Doctoral student dies after hit-and-run

By Philippe Buteau/Staff Writer

Melita Jaric, the doctoral and computer science student who was the victim of a hit-and-run driver, has died from injuries related to the accident.

Jaric, a four-year doctoral student of the College of Engineering and Computing, was pronounced dead on Monday afternoon after being rushed to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial.

Jaric lived on Southwest 11th Street and was crossing the street to get to her car last Friday afternoon when an unknown driver hit her and then left the area, according to Miami-Dade Police.

“This is a major blow to us,” said Giri Narasimhan, associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Engineering and Computing in an interview with Student Media before Jaric died.

University President Mark Rosenberg issued a statement to the University community.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that we have lost a member of our FIU family. Melita Jaric was a bright doctoral student with a promising future that was cut short by this senseless tragedy. She used her analytical and computer skills to do important research for the benefit of people suffering from lung disease. She was driven, dedicated and curious about the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”

Narasimhan said after he found out of Jaric’s other interests he considers this a blow to the University community as well.

“She’s very interested in art and music and was even taking ballet classes; every weekend she would attend ballet classes,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan said he spent most of the weekend with Jaric.

“I spent most of Saturday and Sunday by her bedside,” Narasimhan said.

Jaric, 43, was a part of Narasimhan’s research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease titled, “The Airway Microbione in COPD.”

Jaric was a computer scientist whose area of research is an interdisciplinary field involving four areas of expertise: math, statistics, computer scientist, and biology.

“She came in with a diverse background in mathematics and statistics and learned a lot of biology along the way,” Narasimhan said. “Not many students are able to combine all the expertise and solve a problem.”

The research is aimed at trying to understand what kind of bacteria live in the lungs of patients with COPD versus those of normal patients, and what effect smoking has. The researchers are working with scientists from the University’s College of Medicine and the University of Miami.

Jaric was a part of the team tasked with analyzing the medical data the scientists provide.

“Melita’s work is going to shine light on how to understand the community of bacteria that live in the lungs,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan added he and the others who worked in the laboratory, which Jaric worked at for two years, had high hopes for her what she could do as a member of the research team.

“She’s a brilliant student and a valuable member in her research,” Narasimhan said. “We had high hopes for her to take this research to fruition and have impactful results.”

The results of Jaric’s research for medicine going forward, Narasimhan said, will point out which are the good and bad bacteria inhabiting lungs and pave a path of treatment for different diseases and disorders.

“Her research was just turning a corner in terms of significance of results and impact.”