Classmates and teachers of the Guntur-based Indian-American professor Podila Gopi Kumar, who was shot dead in the U.S. on Friday evening, are in a state of shock.

The 52-year-old professor and chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama, had visited India a month ago after his father P. Surya Prakasa Rao (83) died on December 11, 2009. His mother Ramalakshmi (80) now lives with her son in Chittoor.

A bright student, Gopi Kumar had done considerable work in fungal genomics, his classmate and friend K.R.S. Sambasiva Rao, heading the Centre for Biotechnology in Acharya Nagarjuna University, told The Hindu.

He was an alumnus of the Hindu College in Guntur where he completed his B.Sc. (Botany) in 1977 and went on to do post-graduation in Botany on the ANU Campus in 1979, when his father headed the department.

Gopi Kumar registered himself as a research fellow in Andhra University's Botany Department during 1979-80 when he left for the United States on getting a post-graduate seat there, said his senior M. Vijayalakshmi, who is a professor in the Botany Department.

Professor N. Lakshmi, working in a college in Vijayawada, said she had worked with late Prakasa Rao and was shocked to know that both father and son had died in a short span of time. Gopi Kumar is the last of four siblings and the other three brothers are settled at Bhilai, Pune and Chittoor. The Indian professor earned a good name in academic circles as he had written several authoritative books.

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