Friends, students and colleagues gathered for a vigil at the UCLA campus Court of Sciences on Friday to honor the memory of engineering professor William Klug. Klug was shot to death by a former student two days earlier who allegedly accused Klug of stealing his work, an accusation those familiar with their relationship called outrageous.
“Bill was a brilliant engineer, he was a scholar in the prime of his career, and he was a caring and compassionate teacher,” said Jayathi Murthy, dean of the engineering school. “In layman’s terms, he tried to find out how viruses and membranes and the human heart work, and so he had collaborators all across UCLA. And the last couple of days, I’ve had calls and emails from so many of them telling me how much his work meant to them and how much his friendship meant to them. And so today we are heartbroken. … We will miss him forever.”
Klug’s wife also paid tribute to her husband, with whom she had two children.
“During this extremely difficult time for our family, we are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support. This is an indescribable loss. Bill was so much more than my soulmate. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.”
Jiann-Wen Ju, Klug’s instructor when he was a graduate student, remembered him as “an excellent scholar, a well respected researcher and a very likable person.”
At the time of his death, Klug was working with a team or researchers to design a full-resolution supercomputer model of the heart on which new medicines and procedures meant to treat heart diseases could be tested.
“For over eight years working with Bill, I have never seen him raising his voice, even when he was upset” said Daniel Ennis, an associate professor of radiology who worked with Klug on the human heart modeling project for more than eight years.
“When we met, professor Klug told me to come to him whenever I had either academic or personal concerns,” said Amit Singh, who was a teaching assistant for several of Klug’s classes. “He even invited his entire research group to spend a weekend at his home to make us feel more comfortable working together.”
After a moment of silence for Klug, his department chair, Tsu-Chin Tsao, talked about seeing Klug when he first joined the department in 2003 and watching his progress over the years.
“I often saw him interact with students. He’s very soft spoken … very nice, very kind. But I also know he’s very firm, he’s very demanding of students’ work, and that shows in his research work, also,” Tsao said. “Over time I was thinking, ‘Gee, the young Bill that I had an impression of, he’s really prospering … and he and a few of our other faculty of his age are going to become the core of our department.’”