CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced that Zijie Yan was the victim of Monday’s shooting on campus. He was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences and worked at UNC since 2019.

His former graduate school mentor, Doug Chrisey, tells CBS 17 he spoke with Yan back in July. 

“We talked a little bit and he had mentioned that he had a student with some mental illness problems and he was hopeful that that student would be able to keep it all together and graduate,” Chrisey said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen and I’m so very sad for that.”

According to a UNC webpage, Yan led a scientific research group called the Yan Research Group.

A photo on the college’s website shows the professor posing with one of his students and suspected shooter, Tailei Qi.

Professor Zijie Yang, left, and his suspected shooter, Tailei Qi, right. (Courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill)

The two published a research paper back in July.

“As far as I know, [Yan] helped every person that he came in contact with,” Chrisey said.

Others are mourning Yan’s loss. A department head at Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York wrote a statement on his death. 

“He distinguished himself with publishing 17 journal articles in the course of his PHD study and continued his successful career as a postdoc at the University of Chicago, and later as a faculty at the Clarkson University,” professor Pawel Keblinski said in part.

Yan leaves behind two young children.

“He was a person who had a resting smiling face and it was really representative of his beautiful soul,” Chrisey said.

UNC-Chapel Hill leaders said there will be a moment of silence Wednesday afternoon as the bell tower rings in his honor. 



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“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to many on our campus,” UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “My leadership team and I have met with his colleagues and family to express our condolences on behalf of our campus.”

Students at the university are also coping with the loss of the faculty member.

“It’s been really stressful,” UNC freshman Kenneth Hernandez said. “Everyone’s just been quiet, just calling their families. [It’s] just very upsetting.”