Altom's suicide highlighted the pressures on Ph.D. students, problems of isolation in graduate school, and sources of tension between graduate mentors and their students. His case prompted many universities to insist that Ph.D. students have an advisory committee in addition to a supervisor, to whom they might turn for support: James Anderson, who became Harvard Chemistry Department Chairman, stated that "Jason's death prompted an examination of the role the department should play in graduate students' lives". Anderson went on to promise that students will also have "confidential and seamless access" to psychological counselling services, paid for by the department. However, as of 2004, this access was completely terminated. It is unknown whether any vestiges of the department's nine-step plan toward graduate student health and happiness remain, though it was highly-publicized following Altom's suicide.
Corey, speaking of the suicide note, states: "[T]hat letter doesn't make sense. At the end, Jason must have been delusional or irrational in the extreme." Corey also is on record as stating that he never questioned Mr. Altom's intellectual contributions. "I did my best to guide Jason as a mountain guide would to guide someone climbing a mountain. I did my best every step of the way," Corey states. "My conscience is clear. Everything Jason did came out of our partnership. We never had the slightest disagreement." This assertion has been questioned by other graduate students working at Harvard at the time.
The molecule on which Altom was working, aspidophytine, was subsequently completed by postdoctoral research associates and published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1999.. The article was dedicated to the memory of Jason Altom. However despite the fact that Altom had completed the vast majority of the work on the project, he was not given first authorship on the paper by Corey.
'THERE'S ISOLATION. THERE'S DEPRESSION. THERE HAS TO BE AN EMOTIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT YOU, PEOPLE YOU CAN GO TO. YOU NEED TO RETAIN WARMTH AND BREADTH IN ORDER TO WEATHER IT.' JIM ANDERSON, CHAIRMAN OF HARVARD CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT GRAD-STUDENT SUICIDES SPUR BIG CHANGES AT HARVARD CHEM LABS
Jan 02, 2001; In August 1998, Dr. Ned Hallowell was vacationing with his family in Connecticut when, as usual, he checked his daily e-mails. In...