Texas Tech University

Christopher Rodriguez Legacy


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


Written by Heidi Toth

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.

"It's not a story of the work almost being done and students chipping in and finishing it," he said. "That was their idea, but instead some students who would not have otherwise learned about our lab's research became interested in plants and ecology."

Forming a hypothesis

Rodriguez hadn't taken ecology yet when he walked into Schwilk's lab, but as an undergraduate researcher in Texas Tech's Center for the Integration of STEM Education and Research (CISER), he was looking for a research project.

"He was interested in ecology and plants, and that's a bit unusual," Schwilk said. "Students here tend to be self-described pre-health, so it's rare to find those who aren't. He came and talked to me and was clearly really interested. He wasn't just looking to pad his resume."
The summer before his junior year, Rodriguez learned the processes and how to use the equipment. He went on research trips to the Davis Mountains and was developing a proposal that would allow him both to do this research for Texas Tech's Howard Hughes Medical Institute (TTU/HHMI) research program and use it for his honors thesis."


-Read more at: After Tragedy, Biology Students Finish Friend;s Research

-To donate to the Christopher Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship go to:          http://donate.give2tech.com/?fid=IA000176