2021 Staff Recognition Awards

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Staff Awards 2021

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2021 Staff Recognition Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions made to the department by our staff members.

Since 2018, the awards have been given to UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry staff members in recognition of the wide-ranging positive impact they have on the many areas of the department. 

“Our department is made better because of our staff,” said Department Chair Professor Neil Garg. “We appreciate the work they do and the ideas they offer to push our department to higher levels.” 

Judy RayosCarbon Award: Judy Rayos (

Senior Academic Personnel Analyst, AP Office)

This award honors a staff member who is essential to the function of the department through their dependability and proactivity. “I am so impressed and grateful for Judy’s great attitude and ability to keep so many parts in balance,” said nominator Professor Margot Quinlan. “She often anticipates questions and requests and is ahead of us. Her calm demeanor and her ability to keep going when things get difficult, have really been a great asset for the department. “


Hydrogen Award: Nikki Erinakis


Events & Seminar Coordinator)

This award honors a staff member who extends beyond their unit and bonds to other areas of the department in an impactful way. Erinakis was independently nominated by two sets of nominators. “Over the last few years, Nikki has been a consistent and dependable staff member, who has helped enormously with divisional and departmental seminars, working with both the faculty members in charge and also the visiting speakers,” wrote co-nominators Professor Guillaume Chanfreau, Michael Jung, and Joe Loo. “However, in recent years, what has elevated Nikki’s contributions in our eyes is her leadership and effort in managing the Chem 147 Careers in Chemistry and Biochemistry course. Her work is essential to the course, and she has gone beyond what is expected of a staff member by becoming an essential organizer of this course, and contributing to the mentoring of our students and to the relationship with our alumni.” Professor Neil Garg and Jin Lee wrote in their nomination letter, “Nikki is an incredibly dedicated member of the department. Her efforts have contributed to the building of connections between our students, alumni, postdocs, staff, and faculty. She has been an outstanding staff member and is an extremely deserving candidate for the staff award.”

Julio GonzalezOxygen Award: Julio Gonzalez


Divisional Assistant, Organic Division)

This award honors a staff member who brings refreshing ideas and creativity to their unit and the department. “Although Julio works primarily for the Organic faculty, he played a vital role in helping the department launch our new summer sessions website last academic year,” said nominators Professor Neil Garg and Jin Lee. “The website, which Julio designed and created, was an incredibly effective resource in promoting our summer courses to not only UCLA students, but also to students at other U.S. universities, international students, and top tier students at local high schools. The website played a vital role in substantially increasing summer revenue, compared to previous years.  In addition, Julio used his design skills to create an impactful presentation on the large departmental monitor on the 3rd floor of Young Hall featuring our department’s latest events and updates.” 

Ignacio MartinezTechnical Staff (Ts) Award: Dr. Ignacio Martini


Director, UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center)

This award honors a technical staff member who is viewed as an anchor of stability and success to departmental research or their lab group. “Ignacio is a fantastic member of our scientific staff. He is both motivated and extremely talented in carrying out his job,” said nominators Professor Paula Diaconescu and Sarah Tolbert. “He is professional and reliable, and always eager to improve our instrumentation facilities. His direction during the last year, when we had to deal with many issues related to social distancing and the global pandemic, helped our research operate as smoothly as possible under the circumstances and set a standard for how to continue to make research progress while maintaining a safe working environment.”

These awards are normally presented department’s annual departmental awards ceremony which, has been postponed until a later date due to the pandemic.  

Previous recipients: 

CHEM Honoree: Jin Lee (2018), Max Kopelevich (2019), David Gingrich (2020)

Oxygen Award: Penny Jennings (2018), Graduate Office Staff: Justyna Glode, Nick Baerg, and Annie Carpenter (2019), Marla Gonzalez (2020)

Hydrogen Award: Jonathan Erde (2018), Stephanie Hotz (2019), Ricky Ruiz (2020) 

Carbon Award: Denise Mantonya (2018), Janette Kropat (2019), Laura Strom (2020)

Technical Staff (Ts) Excellence Award: Rochanne Pucket (2018), Ankur Gholkar (2019), Maria Dimaano-Salanga (2020)

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.