When he entered Kenan Laboratories on Friday, Xiang Wang noticed something peculiar.
The laser he had been using was gone.
The CrystaLaser blue violet laser — worth about $8,000 — is believed to have been stolen.
“I came in, I put my stuff on the table, went around to the laser table to turn on all the instruments and the laser wasn’t there,” said Wang, a research associate.
“It wasn’t in the box either. It was just gone.”
The laser, a two-part, 13-centimeter piece of equipment and the laser’s stand were last used Oct. 7, according to an Oct. 15 UNC Department of Public Safety report.
The laser uses florescence to view the interaction of molecules tagged with a dye. Wang belongs to a team headed by chemistry professor Nancy Thompson to study this interaction.
“Without this laser, we cannot run any experiments,” he said.
Kenan Laboratories only owned one of this specific type of laser, Wang said. It uses the same technology as the two bigger lasers they own but is newer and smaller.
Wang said he has no idea why anyone would steal the laser.
“We are all confused,” he said. “Dear God, this is a laser. The only way you could use it is to sell it for money. It’s really bizarre,” he added.
Wang said it is unlikely that anyone would make $8,000 selling it stolen. It would also be noticed if anyone tried to sell it locally since the market for lasers is small, he said.
This is not the first time a laser has been taken from Kenan Laboratories, Wang said. Last year, a laser of the same type, which belonged to chemistry professor Dorothy Erie, was stolen. It was never recovered.
In response to the thefts, John Beres, director of laboratories and technical facilities, said security in the department will increase.
Randy Young, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, declined to release information about the security increase.
“We would certainly partner with people in the specific area and get them to report on any suspicious activity,” he said.
“We’d be more likely to do a security audit and help them to take steps to make a good security environment.”
The department has already ordered a new laser, but Beres said it will be difficult to find necessary funding.
Wang said Thompson’s team has already found a spare laser from another research group. It still needs to be tested and calibrated, but they might eventually use the borrowed laser even if the old one is found, he added.
Beres wouldn’t comment on the probability of the laser being found.
“I don’t think there is evidence that supports any basic probabilities of items being found in these sort of situations,” Beres said.
“We certainly hope it will be found.”
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