The academic world lost a gifted member in the murder of UCLA professor William Klug, who was gunned down by a former student Mainak Sarkar, 38. Sarkar is a former doctoral student that Klug mentored and was upset about his grades, according to police. Sarkar left what is described as a “kill list” that led police to the body of a Minnesota woman who was gunned down in her home. The list included another professor’s name, but thankfully that professor was not hurt.
Sarkar shot Klug multiple times in the UCLA Engineering Building 4 and Sarkar then took his own life. Sarkar reportedly left a note that asked someone to “check on my cat.”
In addition to his gripe over grades, Sarkar reportedly believed that Klug had taken his computer code and gave it to someone else. Sarkar had been attacking Klug for months on social media and described him as a “very sick person” who could not be trusted.
He drove from Minnesota where he has obtained the two guns legally. They then carried a backpack, two semiautomatic pistols and extra magazines to Klug’s fourth-floor office.
Klug, 39, was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. He had taken special efforts to help and mentor Sarkar, who was not a stellar student.
Before coming to UCLA, Sarkar earned a master’s degree at Stanford University following an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. Sarkar also worked as a research assistant at the University of Texas and worked as a software developer and remotely as an engineering analyst for an Ohio-based rubber company, Endurica LLC.
Klug’s bio shows that he graduated with a B.S., Westmont College from in 1998; a
M.S. from UCLA in 1999 and his Ph.D. from Caltech in 2003 . He had an impressive list of publications. His interests were explained as “theoretical and computational biomechanics. In particular, we are developing continuum and multiscale methods to understand the mechanics of biological structures from the molecular and cellular scales upward.” His wife, Mary Elise Richter Klug, is also an engineer and graduated from Westmont in 1997.
The couple has two children and Klug was the coach on his son’s little league team. There is a Go Fund Me site set up for the family in the memory of this gifted academic and loving father.
The shooting is obviously a reminder of the risks for academics in dealing with a great variety of students with differing mental or emotional issues. It is one of the reasons why most academics favor gun-free zones on campuses. However, if we are to be honest, such a rule would not have prevented this tragedy unless every building is equipped with metal detectors and security gates. Someone hellbent to commit murder like Sarkar is not going to be thwarted by the fact that guns are not allowed on campus any more than he was not thwarted by murder being illegal.