The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) held a vigil on Wednesday to honor the memory of professor Zijie Yan, who was fatally shot on campus earlier this week.
Background: Yan, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, was shot to death at the university’s Caudill Laboratories shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday. The shooter, Tailei Qi, was a graduate student in Yan’s research group.
About the event: The campus vigil, which was open to the local community, took place at the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday night. Around 5,000 people attended the gathering — including Yan’s mother and two children — and 10,000 more watched the livestream.
The vigil also acknowledged the “brave and selfless actions” of faculty members and students during the incident, which resulted in a three-hour lockdown. Videos posted on X show some students escaping out of windows over fears for their safety.
What colleagues are saying: Colleagues remembered Yan as a brilliant and soft-spoken faculty member. Theo Dingemans, the chair of Applied Physical Sciences, described Yan as “one of the kindest persons that I’ve ever met.”
“He was pushing the boundaries of nanoscience with his research program,” Dingemans said in a news release. He added that he is “100% sure” the late professor would have “wanted us to keep doing research here at Carolina that will change the world.”
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said Yan “left this world a better place for his brilliance, his commitment and the lives that he affected. That’s a life well lived and a life ended far, far too soon.”
What’s next: Qi, a Chinese national, has been charged with first-degree murder and possession of a weapon on educational property. He is being held without bail at Orange County Jail and could face additional charges.
Around 600 students also called for stricter gun laws in a campus rally hours before the vigil. Meanwhile, the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, has gone viral for its powerful print headline on the incident.