In memory of Zach Jones
By Mariana Byndloss
If I could define Zach in one word, it would be LIGHT. Zach brought LIGHT to the world around him with his kindness, open mind and his way of accepting others and always seeing the good in people. And the funniest thing about it is that I don’t think he realized how special his approach to life was. Zach was humble and often shy, and because of that he would sometimes not recognize his amazing potential. Ever since I met Zach, I had no doubt of his potential for leadership and for mentoring and helping others, and I because of that I would always come to him saying “Zach, when you are ready, I think you should start training an undergraduate student…” He would look back at me, with his eyes open wide and his typical smile and say… “Oh, Mariana… “, as if I were asking him for something way beyond his capabilities. Little did he know that he was already constantly mentoring all of us on compassion and love for others.
Speaking of smiles… that boy LOVED to smile. We would often communicate via Slack/text messages, and he would always end his sentences with a smiley face. ALWAYS. And that would always make me giggle and would brighten up my day.
And speaking of LOVE… Zach loved research and loved immunology. He was the first immunology student in my lab, and because of that I gave him the task of developing a new protocol to detect immune cells in mouse intestines. Most people would have hated this task, but not Zach. He was so excited! He figured out who to contact for help, worked hard to optimize the protocol and was ready to perform all the experiments. And you know the message he sent me the day he received all the reagents for this assay? He said: “Mariana, I received everything that I needed! This feels like Christmas! 🙂.”
I was such a pleasure to have been Zach’s Ph.D. advisor and mentor. He was a wonderful, kind and brilliant student, and the impact he had on our lab will live forever. We all loved him very much, and will continue to honor his kindness, compassion and even his love for immunology—even though most of us are pretty scared of it!
I will miss seeing his happy and joyful face in the mornings, and hearing his soft “Thank you, Mariana!” at the end of our weekly meetings. And oh, how I wish I would have had more time to learn from Zach, and continue to discover more aspects of his amazing personality. But I know that we have to keep pressing and continue to be the best scientists and the best people we can be, because Zach believed in us and in our ability to change and bring LIGHT to the world.