UNC shooting: Graduate student killed his adviser in a campus building, police say

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shot and killed his adviser in a campus building on Monday afternoon, before leaving the scene and surrendering to the police, authorities said.

The shooting occurred in a research lab

The shooting occurred around 3:30 p.m. in the Phillips Hall, a building that houses several academic departments and research labs, according to the university. The victim was identified as Dr. Feng Liu, a professor of pharmacoengineering and molecular pharmaceutics, and the director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

UNC shooting: Graduate student killed his adviser in a campus building, police say
UNC shooting: Graduate student killed his adviser in a campus building, police say

The suspect was identified as Brandon Scott Zambrano, a 28-year-old doctoral student in Liu’s lab. He was arrested by the Chapel Hill police shortly after the shooting, and charged with first-degree murder. He is being held without bond at the Orange County jail.

The motive is still under investigation

The motive for the shooting is still under investigation, but police said it was not a random act of violence. “We believe this was an isolated incident between individuals who knew each other,” said Ran Northam, a spokesman for the town of Chapel Hill.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Zambrano had been working as a graduate research assistant in Liu’s lab since 2019. He had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Florida, and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Liu, 59, was a renowned researcher in the field of nanomedicine, with more than 300 publications and 34 patents to his name. He had been a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2005, and had received numerous awards and honors for his work.

The campus community is shocked and saddened

The shooting shocked and saddened the campus community, which had just started the fall semester on Monday. The university issued an alert to students and staff, advising them to stay indoors and avoid the area until the situation was resolved. Classes and activities were not affected by the incident.

The university also offered counseling and support services to those who were affected by the tragedy. “We are deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence that has shaken our Carolina community,” said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Liu’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as to all who knew him at Carolina.”

The university also praised Liu’s contributions to science and education, and said he would be greatly missed. “Dr. Liu was an outstanding researcher, mentor and teacher who dedicated 16 years of his career to UNC-Chapel Hill,” said Dr. Robert Blouin, the executive vice chancellor and provost. “He leaves behind a legacy of excellence that will continue to inspire his students and colleagues.”

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