Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

Physics PhD student 'shot dead faculty adviser at University of North Carolina'

A physics PhD student has been arrested in the shooting death of a University of North Carolina faculty adviser.

Tailei Qi, an applied physics PhD student originally from Wuhan, China, was identified as the suspect by court documents and jail records.

Qi was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and bringing a gun into an educational facility. He is being held at the Orange County Detention Center.

Police have not determined a motive for the shooting that took place on Monday.

‘We certainly want the opportunity to interview the suspect,’ said UNC Police Chief Brian James. ‘To actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why.’

A fellow graduate student in the program told WRAL that Qi was ‘was always very quiet’.

‘I would have never guessed that he would be the kind of person who could possibly be capable of this kind of thing,’ he told the local station.

Investigators are still searching for the weapon the suspect allegedly used for the shooting, which placed the entire Chapel Hill campus on lockdown for about three hours.

The victim was identified as UNC Professor Zijie Yan, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering. The shooting took place at the Caudill Labs building, where Yan’s office was located.

Yan was conducting research on optical trapping and manipulation, holography, microfluidics, electronic and photonics nanomaterials, according to his page on UNC Applied Physical Sciences department’s website.

Yan was also reportedly serving as a faculty advisor to Qi, and both men appeared as co-authors on at least two academic papers published between 2022 and 2023, both in the field of advanced optical materials.

Meanwhile, the Chapel Hill campus has begun to recover after the hours-long lockdown.

‘This loss is devastating and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community,’ stated UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

The Caudill Labs building remains closed as the investigation continues in that area.

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