Slain professor was caring - USC students

2016-12-04 20:36
A 2013 picture of Professor Bosco Tjan, who was allegedly stabbed to death by one of his students. (University of Southern California, AP)

A 2013 picture of Professor Bosco Tjan, who was allegedly stabbed to death by one of his students. (University of Southern California, AP)

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Los Angeles - A graduate student arrested on suspicion of killing the professor who oversaw his work at the University of California was described by some of his fellow classmates as a quiet but seemingly normal young man while others say he was troubled and pegged as most likely to quit the group's rigorous doctoral programme.

David Jonathan Brown, a 28-year-old brain and cognitive science student, was arrested on a murder charge in the Friday attack on the Los Angeles campus. His mentor, 50-year-old Bosco Tjan, was stabbed to death inside the building where he runs an intensive lab that studies vision loss.

Not exactly right

Brown, one of just five students who worked in the lab, was arrested without incident, police said, adding that the killing was targeted.

Brown was being held on a $1m bond.

Brenton Keller said that he and Brown were both fourth-year neuroscience students among a group of about 11, shared a lengthy Facebook post saying he had prayed Brown wasn't responsible when he first heard news of the stabbing.

"I am sitting here in shock, heart racing and fingers shaking," Keller wrote in the post, which sometimes directly addressed Brown. "David, you were bright but at the same time troubled ... Our whole class knew things were not exactly alright."

Brown would not always finish his work and would go missing for weeks at a time, Keller wrote in the post.

Another graduate student Katie Zyuzin, replied to the post by saying she also thought first of Brown when she heard the news.

"We saw that he needed help, but how could we offer it to him?" she wrote. "I tried to talk to him (the) last few times that I saw him on campus, but the conversation would not go anywhere and I started to shrug it off, instead of looking into it."

Nathaniel Kwok, who recently finished working 18 months in Tjan's lab alongside Brown, said graduate students work there 40 to 60 hours a week and develop projects required to graduate.

Brown had been working in the lab since around 2013 but took a leave of absence for personal reasons last year that lasted roughly a semester, Kwok said. He didn't know why Brown needed the time off or how close to graduation he was.

Grad student

Chris Purington, project manager at Tjan's lab, said he last saw Brown the day before the attack, when both he and Tjan attended a PhD student's dissertation.

"It didn't seem like anything was wrong. I didn't see this coming," Purington said. "When I heard a grad student did it I really expected it to be somebody I didn't know."

Tjan joined USC in 2001, taught in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and served as co-director of the Dornsife Cognitive Neuro-imaging Centre.


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