Three student winners
From left: Barry Nguyen, Katherine Hand and La Rissa Vasquez.

CBS Undergraduates Win Big in This Year’s Lang Prize

All three of the Science, Engineering and Math winners at this year’s Norma J. Lang Prize for Undergraduate Information Research are College of Biological Sciences students. Barry Nguyen, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, won first-place, and the second- and third-place winners, Katherine Hand and La Rissa Vasquez respectively, are neurobiology, physiology and behavior majors.

The Lang Prize is awarded by the UC Davis Library and recognizes undergraduates who make exceptional use of library resources, services and expertise — such as primary source materials and special collections, online databases and journal articles, interlibrary loan services, or consulting with a librarian.

Through their research, this year’s winners brought fresh insights to a diverse range of topics including botanical art; immune responses to COVID-19; how viruses originate; and allostasis, the process by which the body regains equilibrium during a stress response.

The library celebrated the 2021 Lang Prize winners at a virtual award ceremony on May 19, 2021.


Barry Nguyen
Barry Nguyen

Barry Nguyen

1st place in Science, Engineering & Math
Allostasis: The Fundamental Biology and Implications for Social Standing and Longevity
Term paper for HDE 117: Longevity

“I had always thought science was an independent process, but now I realize just how collaborative science can be.”
—Barry Nguyen

Project Description

Nguyen’s term paper comprehensively reviews allostasis — a biological process in which the body regains homeostasis during a stress response — and its implications for disease, longevity, and society. Utilizing Google Scholar as a search tool, Nguyen identified almost 30 sources from scientific journals in related fields such as neuroscience, aging and public health.


Katherine Hand
Katherine Hand

Katherine Hand

2nd place in Science, Engineering & Math
The Secret Life of Bacteriophages: How Did They Originate?
Research paper for UWP 101: Advanced Composition

“Many of the studies I read…mentioned the limits of their findings due to a lack of understanding about the biology of viruses. I hope that one day my claims can be investigated and tested, and encourage others to continue uncovering more mysteries about viruses.”
—Katherine Hand

Project Description

Inspired to study viruses by a talk on COVID-19, Hand presents her own hypothesis on the origin of bacteriophages, viruses that infect and replicate within bacteria. With the guidance of the UC Davis Library’s Student Services librarians, Hand learned to navigate library databases like BIOSIS and Web of Science and make effective use of taxonomic restrictions, taxa notes, concept codes, and keywords to narrow her searches and find relevant sources in the peer-reviewed literature.


La Rissa Vasquez
La Rissa Vasquez

La Rissa Vasquez

3rd place in Science, Engineering & Math
Surviving COVID-19: Variables of Immune Response
Term paper for HDE 117: Longevity

“Rather than rely on appeals to authority, misinformation, or consensus-formed opinions about COVID, I felt empowered to research the virus so that I could be in control of what I understood. Sharing that information with others is the purpose of this review.”
—La Rissa Vasquez

Project Description

Vasquez’s paper gives an in-depth synopsis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), focusing on its innate and adaptive immune responses. Vasquez’s work pulls from a diverse range of sources, including autopsy reports, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and peer-reviewed journals.


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