that will bring together 200 participants, 40 mentors and 12 workshop speakers, panelists and judges," Scher said. "Undergraduates  will be placed on teams for the day and be challenged with brainstorming and developing a venture. They will later present their product ideas at the end in an [elevator pitch-style] competition."No prior experience is required for participation in the summit or in the other events hosted by Launch, like the Undergraduate Elevator Pitch competition and Venture Challenge, Shah said. "All of the students who participate in the summit will get an unparalleled learning environment in developing ventures with their teams," Shah said. "The other Launch programs and networking events will also benefit any type of student, regardless of experience or background. Students will gain the skills and resources that they need to be successful in today's business world." Agrawal, a Jones junior, said a significant number of Rice students are interested in entrepreneurship."A sizable percentage of students from all majors have interest in entrepreneurship, and Launch is designed to serve these students," Agrawal said. "Launch provides the resources to learn about pitching and marketing, and it provides mentors and access to successful entrepreneurs who can help students learn about their potential."According to Agrawal, Launch aims to encourage students to try new activities and not be afraid to fail. He said entrepreneurship can hinder students' creativity because it can seem risky."At Launch, we want students to be unafraid to take leaps," Agrawal said. "We want them to feel that there is a strong support system for them at Rice." For more information, visit launch.rice.edu.