Simon Chan, a plant scientist who made breakthroughs in his chosen field at a young age, has died of a liver disease, the University of California, Davis, announced Friday.
Mr. Chan, 38, died Wednesday. He had been suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a disease of the bile ducts in the liver. He developed complications while awaiting a liver transplant.
"His brilliant work could fundamentally change how new crop plants are generated and may shed light on how new plant species are formed," said James Hildreth, dean of the College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis.
Hildreth called him an incredible scientist. Other colleagues in a university news release said Mr. Chan had a passion for teaching, an enthusiasm for science and a rare intellect.
Mr. Chan's lab discovered new ways to breed plants. He was also working with plant breeders in Colombia, Tanzania and Kenya in an effort to find new ways to breed bananas and other staples eaten by the world's poorest people.
Mr. Chan was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He worked with 2009 Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn at the University of California, San Francisco, where he earned his doctoral degree in 2006.
He joined UC Davis in 2006. Colleagues remember a man who enjoyed music in his free time, especially jazz. He played saxophone and guitar.
He is survived by his parents, Avril and Robert Chan; and a sister, Caron Chan.
The Department of Plant Biology invites memorial messages to be left at www.plb.ucdavis.edu/labs/sundar/. Services are pending.