University Medal

An anonymous donor’s gift established the University Medal in 1965 to recognize a graduating senior for excellence in undergraduate studies, outstanding community service and the promise of future scholarship and contributions to society.

Today, the award includes a plaque with an inlaid medal and a $2,000 honorarium.

A subcommittee of the Academic Senate considers nominations from the undergraduate colleges, and then interviews finalists and recommends a candidate for the chancellor’s approval.

Below are the recipients from the College of Biological Sciences.


Srujan Kopparapu
B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, B.A. in Psychology

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology undergraduate Srujan Kopparapu has worked in Professor Neil Hunter’s laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics since 2014. Srujan has studied homologous recombination and meiosis in yeast cells. He has created various mutant strains to gain a deeper understanding of recombination, which may one day provide solutions to birth defects, miscarriage, sterility and cancers. Srujan plans to attend medical school.


Nicole Sitkin
B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

Nicole is already making contributions to medical research and helping address disparities in health care — especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations. She is working in the Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory of the UC Davis School of Medicine and bound for medical school to become a clinician-researcher studying the interaction of basic biology and human experience. … She is a member of the medical school’s task force for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the electronic health record as a step toward improving health care for LGBT individuals. … Has co-authored manuscripts on related topics, including the development of a curriculum to help medical students gain cultural competency about sexual orientation and gender identity. … Spent her junior year in France, where she earned a UC Davis minor in art studio. … Worked in the research labs of faculty members and conducted independent research — including one project that made living art from fungi … interned at medical facilities, published creative writing and played rugby. … Nicole dedicates herself to whatever she does and works hard. “It's the price you pay,” she said, “but you get to do something amazing with your life.”


Larissa Miyachi
B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

UC Davis put Larissa at the lab bench even before she enrolled. An internship at the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology introduced the Yuba Community College student to scientific research: “If it hadn’t been for that, I think I might not have realized my interest in medicine. That was the pivotal experience for me.” … for two summers and then some, she did research with nanoparticles for possible cancer therapy … assisted nurses and helped care for radiology and cardiology patients as a UC Davis Medical Center volunteer: “I’ve walked around this big campus and thought, ‘Here I am learning to do something significant with my life.’ It’s a really privileged feeling.” … now bound for a pre-medical surgery internship at the medical center and then medical school — maybe at UC Davis … home-schooled … about the medal: “What my parents did for me really paid off. It’s like it recognizes them, too.”


Kristen Kelley
B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

When Kristen starts medical school at UC San Diego in fall 2012, she will already have some experience in the responsibilities of a doctor and medical researcher: lab work, patient care and fundraising. She worked in the marine ecology lab of Associate Professor Jay Stachowicz, did fieldwork at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory and, through an honors research class, conducted her own experiment on amphipod mouthparts: “The experience convinced me that my future plans will include research.” … she also interned in the radiology department at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento and at the Neurology Center of Southern California … she volunteered at the Imani Clinic, a free healthcare clinic run by UC Davis students, where she “not only got experience in medicine, but also learned about the needs of our diverse society and people who face challenging life circumstances.” … One of her most meaningful experiences? Serving as advocacy chair for the American Cancer Society’s 2011 “Relay for Life” at UC Davis, which raised about $100,000 for research and patient care.


Ashley Heers
B.S. in Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity and A.B. in Geology

Bird-watching is far from recreational for Ashley. She is studying the development and evolution of locomotion in birds and dinosaurs through a doctoral program in avian biology at the University of Montana. She not only observes birds in the wild, she analyzes baby birds’ locomotor performance, creates three-dimensional videos of birds’ skeletons in motion, and haunts museums for information on birds and dinosaurs alike. … Ashley fell in love with research when she did her senior thesis, volunteered at UC Davis’ California Raptor Center and thanks UC Davis for introducing a small-town girl to people from all over the world; read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down in the inaugural year of a campus book project that aims to foster understanding and respect for different cultures: “Being exposed to a lot of different types of literature and students from different backgrounds has really given me a better appreciation for human life in general.”


Yoel Eli Stuart
B.S. in Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity

Barnacles, marine snails and poison dart frogs have all shared Yoel’s attention as a university student. But it’s a charismatic tree lizard that has captured his heart as he pursues a doctorate in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He is investigating the interaction of two species of Anolis lizard — the native green anole and the invasive brown anole — in Florida’s Mosquito Lagoon to ask whether, how and why populations adapt rapidly to novel selection in the wild … thanks Rick Grosberg, Mike Dawson (formerly) and Carole Hom of the Department of Evolution and Ecology for helping him get his feet wet in research … said the community of the Davis Honors Challenge Program “made Davis’ large campus more of a home” … did summer coursework at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab … rowed with the men’s crew team for four years: “That was a great community of friends. Rowing provided an outlet from the rigors of academic life.”


Christopher Jones
B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
M.D., UC San Francisco, 2009

Chris chose to attend UC Davis “based on the coaches’ dedication to maintaining the ‘student’ in student-athlete.” Today, the former Aggie football player is doing his residency in orthopedic surgery at Duke University and helping to care for student-athletes there and elsewhere in North Carolina … credits the rigors of balancing athletics and a demanding major with developing life skills like self discipline and time management … started a tutoring program for fellow Aggie student-athletes: “Seeing people I’ve mentored or tutored go on to accomplish their goals is rewarding.” … wants to give a “shout-out” to now Professor Emeritus Louis Grivetti for being a good mentor … encourages young athletes to “make sure they’re grasping their full potential” on the playing field and in the classroom: “A goal is only out of reach when you start believing it is.” … planning on a fellowship in sports medicine … married.

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university medal

Visit UC Davis' University Medalist website for a comprehensive list and bios of previous winners.