UNC grad student charged in campus slaying of professor

Zijie Yan, 38, was an associate professor in Caudill Laboratories in the Applied Physical Science Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he was fatally shot in the lab on Monday. A graduate student in his research group was charged with his murder. Photo courtesy of UNC

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in the campus slaying of a professor.

Tailei Qi, who was carrying a 9mm handgun, was arrested on Monday after the fatal shooting of his adviser, applied physical science Professor Zijie Yan.

Qi, 34, was a member of the research group working with Yan, 38.

Besides the murder charge, Qi is accused of a misdemeanor firearm possession on educational property.

Police had not identified a motive for the shooting.

The campus went on lockdown Monday afternoon as the shooting occurred inside Caudill Laboratories, with students cowering in classrooms a week into the fall semester. Qi was apprehended about 90 minutes later.

Yan joined UNC from Clarkson University in upstate New York in 2019. He lived in Apex, N.C., and had two young children.

Qi enrolled at UNC in 2022 after earning a master's degree at Louisiana State University.

The two men had co-authored research papers and Qi had been working on "optical tweezers."

The university canceled classes and suspended operations through midnight Tuesday and offered counseling to students.