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2022 Dean's Undergraduate Excellence Awards

Chemistry/Biochemistry Department Awardees

  • Francis Alipranti

    Francis Alipranti

    Francis is a Chemistry major from Murrieta, California, specializing in theoretical chemistry. For his work in the Biophysical Mass Spec Facility, Francis analyzed data produced from the HDX Mass Spec. As for the Komives Lab, his research has included finding an enzymatically inactive mutant of the huPA Protease and exploring the ubiquitylation of specific substrates. In his free time, Francis is a total movie buff and loves watching football.

  • Reagan Beers

    Reagan Beers

    Sailor Laboratory researcher Reagan is a Chemistry major from San Jose, California. She is currently developing a photocatalytic system that can degrade chemical nerve agents that can be integrated into fabrics used for protective military clothing. She also mentored for the Summer School of Silicon Nanotechnology. In her spare time, she likes to dance, cook, try new foods, and enjoy the San Diego sunshine.

  • Mark Glossbrenner

    Mark Glossbrenner

    Mark is a Chemistry major from Bakersfield, California. He works in Professor Romero’s organic research lab, where he discovers alternative methods for functionalizing enthalpically strong C-H bonds. A typical day in the lab involves substrate or ligand synthesis, optimization screenings, interpreting computer data, and group collaboration. Outside of the lab, Mark likes swimming and going for runs along the coast.

  • Grace Lee

    Grace Lee

    Grace is a Biochemistry major from Norwalk, California. She is currently researching in Dr. Erik Romero's lab, where she is doing a methods study on adding specific functional groups to double bonded carbons. The method will be cheaper and environmentally more favorable than current synthetic methods. Outside of the lab, Grace enjoys volunteering at her church as a high school teacher.

  • Olivia Modi

    Olivia Modi

    Olivia is a Biochemistry/Chemistry student from Santa Clarita, California. She has been involved in multiple projects as a member of the Zidlab. The first one involved studying the mitochondria by looking at the distance between mitochondrially-localized mRNA and the mitochondrial surface. Another involved researching the effects of local secondary structures on mRNAs based on the lack of formation of circular structured mRNA. In her free time, Olivia enjoys reading, hiking, and playing with Ellie, Zidlab’s golden retriever mascot.

  • Christopher Nowak

    Christopher Nowak

    Christopher is a Chemistry and Marine Biology double major from Wellesley, Massachusetts who hopes to apply chemistry to fundamental global issues such as climate change, the lack of sustainable living, and human health. He has researched in the Grassian Lab for several years, studying the behavior of organic species such as amino acids in high salt and low pH environments that mimic sea spray aerosols, improving our understanding of the effects of breathing in aerosols. Beyond academics, Christopher enjoys being a wilderness guide and playing the viola.

  • Gordon Peiker

    Gordon Peiker

    Gordon is a Chemistry and History double major from Sammamish, Washington who studies in the Grassian Lab. Using an environmental cell coupled to a Raman spectrometer, he studies the water uptake and ice nucleation behavior of ice nucleating particles, a class of sea spray aerosols that play a large role in the formation of mixed phase clouds and the regulation of the global climate. In his free time, he loves watching Formula 1 and baking bread.

  • Jessica Raygoza

    Jessica Raygoza

    Jessica is a Biochemistry student from San Bernardino, California. Her primary task at the Pillus Lab has been to investigate a certain gene, THR4, that is theorized to have chromatin-based roles, including sensitivity to DNA damaging agents. Jessica focuses on elucidating THR4’s potential moonlighting roles in heterochromatin regulation and DNA repair through genetic and molecular biology approaches. Outside of the lab, she enjoys listening to new artists, trying new foods, and spending time with loved ones.

  • Elanor Sievers

    Elanor Sievers

    Elanor is a Biochemistry/Chemistry major from San Diego who focuses on protein chemistry and structure, with an emphasis on NMR spectroscopy. She has been hard at work for nearly three years on an independent project: characterizing the structure of an intein, a protein that can stitch together other proteins through a native peptide bond. She is experienced in molecular cloning, recombinant protein expression and purification, protein NMR spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations. On the side, she loves to work on her webcomic.

Math Department Awardees

  • Andrew Dennehy

    Andrew Dennehy

    Andrew is an Applied Mathematics major from Carlsbad, specializing in geometric data analysis and machine learning. An engineering intern at Leidos Inc., he has also worked extensively with Dr. Alex Cloninger on topics such as transfer learning, semi-metric space clustering, and applied graph theory. Outside of research, Andrew loves playing piano and marimba. He’s also a black belt in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do.

  • Aidan Epperly

    Aidan Epperly

    Aidan is an Applied Mathematics major from Livermore, California. His fields of interest are in numerical methods, convex optimization, and mathematical analysis. His research with Professor Helton is focused on the extreme points of free spectrahedra. He also worked on data visualization at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Outside of research, Aidan enjoys playing violin, hiking, and cooking.

  • Xun Gong

    Xun Gong

    Xun is a Mathematics major from Yancheng, China. His areas of focus are on algebraic number theory, L-functions, automorphic form and representations, geometric topology, and machine learning. His explorations into these topics originate in independent studies with Professors Pollack and Roberts and his capstone project group, among many other fruitful undergraduate experiences. In his free time, Xun goes to the gym, practices martial arts, and tries different foods.


  • Natalie Quach

    Natalie Quach

    An Applied Mathematics major from San Diego, Natalie specializes in biostatistics. She works with Professor Xin Tu at the UCSD Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, examining the association between liver stiffness assessed by magnetic resonance elastography and liver related outcomes in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. At the University of Michigan Big Data Summer Institute, she investigated the presence of clinical lab orders on improving prediction of hospitalization. Outside of her many academic commitments, she enjoys spending time with friends and family.

  • Yunhao Sun

    Yunhao Sun

    From Beijing, China, Yunhao double majors in Mathematics and Computer Science and Physics. Within biophysics, he worked with Dr. Koslover on inferencing the diffusivity of Brownian particles constrained to biological networks from experimentally observed Brownian trajectories. He currently researches with Dr. Koslover on finding appropriate statistical models for flows within the Endoplasmic Reticulum luminal space, and with Dr. Bo Li on the Poisson-Boltzmann equation counting the effect of dipole energy. His other interests include art and music.

  • Yihe Tang

    Yihe Tang

    Yihe double majors in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and is from Beijing, China. Last year she worked on an independent research project with Professor Emmanuel Vavalis on gradient descent algorithm and its variants in a data driven approach. She collected and compared the gradient descent algorithms' performance on standard benchmarks, and analyzed the results with the aid of machine learning techniques. Beyond research, Yihe enjoys skiing and snowboarding.

  • Kin Yau James Wong

    Kin Yau James Wong

    Kin is a Mathematics and Computer Science major from Hong Kong. His main research interests lie in real analysis and partial differential equations. Under professors Andrej Zlatos and Li-Tien Cheng, he investigated whether the mixing of substances at an exponential rate can be achieved by incompressible flows with simple structures in a torus, focusing his research on developing numerical methods to investigate the behavior of the flows. When he isn’t studying, you can find Kin rock climbing, tearing up the basketball court, or playing the piano.

  • Junchen Zhao

    Junchen Zhao

    Junchen is a Mathematics student from Suzhou, China. Under the math honors program with Professor Todd Kemp, he studies matrix theory and free probability theory, and researches optimal transport in the context of random matrices and free probability. Notable persistent and naturally curious, he is encouraged by this award to work even harder toward excellence. When Junchen isn’t studying or researching, he’s probably playing sports or video games.

  • Yixuan Zhou

    Yixuan Zhou

    Yixuan is from Beijing, China, and double majors in Computer Science and Math, and Probability and Statistics. With Professor Rayan Saab, he focused on implementing a quantization algorithm for modern neural network architectures and executing the numerical experiments, optimizing the data pre-processing pipeline and adopting multiple procedures for data analysis along the way. Yixuan’s other interests include snowboarding and frisbee.

Physics Department Awardees

  • Mara Casebeer

    Mara Casebeer

    Mara is a Biophysics major from Winchester, Massachusetts, who has researched at the Air Force Research Laboratory, DE Shaw Research, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Most of her research revolves around how exogenous sources of energy can interact with cells, which requires insight into cell communication, organization, and energetics. Outside of school, Mara enjoys surfing, playing soccer, doing yoga, and playing the clarinet.

  • Sohan Ghosh

    Sohan Ghosh

    Sohan is from Abu Dhabi and majors in Physics, with a specialization in Astrophysics and International Business. He helped Dr. Thomas Siegert publish a high-energy particle paper to A&A, and worked with Professor Adam Burgasser to reduce and analyze NASA IRTF archival brown dwarf spectra. His current senior thesis project with Professor Yi-Zhuang You is about solving quantum many-body problems. Outside of research, Sohan enjoys boxing, running, and discovering new restaurants with friends.

  • Zichun Hao

    Zichun Hao

    From Beijing, China, Zichun is a Physics major who also double majors in Computer Science. His field of interest is AI applications within high energy physics. During the Undergraduate Summer Research Award Program in 2021, he helped develop a deep neural network classifier for tagging Higgs bosons. In the Faculty Mentor Program, he is working on a Lorentz group equivalent autoencoder for jets in particle collision experiments under the guidance of Dr. Javier Duarte. Outside of research, he enjoys cinematography, reading, boxing, and playing guitar.

  • Megan Li

    Megan Li

    Megan is a Physics and Astrophysics major from Diamond Bar, California. She has researched with Professor Karin Sandstrom at UC San Diego's CASS for three years, and also works with Breakthrough Listen at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. She also works on several outreach initiatives, including Big Sister STEM, a nonprofit organization that she started in 2020 that provides cost-free virtual STEM mentorship to girls in middle school and high school. For Megan, receiving this award means that she is on the right track to becoming a successful astrophysicist.

  • Sinan Oral

    Sinan Oral

    Sinan is a Physics and Mathematics double major from Istanbul. His research has included studying the direct detection methods of light dark matter and comparing the scattering rate for crystal detectors. The focus of his thesis project is constructing a reduced model of turbulence and transitions in a weakly stochastic background magnetic field. Outside of school, Sinan loves archery, chess, and ultimate frisbee.

  • Frederick Rajasekaran

    Frederick Rajasekaran

    Frederick is a Mathematics and Physics student from West Chester, Pennsylvania. Under Professor Andrej Zlatos and Professor Li-Tien Cheng, he studied the mixing of substances in fluids. They found numerical evidence that a certain class of flows can mix two substances at the fastest possible rate. They ultimately proved that certain flows cannot achieve the optimal mixing rate. Aside from researching and being a TA, Frederick’s interests include powerlifting and traveling.

  • Taurean Zhang

    Taurean Zhang

    Taurean is a Physics major from Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Under Professor Patrick Diamond, most of his research experience lies in plasma physics and systems engineering. Gathering data on numerous metrics, including vorticity, density, and shear flow, his current project is to determine the effects of zonal flow instability on the energy distribution of a zonal flow. In his free time, Taurean enjoys reading and playing video games.