UI community, students react to former employee’s child pornography charges

Sameer Patel was a graduate research assistant in the physics and astronomy department. Patel was sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison for the receipt and distribution of child pornography.


Photo of Sameer Patel.

Kate Perez, News Editor

Some University of Iowa students are shocked after a former university employee was sentenced to federal prison after possessing and distributing child pornography.

Sameer Chandulal Patel, 30, of Iowa City, pled guilty on June 17 to charges of receipt and distribution of child pornography. On Oct. 28, Patel was sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release unless he is deported. Patel is originally from India.

The investigation began after a social media application received a cyber tip indicating child pornography was uploaded to its site, according to a Nov. 1 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Iowa.

As the investigation progressed, it was revealed that Patel “distributed, received, and possessed over 18,000 images and 14,000 videos containing child pornography from 2016 to 2021,” the release states.

The FBI and the UI Department of Public Safety investigated the case.

According to Patel’s LinkedIn account, he formerly served as a graduate research assistant for the UI’s Physics and Astronomy Department.

RELATED: Iowa City man sentenced to federal prison for possessing, distributing child pornography

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Hayley Bruce, UI Department of Public Safety assistant director for communication and external relations, wrote that Patel is no longer affiliated with the university.

New technology could have aided the investigation, Bruce wrote.

“Recent cases in the news may reflect the fact that more technology has become available to law enforcement to effectively investigate these types of crimes in recent years,” she wrote “For example, the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety is part of the county’s Joint Forensic Analysis Cyber Team (J-FACT), which specializes in examining evidence in cyber crimes.”

After multiple avenues of contact by the DI, faculty members in the Physics and Astronomy Department declined to comment on Patel’s charges.

According to Patel’s resume obtained by the DI, Patel was a teacher’s assistant for the UI courses Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe and Astrophysics in August-December 2018.

Aditya Desai, a UI third-year student studying physics and economics, said the news shocked him. While Desai never had Patel as an instructor, he still works closely with faculty in the physics department.

“I was like, ‘What? That’s kind of crazy,’ and then I was kind of disgusted because a disgusting person was in the department,” Desai said. “I know we do tons of outreach in our department, and so that just did not make me feel good because — just in general —  outreach is part of academia.”

Patel is the third former UI employee this year to be charged with possessing child pornography, the first being former UI School of Music professor John Muriello in August and the second being Field House worker Tyler Dean Kadolph in October.

“Numbers-wise, it is a large campus,” Desai said. “I don’t know what the numbers look like across the university/world when it comes to percent of people with child pornography, but I’d imagine it’s pretty low. It’s wild that it’s happening within a year on campus.”

Henry Krain, a UI second-year student, is currently enrolled in physics classes on campus. Krain said he found it troubling that Patel taught young adults who are just entering college.

“I understand most of us are 18 now, technically not classified as children, but we’re all still very young,” Krain said. “A lot of people in college are easily manipulated, so I think it’s just really concerning that somebody who had child porn teaches this close to people that are a year or two removed from children.”

Krain said while he is upset about the situation, he is not concerned about his safety around any of his teachers because he feels he has good relationships with them.

“I understand that anybody can be anybody behind the scenes. That’s not a surprise to me, it’s just at the end of the day, they are teachers and their job is to teach us,” Krain said. “It’s just not something that’s really crossed my mind in terms to be concerned about. I think that’s why it’s such a dangerous thing because you don’t expect your teacher to be a child porn predator.”