Dedman College News
Originally Posted: December 12, 2018
Faculty in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences were stunned by the sudden death in October of Lü Junchang, one of China’s leading dinosaur experts and a beloved former student who received his Ph.D from SMU in 2004. Writing about his death in Scientific American, writer Richard Coniff called him one of the most important dinosaur researchers in the past half-century.
Junchang, 53, was a researcher at the Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing. Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte, in his 2018 book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, described Junchang as having curiously accented English because of his Chinese cadence and the Texas drawl he picked up as a graduate student at SMU.
Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences Louis Jacobs and adjunct research professor Dale Winkler remember him as a very talented friend:
“Lü Junchang was driven by his curiosity and his passion for research, which was obvious even in his first days as a graduate student,” Jacobs said. “He was constantly excited about his discoveries.”
Jacobs said he loved to share his results in discussions and through his numerous publications. “He forged lasting friendships on the Hilltop that have never let up, and he was in continuous collaboration in the lab or the field with his fellow SMU alums. I am so honored and proud to have served as Junchang’s advisor at SMU.”
Junchang was featured in SMU Magazine in 2015 after he helped identify a new dinosaur species – Zhenyuanlong suni – a cousin to the Velociraptor of Jurassic World fame and a significant clue as to how birds descended from dinosaurs.
“It is not common to have a graduate student who produces drafts of research projects faster than their advisors can keep up with,” Winkler recalled. “That was Lü Junchang, and unlike many driven and energetic scientists, he was so cheerful, always very helpful, and yet humble. From the first time that I met him, more than 20 years ago, up until a few short weeks ago he was constantly (but nicely) requesting urgent reviews of manuscripts describing amazing new fossils, or of new books, or of the text for new museum exhibits that he was helping to prepare. Junchang will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues.”