DAVIS, Calif. --The University of California, Davis community is mourning the violent death of one of their prominent biology researchers.
Sharon Gray was caught in the middle of a protest while at a meeting in Ethiopia. The plant biology department learned of her death Wednesday and word is spreading on campus Thursday.
"She's always smiling. She's like sunshine," said UC Davis chair of plant biology Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar. "She was only 30 years old. She was a smart, bright scientist and she had a bright future ahead of her."
RELATED: Protesters kill UC Davis student in Ethiopia
Gray worked in the Brady Lab on campus and she often traveled the world talking about her research.
Fifty-five people died in protests over political rights that erupted in Ethiopia last weekend, just as Gray and another UC Davis researcher arrived to attend a climate change meeting with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. As they rode in a van just outside the capital they were pelted with rocks.
"Sadly, one of our researchers Sharon Gray was killed in Ethiopia when the van she was in was hit by stones being thrown by protesters during a protest there," said UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell.
Her colleague survived the attack and is on her way back to the Bay Area.
Gray is survived by her husband who is waiting for the State Department to transfer her body to Illinois where she earned her doctorate.
"All her life she's dedicated to this and it's just gone in an instant. It's really sad," said UC Davis student Kaytlin Holbein.
Researchers say safety is always a concern when traveling to diverse and potentially dangerous regions of the world.
"That doesn't mean that we cannot go there and do our work. This is what we are passionate about," Dinesh-Kumar said.
Those who worked with Gray say her death is an international loss of a great talent in plant biology.