When Grad Students Snap

There’s a story in the New York Times today about a new movie on the infamous Iowa grad school shootings:

On Nov. 1, 1991, outraged that his doctoral thesis had been passed over for an academic prize, a young physicist at the University of Iowa named Gang Lu opened fire at a physics department meeting. He killed five people and paralyzed another before taking his own life.

The shootings devastated Iowa City and shocked a nation not normally used to thinking of physics as a life-and-death pursuit. Now they have been transformed into a celluloid nightmare for the rest of us.

This case is the stuff of dark legend in the physics grad school community, though the details are often mangled. It’s almost always cited in discussions of how to make the process of getting a Ph.D. more humane. I’m not sure I’d pay to see a movie about it, though…

Special bonus ScienceBlogs connection: Janet is quoted:

Janet D. Stemwedel, a philosopher at San Jose State University, recently wrote on her blog, doctorfreeride.blogspot.com, “It’s hard to understand just how powerless you can feel as a graduate student unless you have been a graduate student.”

OK, they get the blog wrong, but hey, that’s pretty cool.