ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Family, friends and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center are mourning the loss of a local pioneer in autism research. 

Dr. Tristram Smith died Monday at the age of 57. 

“He was a gem that many people didn’t know much about,” said Autism Council CEO Lawanna Jones. "He was at the forefront of autism research in our community and we are definitely going to miss him.”

He was a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center for 18 years.

Dr. Smith was one of the first scientists to look at and use behavior intervention to help kids who have autistic needs. 

His work to change how autistic children are cared for started in the 1980s. 

Now Smith's research has been integrated into schools and pediatric centers across the country. 

"He was a hero and he was a rock star and science doesn't have many rock stars," said URMC colleague Susan Hyman. 

Dr. Tristram Smith is survived by his wife Jennifer and two children.