UC Davis officials confirm a plant biologist who worked on campus was killed in Ethiopia Tuesday while riding in a vehicle stoned by protestors on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa.
Thirty-one year old Sharon Gray was a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Department of Plant Biology and Genome Center.
Department Chair Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar described Gray as a talented scientist with a sunshine smile.
"Sharon had a very bright future ahead of her. We all knew she was going to be a star in plant biology research. This is a great, tragic loss for the Genome Center and for the Davis community."
Gray worked for three years as a postdoctoral research fellow with the plant biology lab. Dinesh says it's a very close-knit group.
"We are still under shock to know what we can do," explains Dinesh.
"We are trying to help Sharon's lab members and trying to provide everything we can to make sure they're okay."
Dinesh says Gray went to Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa to meet with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and other charitable organizations for a project.
UC Davis associate professor Siobhan Brady was traveling with Gray when she died. In a written rememberance shared by campus officials, Brady described Gray as a mentor and friend.
Brady wrote that she and Gray "were looking forward to exploring Ethiopia together and working with the bright scientists we met over the last few days."
Brady added that Gray "loved her husband, family, friends, science and the outdoors. She had an infectious smile and giggle, a calm and patient nature. She was truly committed to helping people through her studies of plant biology. Her colleagues (and I) will miss her intensely."
Dinesh who chairs the UC Davis department where Gray worked, said her research was geared toward helping smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, Africa and throughout the world.
It ia not clear how Gray's death is connected to the ongoing unrest in Ethiopia. Anti-government protests have rocked the country since Sunday when a stampede at a religious festival south of Addis Ababa led to 55 deaths.