Tris Yasay

Department of Plant Sciences mourns death of Tris Yasay

3rd-year student was "passionate" about plants and helping people

Trisha “Tris” Nicole Sabay Yasay was a cherished and beloved student in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. Her untimely death in a collision on May 25 leaves a hole in our classrooms, at our Student Farm, in our homes and in our hearts.

“The community of students, staff and faculty of Department of Plant Sciences express their deep condolences to the family of Tris,” department Chair Gail Taylor said. “We are all devastated by the loss of her life. At our Plant Sciences Symposium today, we observed a minute of silence to hold Tris and her family in our thoughts.”

Yasay was remembered for her vision, energy and enthusiasm for taking what she was learning at UC Davis and using it to better the world.

Yasay was a junior fascinated by plants and how people use them. She was one of a small handful of students in the department who, each year, decide to chart their own academic pathways through the plant sciences major, said her advisor, Prof. Dan Potter. He called her a “bright, promising student dedicated to making the world a better place through research and outreach… She had just submitted a plan for her own area of specialization within the plant sciences major,” Potter said. “It was really thoughtful, and I was happy to approve it.”

In her plan, Yasay had selected courses to study both the molecular basis for fiber and chemical compounds that plants produce, and people’s history of using those products across history and cultures. In addition, she looked ahead to designing some useful new product in a team effort, and planned to study science journalism.

Yasay had written, “After graduation, I aim to ensure that the potential uses of plant materials are easily known and accessible through writing research papers, articles and more.”  

“I was impressed and inspired by the insightfulness and vision of Tris’s proposal and looked forward to following her progress throughout her undergraduate studies and beyond,” Potter wrote. “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of her life. I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.”

“Genuine curiosity” and “thoughtful contributor”

The week she died, Yasay was finishing a challenging final essay for a class on the evolution of crop plants, taught by Prof. Paul Gepts. Her topic was the calamansi, a small, bitter and economically important citrus fruit from her heritage land of the Philippines. Her research “allowed her to understand the origin of that particular fruit and understand it in the context of Filipino culture,” Gepts said.

The day after Yasay’s death, Gepts’ class observed a minute of silence to honor her life. “They were shocked,” Gepts added.

The class is designed for fourth-year students, Gepts noted. “It was already clear that she was going to successfully complete the requirements for this course, even though she was only a junior-level student,” Gepts wrote. 

“In discussion sessions, she was a thoughtful contributor and attentive listener,” added class TA Kimberly Gibson. “Her genuine curiosity in and passion for agricultural studies was always apparent.  She was very excited about studying calamansi through her term paper.”

“As teachers, Kimberly and I are so very sorry and present our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Tris,” Gepts wrote.

Department “hurting”

Others in the department who worked with Yasay also wrestled with their grief over this irremediable loss.

“I will remember Tris’ soft and gentle voice, her sweet smile, her kindness, her straight black hair,” wrote Undergraduate Advisor Angie Nguyen. “Her glasses, they covered her eyes, yet you could still see them light up whenever she talked about her passion for science, for plants, for writing, for design. She had found the right major — plant sciences! She created her own garden with colorful details of all the classes she was excited to take, and an internship at the Student Farm that would help her grow beyond UC Davis. Memories of her will always bring joy and smiles. She is loved, admired, and will always be remembered by her Plant Sciences family and friends and the UCD community.”

“My heart hurts to have learned about Tris's passing,” wrote another undergraduate advisor, Nancy Thurlow, who guided Yasay in her first years on campus. “She was truly a sweet and kindhearted soul. As a student, Tris showed immense passion for plant sciences, sustainability and design… I am sad we won’t experience the impact she would have had. Rest easy, Tris. We will miss you. My deepest condolences to the Yasay family, Tris’s friends and our Aggie community.”

Help for grief

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May’s message of condolence is here.

Students needing immediate mental health support can call Student Health and Counseling Services at (530) 752-0871. After hours, follow the prompts to speak to a counselor immediately. At any time, students can use the crisis text line by texting RELATE to 741741.

Faculty and staff can reach out to the Academic and Staff Assistance Program, which serves the Davis and Sacramento campuses.


Media Resources

Media inquiries may be directed to Andy Fell, UC Davis News and Media Relations,

Primary Category