Duke grad student found shot to death

DURHAM Friends and colleagues have identified the victim as Abhijit Mahato, 29, a Ph.D. engineering candidate from India, university officials said Saturday afternoon.

Durham Police said they do not yet have a motive for the shooting. Their investigation is continuing.

Mahato, originally from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctorate degree focused on computational mechanics at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. He was in his second year.

Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, said the university has begun reaching out to Mahato's friends and to his family in India, as well as to Indian and other international students on campus. It is offering counseling services and has begun considering appropriate ways of commemorating Mahato's life.

"This is a tragic circumstance, and we are doing everything possible to assist those who may be affected by it," Moneta said.

At a meeting late this morning, Mahato's adviser, engineering professor Tod Laursen, met with his lab team to talk about Mahato, whom he described as intellectually curious, kind and outgoing.

"He made friends very easily and always had a smile on his face," Laursen said. "Our research team was particularly close to Abhijit. He was very well read in both poetry and literature, and enjoyed conversation with others about what they were reading."

Before coming to Duke, Mahato worked for two years for the GE Global Research Center in Bangalore, where he focused on finite element analysis, a computer-simulation technique used in engineering. The experience prepared him well for his graduate work, according to Laursen.

"We were working together on an industry-funded research project and Abhijit's prior industry experience helped him develop close working relationships with our partner," Laursen said. "He understood their needs as a business and was a pleasure to work with."

Mahato earned his mechanical engineering degree from Jadavpur University in 2001 and a master of technology degree from the Indian Institute for Technology in Kanpur in 2004.

Duke Police said more information will be shared as it becomes available. Updates will be posted on www.duke.edu/today.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Durham Police Sgt. Jack Cates at 560-4440, ext. 262, Duke Police at (919) 684-2444 or Durham Crimestoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

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