Missing Pitt graduate student leaves no trace
By Debra Erdley
Published: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Qi Qin was having second thoughts about her education when the University of Pittsburgh recessed for the winter holidays last month.
The 24-year-old graduate student from China, who went by “Sherry,” came to Pittsburgh a year earlier on a student visa for a two-year graduate program in East Asian studies. Three semesters into her studies, she hadn't settled on a topic for her thesis, and time was running out.
Katherine Carlitz, Pitt's China studies coordinator and Qin's adviser, learned of the student's misgivings in an email she received when she returned from the holiday break.
“I was away over Christmas when she sent me an email saying, given her uncertainty, it would probably be best for her to withdraw. By the time I got back and sent her an email asking her to come in and talk about it, she had gone missing,” Carlitz said.
Her disappearance in a city 7,500 miles from her home in Shanghai on the eve of a blast of arctic weather and one day before the start of Pitt's spring semester has sparked concern here and abroad.
Pittsburgh police, who are handling the missing-persons case, say Qin was last seen about 8 p.m. Jan. 5 on a city bus in Oakland.
Where she went after that is a mystery. Calls to her cellphone go to voicemail, and the inbox is full.
“Many Pitt students knew her and liked her, and they come to us concerned about her,” Carlitz said.
Pittsburgh police Detective Jeff Abraham said friends alerted police to Qin's disappearance. City police are handling the investigation because the young woman lived in Squirrel Hill rather than on the Pitt campus. Pitt police and university officials are cooperating in the investigation, and officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were alerted because Qin is here on a student visa.
Police believe she is in the United States because there have been no hits on her visa in a system that flags such activity at international airports and ports across the country.
Pitt spokesman Ken Service said the university posted fliers of the young woman around campus and posted her photo on a student Web portal. At Carnegie Mellon University, the school's Chinese Students and Scholars Association posted alerts on its media networks.
“We are very concerned about her,” said Yue Ma, president of the CMU group.
Police said Qin is 5 feet, 3 inches tall; weighs 115 pounds; and has black hair and brown eyes. She wears glasses.
She is a member of a growing community in which Chinese students represent the largest portion of about 10,000 international students studying at Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities. There are 1,500 Chinese students at Pitt and 1,400 just up Forbes Avenue at CMU.
Like Qin, most of them are graduate students hoping to secure a future for their families on the wings of a coveted American university degree.
“A U.S. credential is still considered prestigious. Our (graduates) get very good positions there,” Carlitz said.
Service said Pitt contacted Qin's parents in Shanghai through a Chinese- and English-speaking family friend.
She apparently made good on her intent to withdraw from Pitt. Service said Qin was not registered for any classes for the spring semester.
“No one had noticed that initially because registration had not closed by the time she was reported missing,” Service said.
Abraham said police followed a number of leads and checked surveillance cameras near areas where sightings were reported. They have no indication of where Qin might have gone or what happened to her.
Anyone with information about Qin is asked to call Pittsburgh police at 412-323-7141.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 .
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- UPMC data breach shows easiness of tax return thefts
- 23 citations filed against drivers for app-based ride services
- Drilling questions lobbed in 2nd of 3 meetings regarding Deer Lakes Park
- Allegheny County Airport Authority’s former president exits with $186K deal
- Landmark former school in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to incubate startups
- Wilkinsburg woman, 24, dies in crash
- Wuerl tells faithful all Catholics are responsible for schools
- Democrats consider Pittsburgh for 2016 national convention
- Former U.S. Steel executive and wife make $500,000 donation
- Newsmakers: Nicholas and Louis Suarez
- Proposal to drill in West Deer and Frazer draws comments from both sides