Chris Rodriguez

After Tragedy, Biology Students Finish Friend’s Research

Chris Rodriguez is listed as an author of the biology research he started before his death in 2012.

Four names were in the author spot of a Texas Tech University study presented at a biology conference in Sacramento in August.

Senior biology student Tailor Brown’s name was at the top; she did most of the field research, which examined how oak tree resprouts respond to drought conditions. Joshua Willms, who is now a joint MD/Ph.D. student at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, is second; he helped coordinate all the research. Associate biology professor Dylan Schwilk, whose name is fourth, guided the undergraduate researchers.

Christopher Rodriguez is third. The project was his brainchild. He learned how to use the equipment and wrote a research proposal. He told his friends about this exciting new research he’d started, and he made plants and droughts sound exciting.

Just a few months into the research, on Oct. 3, 2012, he suffered life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle accident. He died three days later.

After Rodriguez’s death, a few of his friends approached Schwilk and said they’d like to continue Rodriguez’s research. It would be their friend’s legacy. Schwilk allowed himself to be persuaded.