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Student Spotlight


Names are in alphabetical order. Click here to view past recipients.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the Unites States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The NSF welcomes applications from all qualified students and strongly encourages under-represented populations, including women, under-represented racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, to apply for this fellowship.  

We proudly announce that the National Science Foundation has selected Ryjul Stokes form the Cohen Lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as the recipients of the 2019 Graduate Research Fellowship.

Congratulations to the 2019 Recipient from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry!


Ryjul Stokes

(Cohen Lab)

Friends of the International Center Fellowship

Founded in 1961, the Friends of the International Center (Friends) supports international education at UCSD in many ones, one of which is raising money for and awarding student scholarships. Recipients of the Friends of the International Center Fellowship are students who promote international friendship, understanding, and cooperation in a meaningful way. Congratulation to Meihan Li on being selected as a 2019-2020 recipient of the Friends of the International Center Fellowship!

Congratulations Meihan Li! 


              Meihan Li 

             (Yang Lab)

Teaching Excellence Awards

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the Teaching Assistant Excellence Awards for Winter 2019. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry bestows these awards quarterly in recognition of superior performance by teaching assistants.

Congratulations to the Spring 2019 recipients of the TA Excellence Award!



Jose Rizo



Ritchie Hernandez

Click here to view previous TA Excellence recipients


Distinguished Graduate Student Fellowship

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry established the Distinguished Graduate Student Fellowship to recognize research excellence. This prestigious fellowship provides $16,000 in support: $13,000 devoted to stipends and fees (for one quarter, WI19), as well as an additional $3,000 for the Fellow to use towards research support.

Congratulations to the 2018-19 recipients!

Rob Alberstein 
(Tezcan Lab)



Wei Chen  
 (Komives Lab)
Daphne Cheung 
(Kubiak Lab)
Myles Drance 
(Figueroa Lab)
Ben Jagger 
(Amaro Lab)
Eunice Kim  
(Burkart Lab)
Yao Li    
(Tor Lab)
Mariam Salib
(Molinski Lab)


Haoyuan Wang  
 (Xiong Lab)

Inamori Fellowship

The Inamori Fellowship is intended to support our best and brightest graduate students who will ensure the future of humanity through the balance of the scientific process and the human spirit. This fellowships was established by the Inamori Foundation through a generous grant to the Division of Physical Sciences. This investment in our students is parallel to the Inamori Foundation’s commitment to the Kyoto Prize that is given annually to those who have made significant contributions to the progress of science, the development of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit.  More information about the Inamori Foundation and the Kyoto Prize can be found at:  The Fellow we select will be presented to the Inamori delegation at events associated with the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences Symposium.

Congratulations to the 2018-2019 Inamori Fellow!


    DeeAnn Asamoto
          (Kim Lab)

Lattimer Award

The Lattimer Award is given to an outstanding graduate student who seeks interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving and has a strong commitment to education. Recipients not only demonstrate promise as a stellar scientist or mathematician, but also impact others through mentorship, service, and educational outreach. One recipient is selected by the Physical Sciences Dean's Office.

Congratulations to the 2018-2019 Recipient of the Lattimer Award!

  Luis Martinez Martinez

      (Yuen Zhou Lab)

Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Dissertation Award

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry established the Annual Outstanding Dissertation Award to acknowledge the work of our most exceptional students. 

We are pleased to announce the 2017-2018 recipients of this award:

Alex Rovira

Alex Rovira

(Tor Lab)

Cassi Callmann

Cassi Callmann

(Gianneshi Lab)

Melissa Helm

Melissa Helm

(Kubiak Lab)

Mang Lin

Mang Lin

(Thiemens Lab)

Cliff Kapono

Cliff Kapono

(Dorrestein Lab)

Christian Perez

Christian Perez

(Cohen Lab)

Teddy Traylor Awards

This merit-based award is to recognize research excellence and was set up by Dr. Traylor's colleagues and friends to honor his memory. He is remembered for his scientific achievements as well as his personal attributes; you all would have enjoyed and benefited from knowing him, as did many of us. The $3000 award in his name will be used to assist bright, young investigators to pursue their studies and to travel to scholarly meetings. 

Congratulations to the 2019 Teddy Traylor Award Recipients!


Ben Jagger

(Cohen Lab)


Mark Kalaj 

(Cohen Lab)


Joseph Palomba 

(Amaro Lab)


Nicole Peiris 

(Donoghue Lab)

Bruno Zimm Award

The Bruno Zimm Graduate Award is named for UC San Diego Professor of Chemistry Bruno Zimm, a pioneer in the study of the biophysical properties of nucleic acids and proteins. The award is given to a full-time Ph.D. student whose research is in the area of physical chemistry, planetary chemistry, or cosmo-chemistry, and whose research is exceptionally meritorious and particularly deserving of recognition. The award is made possible through a gift from Larry S. Millstein, Ph.D. (Chemistry, '87), and his wife Robin Taylor.

Congratulations to the 2018-19 Bruno Zimm Award Recipient!


Terra Sztain-Pedone

(Burkart/McCammon Lab)

Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS)

 These scholarships reward excellence in research. Selection is based primarily on the exceptional promise of the nominee to make a significant contribution to the advancement of science, and to the material and intellectual welfare of all people.

Congratulations to the Chemistry Department's 2018-2019 ARCS recipients!

Chi-Wei Man (Wang Lab)Chi-Wei Man

(Wang Lab)

Victor Or (Grassian Lab)

Victor Or 

(Grassian Lab)

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship is a highly competitive, portable fellowship that is awarded to U.S. citizens and nationals who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in one of fifteen supported disciplines. NDSEG confers high honors upon its recipients, and allows them to attend whichever U.S. institution they choose. NDSEG Fellowships last for three years and pay for full tuition and all mandatory fees, a monthly stipend, and up to $1,000 a year in medical insurance (this excludes dental and vision insurance).

The Department of Defense (DoD) is committed to increasing the number and quality of our nation's scientists and engineers, and towards this end, has awarded nearly 3,400 NDSEG fellowships since the program's inception in 1989. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), under the direction of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E).

We proudly announce that the DoD has selected Mark Kalaj from the Cohen lab as a 2018 recipient of the NDSEG Fellowship! Congraulations Mark!


Mark Kalaj

(Cohen Lab)


Outstanding Student Poster Award 

Zhenzhu Xu won the Outstanding Student Poster Award from the Colloid and Surface Chemistry Division. Her winning poster was titled “Bovine serum albumin adsorption on metal oxide nanoparticles: Effects of pH, nanoparticle surface, and co-adsorbed oxyanions on protein-surface interactions and protein structure” by Zhenzhu Xu, Brittany E. Givens, Vicki H. Grassian. 

Congratulations to the winner of the 2017 Outstanding Student Poster Award:

         Zhenzhu Xu

       (Grassian Lab)


Grad Slam

Each year, the Graduate Division hosts the Grad Slam, a competitive speaking event to showcase graduate student research. Grad Slam participants present their work using three PowerPoint slides in a three-minute "Ted-like talk" that can be understood by a general audience. Presenters compete in successive rounds and receive monetary prizes.

Congratulations to the 2nd place winner at this year's Grad Slam!

            Jessica Moreton

               (Cohen Lab)

Chancellor's Dissertation Medal

The Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal is awarded to a graduate student who has completed an outstanding dissertation in the past year. One winner is selected from each division at UC San Diego and has the opportunity to be honored at Commencement. The selection committee considers the quality of the research and dissertation according to several criteria: Impact, Originality, Presentation, and Quality.

Congratulations Erik Romero on being selected as a recipient of the 2019 Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal!

         Erik Romero

        (Bertrand Lab)

Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Chapter

The Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Chapter here at UCSD recognizes students who demonstrate academic and personal excellence, passion to foster an environment of support and to serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented. All in honor of Dr. Alexander Bouchet who embodied such qualities and was the first African American doctoral recipient in the United States.

Congratulations on being selected to be a member of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Chapter!

Jessie Moreton

            Jessie Moreton

              (Cohen Lab)

Distinguished Graduate Student Fellowship

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry established the Distinguished Graduate Student Fellowship to recognize research excellence. This prestigious fellowship provides $16,000 in support: $13,000 devoted to stipends and fees (for one quarter, WI19), as well as an additional $3,000 for the Fellow to use towards research support.

Congratulations to the 2017-18 recipients!

Jake Bailey
(Tezcan Lab)

  s.berkamp.jpg  Sabrina Berkamp
(Opella Lab)

j.hilgar.jpgJeremy Hilgar
(Rinehart Lab)


Sophia Hirakis
(Amaro/McCammon Labs)


Chris T. Lee
(Amaro/McCammon Labs)

Ryan Lumpkin
(Komives Lab)

t.porter.jpgTyler Porter
(Kubiak Lab)
Jiaxi Wang
(Xiong Lab)


e.zhou.jpgEric Zhou
(Devaraj Lab)

UC Symposium for Chemical Sciences Poster Prize

Congratulations to Allie Chen (Cohen Lab) on receiving the University of California Symposium for Chemical Sciences Dalton Transactions poster prize! The Symposium brought graduate students and postdocs from across the University of California together to network and star up new collaborations.

Congratulations Allie!

Allie Chen

                              Allie Chen 

                             (Cohen Lab)

Graduate Diversity and Outreach Awards

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry established the Graduate Diversity and Outreach Awards to recognize valuable contributions in research, teaching and/or service that provides increased access to and inclusion in chemistry, particularly for diverse and underrepresented students. This award carries with it a $500 prize.

Congratulations to the 2016 recipients!


Lisa Adamiak

(Gianneschi Lab)

M. Clark

Melissa Clark

(Kubiak Lab)


Alissa Sasayama

(Kubiak Lab)

Congratulations to the 2016 Honorable Mentions!

  • Aaron Ward (Joseph Lab)
  • Christian Cole (Devaraj Lab)
  • Ignacio Lopez-Pena (Kim Lab)
  • Naomi Handly (Wollman Lab)


Kamen Award

The Kamen Prize was established in 1978 by the friends and family of Martin Kamen to recognize the outstanding thesis in biochemistry defended each year at UCSD. A cash prize of $1,500 is awarded to each of the two prize recipients in June, and both are invited to present the Martin D. Kamen Lecture the following academic year.

Congratulations to the 2015 recipient of the Kamen Award!

Olivia Kim Pierce

Olivia Kim Pierce


President's Dissertation Year Fellowship

The Office of the President has designed the Dissertation Year Fellowship program to identify doctoral candidates: 1) who have overcome educational, social, or economic barriers, or 2) whose research or planned career direction focuses on problems related to disadvantaged segments of society, and 3) who demonstrate strong potential, promise and desire for a university teaching and research career. Dissertation Year Fellowships are awarded to promising students in the final stages of their doctoral work who demonstrate strong potential for university teaching and research.

Congratulations to David John Lee for being selected as a recipient of the 2015-16 President's Dissertation Year Fellowship!

David John Lee (Burkart Lab)

           David John Lee

             (Burkart Lab)


One award per national meeting is awarded from the ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry and NVIDIA to those researchers who have demonstrated outstanding computational chemistry research carried-out using a GPU, whether; (1) programming new GPU-accelerated algorithms or (2) performing simulations with a GPU-accelerated software application, e.g., AMBER, NAMD, GROMACS, LAMMPS, TeraChem, GAMESS or other computational chemistry packages or (3) both.

Congratulations to Jamie Schiffer for being selected as the grand prize winner for this award!

Jamie Schiffer (Amaro Lab)

                             Jamie Schiffer

                              (Amaro Lab)

Annual Graduate Research Advocacy Day in Sacramento

The Graduate Research Advocacy Day is an annual event held at the State Capitol of Sacramento, led by all of the Systemwide graduate deans. Every year, two students are selected campus-wide to showcase how their UC graduate research is of value to the people of California and how it impacts areas that resonate with state leadership. Selected students accompany the dean of graduate studies to this event, all expenses paid. Read more here.

Congratulations on being selected for this prestigious opportunity!!

   Kara Finzel  Kara Finzel

                                                   Kara Finzel 

                                                  (Burkart Lab)

Frieda Daum Urey Endowed Fellowship

Congratulations to the 2018-19 Winners!

Khin San

(Schimpf Lab)

Jessie Moreton

(Cohen Lab)


Socrates Fellows

The Socrates Fellows Program is funded by NSF as a Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 education. Our Socrates PhD Fellows and Teacher Partners participate in a four-week summer institute followed by a productive collaboration during the academic year.

Congratulations to the 2013-14 Socrates Fellows!

  • Steven Nguyen
  • Eric Rogers

Interdisciplinary Collaboratories Award

Interdisciplinary scholarship is at the heart of the truly excellent research university. More and more frequently, solutions to the most challenging research problems require the collaborative talents of groups of investigators with a range of disciplinary skills. And yet, most graduate programs derive research support from single investigator sponsored research through contracts or grants from public or private sources. A new funding mode is therefore required for truly innovative collaboratives.

Congratulations to a 2013-14 Interdisciplinary Collaboratories Award Recipients from Chemistry and Biochemistry!

  • Michael Denny
  • Kristofer Haushalter

AGEP Fellowships

The Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) is an initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) designed to increase diversity among students who complete doctoral programs in science, engineering, and math and enter faculty careers. UCSD AGEP is a partner in this initiative to increase the number of underrepresented minority students (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Puerto Rican, Native American and, Native Pacific Islander) who enter graduate school in these disciplines. UCSD AGEP provides activities and support services for eligible undergraduate and graduate students. UCSD AGEP offers several opportunities for eligible undergraduate students as well as incoming and continuing graduate students to enhance their studies and receive funding.

Congratulations to our AGEP Fellows!

2011-12 - Leandro Gallo, Frankie Gonzalez, and Karina Kangas

Competitive Edge

The Competitive EDGE Summer Research Program is designed to give five selected graduate students an opportunity to begin research in their UCSD academic department the summer prior to the start of their graduate program. Participants are required to attend workshops which acclimate them to the university. In addition, these workshops provide an opportunity for participants to network with one another and build relationships. Workshop facilitators are members of the UCSD community and serve as faculty, staff or continuing graduate students in various academic fields. There is an orientation at the beginning of the summer program. This is a time when the participants meet OGS staff, each other and continuing graduate students. At the end of the program, the participants and their faculty mentors are invited to a Closing Luncheon wherein all participants are acknowledged for their involvement.

Congratulations to our 2013-14 Competitive Edge Fellows!

  • Anastassia Gomez
  • Isaiah Gomez