Graduate student wins Distinguished Teaching Award

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Matthew Fontana (Schwartz group) has been selected for the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants.

Fontana is one of five awardees selected from a large field of extraordinary nominees. He will be recognized at the annual “Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching” dinner in the Fall 2017 quarter. Awardees receive a monetary award and those who advance to candidacy in the Fall Quarter receive a $20,000 Dissertation Year Fellowship Award from the UCLA Graduate Division.

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Matthew is currently a teaching assistant for Prof. Steve Hardinger’s organic chemistry 14C class. Here he explains mass spectrometry in a discussion section.

Matthew is a native Californian and grew up in Sonoma County. He attended Sonoma State University where he received degrees in chemistry and physics in 2012. After graduating, he started school at UCLA and joined the research group of Professor Ben Schwartz where he works on organic photovoltaics. In 2015, Fontana was named a UCLA Collegium of University Teaching Fellow.

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Matthew poses with his favorite “Periodic Table of Toys” located in Young Hall.  All the tiles were designed by Carol Salame, who founded the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS), and they were made by students from Thomas Edison Middle School and Narbonne High School. 

The goal of the UCLA Academic Senate Teaching Award is to increase awareness of UCLA’s leadership in teaching and public service by honoring individuals who bring respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching. By recognizing teachers for their achievements, the award gives parents, donors and others insight to what makes UCLA “a beacon of excellence in higher education.” These awards are an effective way to boost morale on campus and provide role models for faculty and students.

Fontana joins several other former UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students who have received the honor. Previous winners include:

  • 2015 – Zhao Li – now the Libby Teacher Scholar at the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry conducting research with Prof. Yung-Ya Lin
  • 2014 – Rees Garmann – now a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard conducting research with Vinothan Manoharan
  • 2007 – Sadaf Sehati – now a chemistry professor at Pierce College
  • 2004 – Jerome-Ieronymos Zoidais – now a researcher in the Biotechnology Division of the Biomedical Research Foundation, Academy of Athens (BRFAA)
  • 2000 – Dean Tantillo – now a chemistry professor at UC Davis
  • 1999 – David Klein – now an author and senior chemistry lecturer at Johns Hopkins University
  • 1995 – Nate Brandstater – now president of Kettering College
  • 1978 – Rosemarie Szostak – now a senior analyst at Nerac
  • 1976 – Hsi-Chao Chow 
  • 1975 – Wayne Evans

Photos by Penny Jennings/UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.