James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people at a Colorado movie theater last weekend, was accepted by the Neuroscience Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and visited campus within the last two years, The News-Gazette has learned.
It wasn't clear when Holmes applied to the UI, and university officials refused to confirm the information Wednesday.
"Our practice is not to comment on applications or applicants, but I can tell you that James Holmes was never enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign," Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, said in an email to The News-Gazette.
Samuel Beshers, coordinator for the UI Neuroscience Program, declined to comment Wednesday and referred questions to public affairs, as did officials with the UI Graduate College.
Holmes was a doctoral student in neuroscience working in research facilities at the University of Colorado's medical campus near Denver until filing paperwork to drop out in June, according to wire reports.
Holmes, 24, was in the first year of a program at the Anschutz Medical Campus, which is dedicated to neuroscience, and was studying how the brain works, The AP reported. He had joined the program in June 2011 after receiving a National Institutes of Health grant that covered his tuition and provided a $26,000 annual living allowance.
The University of Colorado refused to say what specifically Holmes studied. But an online syllabus listed him as making a presentation in May during a class called "Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders."
In early June, Holmes took a standard oral exam that ends a graduate student's first year. The school will not say whether he passed, but Holmes filed paperwork to withdraw from the program just days later without providing an explanation for his departure, according to wire reports. ABC News reported that Holmes had failed the exam.
Holmes, who grew up in California, graduated in spring 2010 with a degree in neuroscience from the University of California-Riverside, where he had attended on a merit-based scholarship, according to wire reports.
Police say Holmes, wearing tactical body armor and a gas mask and toting three firearms, opened fire on a crowded midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
The UI's Neuroscience Program is an interdisciplinary research unit with an academic program leading to a doctoral degree. It has 70 students and more than 85 affiliated faculty from departments across campus studying the brain from a broad range of perspectives, according to its website.
Their research involves nutrition and memory, neuroengineering, aging, cell signaling and communication, neuroimmunology, and sensory and motor systems, among other areas. The program also hosts an annual Brain Awareness Day to teach younger students about the brain.