Graduation 2019

Posted on

Varney Michael small

Photos from the 2019 Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Commencement Ceremony and a video of Dr Michael Varney’s commencement address are now available.

A video of Dr. Varney’s commencement address as well as Prof. Clarke’s welcoming remarks and the presentation of the Alumni Award by Dean of Physical Sciences Professor Miguel García-Garibay can be viewed here. Select photos can be viewed below and a photo gallery of additional candid photos can be viewed here

At the ceremony on Saturday, June 15, 2019, Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel García-Garibay presented the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry 2019 Alumni Award to commencement speaker Dr. Michael Varney ’80. Dr. Varney is the Executive Vice President and Head of Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) and a member of the Roche Corporate Executive Committee. As a UCLA chemistry undergraduate, Dr. Varney conducted research in the lab of Professor Michael Jung. His wife – author and musician Jennifer Ball – and their guest, Fran Zone, joined him at the event.

Grad 19 12

After Dr. Varney’s moving commencement address, Department Chair Professor Catherine Clarke asked the recipients of the  2019 commencement awards to stand so that they could be acknowledged. Thanks to our generous donors, commencement awards were given to 17 Ph.D. students and 14 undergraduate students. Photos of the award recipients can be viewed on two on-line photo galleries – Graduate Student Dissertation Awards and Undergraduate Student Awards.

At the end of the ceremony, much to the surprise and delight of the new graduates, Dr. Varney, Ms. Ball, and faculty tossed thousands of knitted finger puppets into the audience. (Both musicians, Dr. Varney and Ms. Ball play in a band called Fingerpuppets.)

Grad 19 11
Grad 19 5
Grad 19 7
Grad 19 3
Grad19 5
Grad 19 9
Grad19 8
Grad19 12

At the ceremony, 42 doctoral graduates received Ph.D.’s and three departmental scholars received Master of Science degrees. (Department Scholars participate in a program that allows them to receive both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees concurrently.)

This year 284 undergraduates received 2019 bachelor’s degrees with 229 participating in the ceremony. Of the graduating class, 170 received degrees in biochemistry, 46 in chemistry, 13 in chemistry/materials science, six double majors, five students with a minor, and one student with a specialization. 

The following graduate and undergraduate award recipients were recognized for their achievements at the ceremony.  

We are very grateful to our generous donors who made these awards possible!

Graduate Student Dissertation Awards

The Saul and Sylvia Winstein Award 

Adam Simon (Houk group)

Biochemistry Award 

Sue Tsui (C Clarke group)

Inorganic Chemistry 

Rafal Dziedzic (Spokoyny group)

Inorganic Faculty Chemistry Award

Wei Chen (Zink group)

Physical Chemistry Award 

Ha Seong Kim (Mason group)

Pfizer-UCLA Dissertation Awards for Excellence in Organic Synthesis 

Joyann Barber (Garg group) and Anish Nag (C Clarke group)

Materials Chemistry Award 

Taylor Aubry-Komin (Schwartz group), Cheng-Wei Lin (Kaner group) and Terri Lin (Tolbert group)

TCI-UCLA Dissertation Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Organic Synthesis

Lucas Morrill (Garg group)

Thomas and Ruth F. Jacobs Award 

Leibniz Hang (Tang group)

Jim and Barbara Tsay Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Physical Chemistry 

Yung Kuo (S Weiss group) and Renato Aguilera (Gimzewski group)

McCullough Award for Excellence in Structure Determination 

Rebecca Warmack (S Clarke group)

Boehringer-Ingelheim-UCLA Dissertation Awards for Excellence in Organic Chemistry

Bryan Simmons (Garg group) and Marco Messina (Maynard and Spokoyny groups)

Undergraduate Student Awards

The Arthur Furst Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

Matthew Ji (P Weiss group)

The Dolores Cannon Southam Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research

Omar Ebrahim (Maynard and Spokoyny groups) and Guan Wang (Gelbart group)

Dunn Award for Outstanding Achievement in Biochemistry 

Lina Licht (Reisler group)

Daniel E. Atkinson & Charles A. West Biochemistry Undergraduate Prize in Metabolic Biochemistry

Cyrus Safaeipour (S Clarke group) and TianXiao (Peter) Yang (Eisenberg group)

Alpha Chi Sigma Achievement Award

Selena Patricia Hernandez (Sletten group)

Ramsey Award for Excellence in Research

Danielle Cadena (Caram group)

Geissman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organic Chemistry

Melinda Nguyen (Garg group)

Ethel Terry McCoy Award 

Maggie Chen (Houk group), Ramya Pathuri (Spokoyny group) and Heting Pu (Duan group)

American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Outstanding Senior in Organic Chemistry

Claire Page (Tang group)

American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Physical Chemistry Award

Matthew Dan Ye (P Weiss group) 

Photo Captions

(all captions are left to right)

1. Dean 

Miguel A. García-Garibay

 presents the 2019 Alumni Award to Dr. Michael Varney. Department Chair Professor Catherine Clarke made the welcoming remarks and announced the commencement award recipients. 

2. Dr. Varney giving his commencement speech. Graduates show off the finger puppets that were handed out after the ceremony.

3. After Dr. Varney’s speech, Prof. Clarke announced the student award recipients who stood to be recognized.


Proud family members posed for photos with the graduates after the ceremony. 

An overview of the Court of Sciences during the ceremony. 

5. Dr. Varney, his wife Jennifer Ball, and faculty tossed thousands of knitted finger puppets into the audience at the end of the ceremony. 

6. Delighted students wait to catch finger puppets. Newly minted biochemistry Ph.D. Jonelle White with her advisor Professor Steven Clarke. 

7. Dr. Varney and Prof. Michael Jung, his research mentor when he was a UCLA undergraduate student. A view of the audience from the stage. 

8. At the reception before the ceremony – Dr. Michael Varney (second from left), Ms. Ball, and their friend Fran Zone. After the ceremony, popular instructor Prof. Zhao Li poses with a new graduate. 


Undergraduate Ariana Tamura waits to receive her diploma. 

Dolores Cannon Southam award recipients undergraduates Guan Wang (Gelbart group) and Omar Ebrahim (Maynard/Spokoyny groups) with Robin Genchel, cousin of the late alumna Dolores Cannon Southam, for whom the award is named. 

Photos by GradImages and Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Video by Dean Ishida/UCLA. To obtain high- resolution versions of any of the candid photos from graduation, please contact Penny Jennings at or 310-825-9809.