2022 Staff Recognition Awards

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Congratulations to the recipients of the 2022 Staff Recognition Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions made to the department by our staff members.

The awards were presented at our annual departmental awards ceremony on May 13, 2022. Congratulations to the recipients listed below!

CHEM HONOREE: The CHEM Honoree is awarded to one staff member who exemplifies service to the department in Commitment, Honesty, Empathy, and Motivation. This award is our premier staff recognition that highlights one staff member who goes above and beyond with a wide-reaching positive impact to the department. 

Jin Lee (Chair’s Office Manager) has ably run the Chair’s Office for many years but AY 2021-2022 has presented notable COVID-19 related challenges. After a long period of remote activities, he helped to lead the department through the transition back to in-person classes and work and was instrumental in making the transition smooth for all members of his team and the faculty they support.  Lee is respected and trusted by staff, faculty, and students alike. Noted for his compassion, dedication, reliability, and impeccable customer service, Lee is an exceptional colleague.  Lee has served the department well beyond expectations with extraordinary dedication, productivity and institutional knowledge. 


The three most abundant elements of our make-up, as living beings, are oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon – as such, the Key Element Awards are given to staff members who are integral to the success and operation of the department.

Carbon Award: This award honors a staff member who is essential to the function of the department through their dependability and proactivity. 

Daniel Jacobs (Procurement Officer) received the award in recognition of his dependability and productivity in the face of daunting tasks and enormous volume of orders, which has been a huge benefit to the department. Jacobs has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the department’s purchasing group and has performed remarkably under difficult circumstances since he assumed his current position in the department’s Business Office. Jacob has served the department well beyond expectations with extraordinary dedication, productivity and institutional knowledge. 

Hydrogen Award: This award honors a staff member who extends beyond their unit and bonds to other areas of the department in an impactful way. 

Stephanie Hotz (Graduate Office Student Services Advisor) received the award in recognition of the outstanding job she has done in improving the Grad Office’s data management by developing her own tracking system and calendar, which allows the office to quickly provide audit requests from leadership and departmental committees. She is in the process of creating a calendar system for fellowships and general office deadlines, which will act as a reference guide for funding and programmatic tasks. Hotz is respected by staff, students, and faculty alike. Her attention to the experiences of students and her commitment to improving the department are greatly appreciated.

Penny Jennings (Communications Manager) received the award in recognition of the outstanding job she has done in professionalizing the department’s communications efforts. She recently spearheaded the publication of the department’s annual report, consistently working well over 40 hours a week for several months to make everything possible. Even under this pressure, she was consistently attentive to the department’s community spirit and strongly advocated for balanced representation of faculty, staff, and students. 

Oxygen AwardThis award honors a staff member who brings refreshing ideas and creativity to their unit and the department. 

Technical Staff Excellence Award: To go along with our theme of element awards, the Technical Staff (Ts) Excellence Award is recognized with the element tennessine. Tennessine’s symbol Ts also serves as an acronym for technical staff. Tennessine is one of the newest elements on the periodic table, having only been officially named in November, 2016. As the second-heaviest known element, the Ts Excellence Award should be given to a technical staff member who is viewed as an anchor of stability and success to their lab group.

Dr. Robert Peterson (Manager of the Macromolecular NMR Core at the UCLA-DOE Institute). Throughout the pandemic, even in the early days when almost all of us were staying at home, Peterson came to the campus every day as an essential worker. He made sure the instruments were kept running, and especially that they were filled with liquid nitrogen and helium as required for superconducting magnets. As lab members and others began to come back to lab on a limited basis, he helped with setting up experiments for them. Of particular significance are Peterson’s efforts involving planning, installation, trouble-shooting, and ongoing maintenance of our new helium recovery unit.

This helium recovery unit benefits the entire MIC (all of the NMR spectrometers and the high-end mass spectrometers that use liquid Helium) as well as the Macromolecular NMR Core, as it greatly reduces our costs for liquid helium (most is recovered as gas and then re-liquified for reuse) and also the risk of shortages. Peterson did the research to identify the optimal vendor (information in my grant application that helped get the award). Working with MIC Director Dr. Ignacio Martini, he identified a space in the MSB annex (Mol Sci North Room 1421) where the helium recovery unit could be installed. Installation took place during the pandemic. Peterson made sure everything went as smoothly as possible in an environment where he had to also be concerned about adherence to mask wearing and other health and safety issues. He had to make sure that Facilities and other workers understood the risk of working around magnets (especially potential damage to them if metal tools got too close) and be available to supervise them. Since the installation, Peterson has been in charge of management and daily operations of the helium recovery system. He has spent a lot of time trouble-shooting the system, including finding sources of helium leakage so that he can increase the helium recovery.

Previous Staff Award recipients: 

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

Carbon Award: Denise Mantonya (2018), Janette Kropat (2019), Laura Strom (2020), Judy Rayos (2021)

Hydrogen Award: Jonathan Erde (2018), Stephanie Hotz (2019), Ricky Ruiz (2020), Nikki Erinakis (2021)

Oxygen Award: Penny Jennings (2018), Graduate Office Staff: Justyna Glode, Nick Baerg, and Annie Carpenter (2019), Marla Gonzalez (2020), Julio Gonzalez (2021)

Technical Staff (Ts) Excellence Award: Rochanne Pucket (2018), Ankur Gholkar (2019), Maria Dimaano-Salanga (2020), Ignacio Martini (2021).