2024 Departmental Awards Ceremony

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On May 21, 2024, we celebrated the many accomplishments of our alumni, faculty, postdocs, students, and staff, at our annual departmental awards ceremony.

Each year at this event, we gather together to celebrate the accomplishments of our department members in the university’s primary missions: research, teaching, and service. We also recognize our staff members for their outstanding contributions to the department and honor our distinguished graduate alumni with the Alumni Legacy Award.

A photo gallery from the event can be viewed here and select photos can be viewed below.

Prof. Alex Spokoyny with the 2024 Alumni Legacy Award recipients Dr. Arlene Russell and Prof. Catherine Clarke.

At this year’s ceremony, Professor Juli Feigon presented the first annual Helping Hands Awards. The award, which she initiated, supports postdoctoral fellows, research staff, and graduate students who are primary caregivers, helping to relieve their domestic burdens so they can focus on their scientific careers.

Professor Juli Feigon (center) with the inaugural recipients of the Helping Hands Awards, Dr. Einav Tayeb-Fligelman (Eisenberg group) and Dr. Yuan Yang (Feigon group).

Longtime supporter and UCLA alum Charlene Bauer ’54 attended the ceremony with her daughter. In 1988, Bauer and her late husband, Dr. Ralph Bauer, generously endowed student awards for the department.

Supporter Charlene Bauer (second from right) with her daughter and recipients of the Ralph & Charlene Bauer Graduate Student Awards.

The following awards were presented at the 2024 Departmental Awards Ceremony. Congratulations to all the recipients!


This award honors distinguished UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate alums in recognition of their achievements in life and generous support and service to UCLA.

At the reception following the ceremony, Professor Catherine Clarke (center) poses for a photo with her undergraduate researchers, Camille Kutter and Daniel Fillet, who received awards.

Professor Catherine F. Clarke earned her B.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry at UCLA and conducted postdoctoral research at Princeton University. She joined UCLA’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry in 1993. Her research focuses on the synthesis and trafficking of coenzyme Q, oxidative stress, and the protection of cells with essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Clarke has published more than 100 papers and served on numerous committees. In June 2016, she became the first woman to chair the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and later served as the Associate Dean of Special Projects in the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences from 2019 to 2022.

“We are grateful to Cathy for her incredible service and the lasting impact of her distinguished leadership on our department,” said Department Chair Professor Alex Spokoyny.

Dr. Arlene Russell (right) with her daughter at the reception following the ceremony.

Dr. Arlene Russell received her M.S. in organic chemistry and Ph.D. in higher education from UCLA. Her work focuses on advancing teaching and learning in higher education, especially in chemical education. She has taught over 40,000 UCLA undergraduates and trained over 1,000 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Russell has developed widely-used interactive instructional media and teaches in the general chemistry lab program. She is the faculty advisor for the general chemistry major and science education minor, and serves as the UCLA Faculty Director for the California Teach program. She has more than 40 publications, 100 invited presentations, and continuous research funding for more than 50 years. She also served on the Undergraduate Council of the Academic Senate and in the ACS Division of Chemical Education.

“We thank Arlene for all of her efforts in educating not just our students, but for impacting the chemical education of students all over the world,” said Department Chair Professor Alex Spokoyny.


Each year, this award is given to the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty member who has made the greatest contributions of the year to the science of chemistry and biochemistry.

Prof. Justin Caram

Professor Justin Caram was honored, along with his collaborators, for solving the structure of J-aggregating cyanine dyes by adopting cryoEM methods from structural biology. This structure demonstrated that previous structural models of this aggregate were incorrect and excitingly unveiled a key interaction between cationic chromophores and appended sulfonate groups, creating an interlocking electrostatic polymer. This research was published in the Nature Chemistry paper, “Near-atomic-resolution structure of J-aggregated helical light-harvesting nanotubes.”

Prof. Abigail Doyle

Professor Abigail Doyle was honored for the development and application of machine learning software for the identification of generally applicable reaction conditions in organic synthesis, highlighted in the Nature paper, “Identifying general reaction conditions by bandit optimization.”


This award was established in 1986 as a means to celebrate outstanding teaching within the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. The award recognizes our ladder and/or non-ladder faculty members for their efforts in classrooms and laboratories, in overseeing undergraduate student research, and preparing exceptional teaching materials.

Hanson-Dow Teaching Award recipients, Professor Guillaume Chanfreau and Dr. Eric Wu.

Professor Guillaume Chanfreau was honored for his pivotal role in educating our students through biochemistry courses such as Chem 153B, Chem 159, and Chem 259, as well as for developing Chem 166. Since joining the UCLA faculty in 1999, Chanfreau has made significant contributions to the department, both as a passionate and effective instructor and through his involvement in the development and modernization of our biochemistry curriculum.

Dr. Eric Wu was honored for being an exceptional teacher, instructing both lower-division and upper-division undergraduate courses, such as Chem 14A and Chem 113A. He has been a vital asset to the department and our teaching mission, often stepping in on very short notice and still doing an outstanding job educating our students.


The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards recognize and reward the extraordinary DEI efforts that are ongoing in our department and recognize staff, faculty, and students who have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and creative accomplishments within DEI initiatives.  Congratulations to the following recipients!

DEI Award recipients Dr. Tremylla Johnson and Prof. Jose Rodriguez.

Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion AwardDr. Tremylla “Tee” Johnson, Academic Administrator, Masters in Applied Chemical Sciences (MACS) Program.

Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion AwardProfessor Jose Rodriguez

Samantha T. Mensah Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award
The awards honor graduate student 
Samantha “Sammy” T. Mensah who passed away on February 22, 2023. Sammy did many remarkable things during her time at UCLA, including co-founding BlackInChem in 2020. 

(Left to right) Vicki Rubio (Spokoyny group), Jordan Gonzalez (Garg group), Maya Cornejo (Koehler group), Yessica Nelson (Spokoyny group), Alex Leon (Schwartz group). Far right: Sophia Uemura (P. Weiss group) and Lajoyce Mboning (Bouchard/Pellegrini groups), recipient of the Spirit of Samantha T. Mensah DEI Award.


Postdoctoral researchers play a crucial role in our department and our faculty award committee were delighted to learn about the countless accomplishments of our postdoctoral scholars in making the award selection this year. Congratulations to the following recipients!

Dr. Roger Castells-Graells (Yeates group), Dr. Panpan Chen (Houk group), Dr. Zhiqi He (Kwon group), and Dr. Ke Hou (Eisenberg group).


This inaugural award, initiated by Professor Juli Feigon, is awarded to postdoctoral fellows, research staff, and graduate students, who are primary caregivers of dependent children or other family members, to be used for anything that helps relieve their domestic burden. The goal is to provide them extra time and resources to pursue their scientific careers. Congratulations to the following recipients!

Dr. Einav Tayeb-Fligelman (Eisenberg group) and Dr. Yuan Yang (Feigon group).


Since 2018, these 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. Congratulations to the following recipients!

CHEM Honoree – Amy Ragsdale, Carbon Award – Loan Tran, Hydrogen Award – Ricky Ruiz, and Technical Staff Excellence Award – Dr. Jonathan Erde. Oxygen Award – Ana Guido (not pictured).


Each year we recognize our graduate students for their accomplishments in research and teaching, two of the primary missions of our university. An article with details about the awards and photos of the recipients can be viewed here. Congratulations to the following recipients!

Michael E. Jung Excellence in Teaching AwardsAngela Agnew (Zhou group), Pujan Ajmera (Alexandrova group), Tucker Allen (Neuhauser group), Allison Hands (Garg group), Elizabeth Foker (Kwon group), Rebecca Jenkins (Rodriguez group), Jennifer Kim (Liu group), Erin Kim (Li/Backus groups), Kevin Koshiro (Weiss group), Paige Kotowitz (Sletten group), Fernando Lopez (Duan group), Kaiyang (Kevin) Liu (Pang group), Vito Lin (Maynard group), Hayden Montgomery (Maynard group), Arthur Odenheimer (Caram group), Caleb Pike (Caram group), Ellie Puente (Maynard group), Louise Aryan Tan (Deming group), Daniel Turner (Garg group), Thomas Underwood (Wollman group), Gilbert Walker (Harran group), Zachary Walters (Garg group).

John Stauffer Excellence in Second-Year Academics and Research Awards Will Borrelli (Schwartz group), Brady Dehnert (Kwon group), Jeremy Dworkin (Kwon group), Yongjia He (Caram group), Alek Lotuzas (Harran group), Ramzi Massad (Diaconescu group), Lajoyce Mboning (Bouchard/Pellegrini groups), Emily Mobley (Sletten group), Glenn Nurwono (Park/Tang groups), Judah Thomas Raab (Doyle group), Maddy Ruos (Doyle group), Georgia Scherer (Garg group), Zachary Schuman (Liu group), Jingwen Sun (Liu group), Alexandra Turmon (Backus group).

Ralph & Charlene Bauer Graduate Student Awards Caitlyn Fick (Srivastava group), Susan Ju (Tolbert group), Yangtao (Barry) Li (Caram group), Heting Pu (Duan group), Yueying (Qiao-Qiao) Wang (Spokoyny group), Dominick Witkowski (Garg group).

Charles J. Pedersen Excellence in Research Award Luca McDermott Catena (Garg group), Arismel (Ari) Tena Meza (Garg group)

UCLA Chemists Association Excellence in Research Award – Zhiyin Yang (Kaner group)

Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Award – Giang Jessie Le (Loo group)

Daniel E. Atkinson and Charles A. West Excellence in Research Award – Kelsey Feustel (C. Clarke group), Michael Guile (C. Clarke group)

Dr. Yuh Guo Pan Excellence in Research AwardJason (Yiheng) Wang (Doyle group)

Evelyn Pan Excellence in Research Award Spencer Hamilton (Tolbert group), Shiyun Lin (Diaconescu group), Alexander Simafranca (Tolbert group), Quintashia Wilson (Sletten group).

George Gregory Excellence in Research AwardRobert Lavroff (Alexandrova group)

James D. McCullough Excellence in Research AwardSibo Wang (Duan group)

Jim and Barbara Tsay Excellence in Research AwardDiego Garcia Vidales (Schwartz group)

John Alan Walker Excellence in Research AwardHootan Roshandel (Diaconescu group)

John M. Jordan Excellence in Research AwardCindy (Sining) Wang (S. Clarke group)

Roberts A. Smith Excellence in Research AwardEric Pang (C. Clarke group)

Christopher S. Foote Senior FellowsJordan Gonzalez (Garg group), Daniel Seungwook Min (Doyle group), Madeline Ruos (Doyle group), and Georgia Scherer (Garg group).


Our talented chemistry and biochemistry undergraduates received departmental awards this year in recognition of their accomplishments in academics and in research.  An article with details about the awards and photos of the recipients can be viewed here. Congratulations to the following recipients!

Daniel E. Atkinson and Charles A. West Prize in Metabolic Biochemistry – Kassandra Javier

The Robert E. Biskowski Chemistry Scholarship -Sangeeta Kelkar

Ethel Terry Mccoy Award – Isabella Almaraz, Daphne Chan, Reena Choi, Gretchen Fan, Connie Gao, Minnie Griffin, Esther Kim, Jimin Kim, Felisha Kuo, Romane Le Gall, Audrey Lee, Asta Li, Jiayuan Li, Kathryn Mcgovern, Sharlotta Mozes, Francesca Parodi, Ashley Paxton, Shelby Rickards, Margaret Sasere, Diya Singhal, Skylar Whitley, Jessica Zhang, Samantha Frehner, Ananya Pradhan, Samah Qadeer, Sarah Staderman, Ashley Sudjono.

Gold Family Scholarship – Bijan Ahrablou, Maribelle Gonzalvo, Mia Vuong, Alexandra Yakimova.

Hosmer Stone Award – Jake Ampong, Cinyoung Huang, Rebecca Lee, Anthony Makhlouf, Sydney Nguyen, Sophie Pan, Marlo Taylor.

Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Undergraduate Award – Lily Neff

Leonard Greiner Memorial Scholarship – Max Ptacek

Lorraine and Masuo Toji Undergraduate Award – Daniel Fillet, Camille Kutter, Skylar Whitley

Lorraine and Masuo Toji Undergraduate Scholarship for Excellence in Chemistry & Biochemistry – Hannah Liu, :  Kyle Kenji-Thanh Nagasawa,  Blake Andrew Zulanas.

Max Shaw Dunn Undergraduate Award – James Heeter, Josh Kim, Ashley Michel, Elizabeth Oroudjeva,  Bill Wang


These research fellowships make it possible for budding scientists to gain invaluable research experience and pursue their dreams. An article with details about the fellowships and photos of the recipients can be viewed here. Congratulations to the following recipients!

Arthur Furst Award for Undergraduate Research – Giselle Brown

Chemistry & Biochemistry Alumni Research Scholarship – Rebecca Lee, Jiayi “Bonnie” Qian

Chemistry & Biochemistry Undergraduate Fellowship – Anne Nguyen, Keira Okada, Mike Rebelo, Sydney Robinson.

Daniel E. Atkinson and Charles A. West Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Peter Fernandez, Celeste Medina-Seymoure, Kasey Parks, Jasmine Winter, Anna Yan

Daniel Kivelson Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Asta Li, Nilya Moushiabad

Evelyn Pan Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Zhuoxi “Michelle” Chen, Haley Gauer, Nathan Palmer.

Lorraine H. And Masuo Toji Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Aimee Han, Arnav Jhawar, Claire Nocon, Ethan Poladian, Isabel Rosales, Lucy Liu

Paul Boyer Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Daria Rego

Ramsey Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Maximilian Floridia, Linus Murphy

Dr. Ravi and Aparna Bikkina Family Undergraduate Research Scholarship – Samik Ghosh, Hiran Jayasekara, Aila Shibao

Raymond And Dorothy Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Tania Peymany, Anneke Talke

Robert E. Biskowski Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Ella Ghazinouri, Sheida Shayegani, Brandon Van, Malachi Warneke, Jasmine Xu

Susan Elizabeth Baumgarten Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Vanlinh Nguyen, Lauren Van Auken

Trueblood Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Megan Chen

Verne Schumaker Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Helen Elmer, Isabella Yang

Weiller Family Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Mariama Salami

Whitcome Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships – Meixuan “Coco” Li, Suzy Matinyan

The Department is extremely grateful to our generous donors and alumni whose support makes these many fellowship and award programs possible.

To learn how to contribute to our student departmental award funds or to establish a new named award or fellowship, please contact the Chair’s office, chair@chem.ucla.edu, (310) 825-3958. Your gift of any size will directly impact one of our world-class students and aspiring scientists!

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