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2020 Dean's Undergraduate Excellence Awards

Chemistry/Biochemistry Department Awardees

  • Riddhi Ananth

    Riddhi Ananth

    Riddhi is a chemistry and biochemistry student from Bangalore, India. She researched the surface chemistry of porous silicon, as well as metasurfaces for detecting water pollutants. As the president of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, she is passionate about creating a community of students who share her love for chemistry. She will begin her PhD in chemistry in the fall.

  • Duyen Dang

    Duyen Dang

    Duyen studies environmental chemistry and is from Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Among other environmental issues, her research seeks to understand the impacts of biological activities on the production and characteristics of the sea spray aerosols. Receiving this award is a representation of all the hard work she has devoted over the years since moving to this country. After graduate school, she will pursue a career in managing environmental issues.

  • Joseph Hunter

    Joseph Hunter

    Joseph is a chemistry and biochemistry student and hails from Novato, California. Specializing in synthetic chemistry with the Bertrand Lab, he’s interested in the potential anti-cancer properties of NHC-metal complexes. He hopes to get a job in a drug development company as a medicinal chemist, perhaps returning to school down the line to earn a PhD.

  • Courtney Jang

    Courtney Jang

    Courtney is a chemistry and biochemistry student from San Francisco. During her time as an undergraduate, she has participated in research with the Yang Lab, volunteered at Thornton Hospital, and worked with UCSF’s Chemical Inventory Team. She is proud to receive this award and grateful to all her professors for their guidance. Becoming a pharmacist is her career objective.

  • Emily Lara

    Emily Lara

    A student from Alameda, California, Emily is interested in working in the fields of immunotherapy and translational medicine, specifically in cancer research. She has volunteered at Camp Kesem for the past three years, supporting kids affected by a parent’s cancer. She believes that her curiosity and genuine love for learning has fueled her success, setting her up for important contributions in the field of cancer research in the future.

  • Kristine Luong

    Kristine Luong

    Kristine is a chemistry student from Los Angeles, California. She’s an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Valerie Schmidt’s lab, where she studies synthetic organic chemistry in a quest to develop new methods and catalysts to minimize by-products, waste, and overall energy consumption. She plans on going to graduate school to get a PhD in chemistry.

  • Kailash Venkatraman

    Kailash Venkatraman

    Kai is a biochemistry major from Singapore. In the Mishanina Lab, he strives to understand the mechanisms behind an E. coli pH-responsive riboswitch through structural analysis and invitro transcription kinetics. He’s extremely thankful for this award because it’s a celebration of his incredible perseverance and the hard work he’s put into improving his grades. Someday he plans to run a lab of his own.

  • Dalida Warda

    Dalida Warda

    Dalida is from Baghdad, Iraq and studies biochemistry and molecular biology. She’s a researcher in Dr. Donoghue’s lab, where their studies are currently concentrated on carcinomas, cultivating her interest in becoming a scientist or researcher in the future. She’s patient, organized, and good at working with a team. Receiving this award reassures her that she has chosen the correct path.

  • Laura Williamson

    Laura Williamson

    Laura is from San Diego. Her research is focused on bioinorganic chemistry. As a researcher at the Tezcan Lab, she worked on a variety of projects related to nitrogenase and metalloprotein design. Now she is a member of the Bejar Lab where she studies clonal hematopoiesis in breast cancer survivors. She plans to pursue a career in hematopathology as a physician-scientist.

  • Shenghua Yang

    Shenghua Yang

    Shenghua studies synthetic organic chemistry. His hometown is Harbin, China. Armed with skills of endurance and determination, he researches at the Tor Lab, studying the synthesis of various fluorescent probes used to monitor enzymatic processes. This award is an essential motivation toward his ongoing work, and inspires him to continue his work in research.

  • Megan Young

    Megan Young

    Megan hails from Dana Point, California, and studies biochemistry and structural biology. She has researched fatty acid enzymes in E. coli under Dr. Michael Burkart for three years. At Turning Point Therapeutics, she has also studied lung cancer treatments and remedies. Next fall, she plans to attend graduate school for biochemistry. She wants to work in the pharmaceutical industry and eventually return to teaching.

Math Department Awardees

  • Yuhong Chen

    Yuhong Chen

    Yuhong is a mathematics major from Hefei, China. Specializing in deep learning, she studied the mathematical principles behind neural network algorithms under the guidance of Professor Ery Arias-Castro. She’s a hardworking student and the founder of a project known as SmartFridge, which represents the next generation of scientific innovation in the kitchen.

  • Yue Chu

    Yue Chu

    Yue is a mathematics student from Jinan, China. She has been a research assistant for various PhD students in the economics department, applying data science methods of quantitative techniques to the sphere of social sciences. She humbly credits her success to working hard and getting help and inspiration from her professors. Upon graduation, she aspires to become a cross-disciplinary quantitative researcher.

  • Yijie Fan

    Yijie Fan

    Yije is a mathematics student from Hangzhou, China. Under the mentorship of Professor Danna Zhang, he used classical statistical models and neural networks to forecast stock prices. He also used machine learning approaches to assist with a tech company’s operation. Aided by his key qualities of persistence and dedication, his career goal is to join a fintech company and optimize efficiency through data science application.

  • Yilan Jiang

    Yilan Jiang

    Yilan hails from Shanghai, China, and specializes in Bayesian statistics and economics. She has been an instructional assistant for multiple courses in the fields of mathematics, economics, and cognitive science. Teaching makes her happy and brings extra insight into her own personal studies. Someday, she hopes to be a social science researcher and university professor.

  • Randy Martinez

    Randy Martinez

    Randy studies mathematics and is from San Jose, California. As well as working as a teaching assistant and grader for upper division math courses, his primary focus is his honors thesis, where he pours his research into number theory. Receiving this award uplifts him as he pushes forward to graduate school. He plans to either continue working in academia or work in information security.

  • Emmie Martirossian

    Emmie Martirossian

    Emmie is a mathematics student who is enthusiastic about learning and practicing statistics. Her nominator, Professor Zhou, who considers her one of the best undergraduates he has ever taught, is “deeply impressed by her hardworking mentality, genuine interest and willingness to learn.”

  • Katarina Melendez

    Katarina Melendez

    Katarina is a math and computer science student from Oceanside, California. Previously a software engineer intern for Amazon, she now works for the Department of Defense, implementing numerical optimization in computer vision. Because she enjoys knowing that the software she writes is impactful and used for a good purpose, she would like to continue such work in the future.

  • Yash Pande

    Yash Pande

    From New Delhi, India, Yash studies computer science and math. He has worked on a variety of different projects at Qualcomm, Elsevier, Microsoft, and Google Research. He currently works with Professor Cottrell on semantic segmentation of cardiac MRI images. He hopes to attend graduate school and then work in the computer science industry someday.

  • Jeb Runnoe

    Jeb Runnoe

    Jeb is a mathematics major from Oakland, California. As an undergraduate, Jeb conducted research on an exact sampling Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm and investigated how to apply it to a class of models in statistical mechanics. His dedication, love of mathematics, and perseverance propelled him to achieve academic excellence. Jeb plans to attend graduate school, earn his PhD, and build a career in industry.
  • Keren Shao

    Keren Shao

    Keren is a mathematics major from Fujan, China, specializing in algebraic combinatorics. Outside of the classroom, he works on the combinatorial formula for major index statistics and the Noetherian property of perfect matching posets. For him, this award indicates that he is more than capable in succeeding in mathematical research. Therefore, he aspires to become a research scientist or professor in mathematics.

  • Jon Stephens

    Jon Stephens

    Jon is a mathematics student who grew up in the mountains of South Lake Tahoe, California. His success as a researcher and tutor has been motivated by his dedication, resourcefulness, patience, and curiosity. A zealous scholar who will continue to learn for the rest of his life, Jon will be studying algorithm theory this summer and is aiming for a PhD in algebraic combinatorics.

  • Haoming Zhang

    Haoming Zhang

    Haoming is a double major in mathematics and data science. He worked on an honors thesis about random forest theory and applications, with the idea of expanding it to time series or time dependent setting. According to his nominator, he shows great promise as a student and researcher.

  • Xiaowen Zhang

    Xiaowen Zhang

    Xiaowen is from Chengdu, China and specializes in applied economics. Motivated, organized, and hard-working, her unique research can involve anything from analyzing the popularity and duration of American television shows to studying the effect of Airbnb on local crimes. She enjoys any teaching-related experience and aspires to become a full-time researcher or professor down the line.

  • Zehong Zhao

    Zehong Zhao

    Zehong is a mathematics and physics student from Shenzhen, China. A member of the Ni Group, he has participated in the research of high energy experiment toward dark matter detection, as well as the research of theoretical condense matter physics. His future career goal is to become a college professor.

  • Ruihan Zhou

    Ruihan Zhou

    Ruihan studies applied mathematics and chemistry. She hails from Jiangsu, China. One of her research projects has focused on establishing a general model for the energy configurations of water polymers, using neural networks and machine learning. After continuing her PhD study in the field of computational chemistry, she ultimately would like to work in her home country as a professor.

  • Yupei Zhou

    Yupei Zhou

    Yupei is a from Beijing, China and studies math and data science. After a couple internships with IBM China on data analysis and natural language processing, he is now a tutor at the data science department and works in the Knight Lab on a bioinformatics project. After graduate school, he will likely work in the data science industry.

Physics Department Awardees

  • Orianna Kou

    Orianna Kou

    Orianna studies biophysics and is from Sacramento, California. In UC San Diego’s Jun Lab, she is currently working on a project that looks at the morphology of mitochondria within cells. Because of her passion for the subject matter, she’s notorious for being the first to show up in lab and the last to leave. She plans to get a PhD so she can continue and expand her research.

  • Ryan Low

    Ryan Low

    Ryan is an astrophysics student from Moreno Valley, California. For three years he has used spectroscopy to study low mass stars and brown dwarfs in Dr. Burgasser’s Cool Star Lab. Ryan has been developing software to refine optical spectroscopic data. Armed with his excellent qualities of tenacity, integrity, and curiosity, he’s aiming for a PhD so he can teach others about the universe someday.

  • Tobias Oliver

    Tobias Oliver

    Tobias hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and studies physics. In Dr. Bott-Suzuki’s Pulsed Power Plasmas lab, he investigates plasmas that mimic astrophysical jets and assembles a diagnostic that detects scattered light. With a wide array of specialized interests, including plasma physics, atmospheric science, and geophysics, he’s not looking forward to having to pick just one for a future career.

  • Jianyang Qi

    Jianyang Qi

    Jianyang studies physics and is from San Diego, specializing in phenomenology and the Particle Physics Experiment. He mainly works on the statistics of particle detection, studying theoretical detectors of dark matter candidates. Winning this award is a significant motivation to continue his research and earn a PhD. Ultimately, he hopes to become a physics professor.

  • Ananya Rai

    Ananya Rai

    Ananya Rai is a physics major from San Diego, with a particular interest in quantum materials and quantum information science. She works at the Averitt Lab, where she has researched spectroscopy and studied potential candidates for a quantum spin liquid. As much as she enjoys research, teaching is her passion. Eventually she’d like to be able to do both simultaneously.

Selma and Robert Silagi Award for Undergraduate Excellence Awardees

  • Heidi Busse

    Heidi Busse

    Heide, who also received the Dean’s Award, is a chemistry student hailing from Camarillo, California. Using Raman spectroscopy, she studies ice nucleating particles in the Grassian Lab. She owes her academic excellence to the genuine interest she has in her studies, viewing her education and research as a constant process of inquisition. Her future goals involve pursuing a career in academia.

  • Taige Wang

    Taige Wang

    A physics student specializing in condensed matter theory, Taige is from Shanghai, China. His research has focused on twisted bilayer graphene, quantum circuit complexity, and the space-time group. He’s challenged himself throughout his undergraduate program, reaching out to modern physics faculties at Caltech and MIT from early on and accelerating his four-year plan. Someday he hopes to work in the physics department at a university.

  • Tianyi Yu

    Tianyi Yu

    From Shenzhen, China, Tianyi is a mathematics major with a particular passion for combinatorics. Under Professor Rhoades, he researched harmonic spaces attached to generalized coinvariant rings, proving the conjecture of a former UC San Diego PhD student. He sees this award as proof that what he researched “truly pushed the frontier of mathematics.” He aspires to become a math professor someday.