2024 Norma Stoddart Award for Exemplary Citizenship and Excellence in Graduate Research

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On March 22, 2024, alumna Dr. Ashley Shin (Ph.D. ’23, Caram group), currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light at Erlangen, Germany, was presented with the 2024 Norma Stoddart Award for Exemplary Citizenship and Excellence at Graduate Research. Nobel Laureate and UCLA Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Sir Fraser Stoddart visited UCLA, accompanied by his daughter Dr. Fiona McCubbin (also a chemist), to introduce the life of Norma Stoddart and to present Shin with the award.

Stoddart spoke at length about his remarkable late wife, Dr. Norma Agnes Stoddart, whom the prize honors. In his introduction of Stoddart, Professor Ken Houk said, “Norma was a wonderful and important presence – Fraser’s secret weapon!” Stoddart told about her upbringing and many academic achievements, and noted that in addition to being his editor during his Nobel Prize-winning research at UCLA, she was “his harshest critic” but also most valuable advisor.

Stoddart’s talk was followed by Shin’s research lecture.  She was introduced by her former thesis advisor, Professor Justin Caram, who described the remarkable impact Shin had on his group and UCLA, not only through her inquisitiveness and powerhouse initiative but also her unwavering commitment to helping graduate and undergraduate students in the community. He said that he expects that Shin will continue to make a significant impact moving forward in her career. “The greatest pleasure of this job is that your impact is magnified exponentially by the small influence you have on the careers of your amazing students,” Caram said.

After Shin’s lecture, Stoddart presented her with the 2024 Norma Stoddart Award.  Shin’s father Dr. Inho Shin attended the events, which were held in the department’s Dongwon Yoo Seminar & Conference Hall in the Mani L. Bhaumik Collaboratory in Young Hall.

Select photos can be viewed below and a photo gallery can be viewed here.

Before Stoddart’s lecture Profs. Bill Gelbart (left) and Stoddart (right) had fun “modeling” their improvised “hats” made from hankies. Stoddart taught Gelbart how to make a hankie hat when they visited together on a hot summer day a few years ago.
(Left) Prof. Fraser Stoddart gave an afternoon lecture about his late wife Dr. Norma Stoddart, whom the award honors. (Right) Shin’s thesis advisor, Prof. Justin Caram, introduced her.
(Left) In the afternoon, Dr. Ashley Shin gave her Norma Stoddart Award Lecture after which Stoddart presented her with a crystal award (see photo at top). (Right) Her father, Dr. Inho Shin, joined them for a photo.
(Left) Stoddart with his daughter Fiona McCubbin. (Right) Shin with her former thesis advisor Prof. Justin Caram.
Members and collaborators of Prof. Justin Caram’s group pose for a photo with Stoddart, Dr. Ashley Shin and her father Dr. Inho Shin.

About Dr. Ashley Shin

Dr. Ashley Shin

After completing her undergraduate studies in chemistry and computer science at Washington University in St. Louis in 2017, Shin conducted post-baccalaureate research at Oxford University with Professor Mark Brouard and at the University of California, San Diego with Professor Robert Continetti. She joined UCLA’s chemistry program in 2018, working with Professor Justin Caram, and quickly established herself as a leader through her passion and interest in experimental physical chemistry and her dedication to science communication and outreach to underrepresented groups in physical sciences.  In addition to her research activities at UCLA, Shin also supervised multiple undergraduate and summer students, with whom she published multiple papers. Notably, she was the co-founder of Quantum Computing Student Association (QCSA), which continues to promote student engagement in quantum information science at UCLA. In recognition of her contributions, Shin received the prestigious Charles E and Sue K Young Graduate Student Fellowship Award for 2022-23.  After graduating, she joined the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light as a Postdoctoral Researcher working with Professor Vahid Sandoghdar on single molecule spectroscopy and quantum optics.

Shin’s close friend and fellow chemistry graduate student Zerina Mehmedović (Schwartz group) was quick to sing Shin’s praises at the reception following her lecture.  “Ashley is beyond deserving of this award,” Mehmedović said. “She is an incredible leader and her drive and determination are inspiring. Ashley completed her Ph.D. with distinction, mentored numerous students in and out of the Caram group, and demonstrated exceptional leadership. Her initiative in establishing a quantum information science group exemplifies her innovative spirit. Ashley’s relentless pursuit of excellence and willingness to explore new fields make her an ideal candidate for future success as a principal investigator. She actively wants to be a better scientist and has always made great strides in doing so. I am honored to call her my best friend and proud of all her accomplishments. I know this is just one of many.”

Stoddart family
Norma and Fraser Stoddart with daughters Fiona and Allison.

About the Norma Stoddart Award for Exemplary Citizenship and Excellence in Graduate Research
Established in 2004, the award is open to all current and recently graduated research students and fellows in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Selections are made by a committee of graduate students within the department. Recipients are chosen for their outstanding science, service and humanity – the same qualities that Norma brought to UCLA. Since 2012, Stoddart has returned to UCLA each year (except during the pandemic) to present the prize at the Norma Stoddart Prize lecture.

Previous Stoddart Prize recipients are Prof. Marco Messina, University of Delaware, Dr. Janice Lin, The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research (2019), Dr. Nako Nakatsuka, ETH Zürich (2018), Dr. Liana Hie, Yale, and Dr. Christian Beren, Colorado School of Mines (2017),  Dr. Steven Lopez, Harvard (2016), Dr. Alexander Patananan, Amgen and Prof. Jessica Wang, UC Merced (2015); Prof. Jessica R. Kramer, University of Utah (2014); Dr. Sarah M. Bronner, Maze Therapeutics (2013); Dr. Gregory B. Kuzmanich, Honeywell UOP (2012). (The prize was not awarded in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid 19 pandemic.)

Photos and article by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.