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Julia Kathleen Pryde

Julia Pryde, 23, was a graduate student in biological systems engineering from Middleton, N.J.

"[Julia] was an exceptional student academically and personally," said Saied
Mostaghimi, chairman of the biological systems and engineering department where Pryde was seeking her master's degree.

"She was the nicest person you ever met," Mostaghimi told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The previous summer, Pryde had traveled to Ecuador to research water quality issues with a professor. She planned to return this summer for follow-up work, Mostaghimi said.

A 2001 graduate of Middletown North High School, Pryde was on the school's the swim team and played softball in two town leagues.

Her hometown has been touched by tragedy before, losing 37 residents and former residents in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The town pulls together in these situations. Everything that we can do for this family, we'll see what can be done," Middletown Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger said.