UCR Undergraduates Receive Fellowships, Prizes

Year-end awards honor academic achievement

Eight UC Riverside undergraduates have received awards or fellowships in the 2012-13 school year. Top row, from left: Fatima Mirza, Jacqueline Baderrama, Katherine Tsai and Corey Luth. Bottom row: Mary Nguyen, Krystal Vasquez, Andrew Carlson and Javier Fajardo.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — As the end of the 2012-13 academic year approaches, several University of California, Riverside undergraduates have won distinguished fellowships or prizes this year.

“We are very proud of these students,” said Steven Brint, vice provost for the Office of Undergraduate Education. “It is a special honor to have one’s accomplishments recognized by one of the country’s leading foundations or professional associations. With the assistance of their faculty mentors, these students have worked hard and creatively to meet the high standards they have set for themselves. They are an inspirational group.”

The honorees and recipients, in alphabetical order, are:

Jacqueline Balderrama

Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize First Place Recipient



Balderrama, a honors student, graduated from UCR in winter 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing with a minor in religious studies and is planning to pursue an MFA in poetry at Arizona State University.

The Coolbrith Prize, which includes a $500 award for first place, is open to undergraduate students throughout the UC system. Submissions are reviewed by the UC Santa Cruz faculty, with three poems forwarded to the UC-wide review committee.

Balderrama also earned an Academic Excellence Award in creative writing and completed her University Honors thesis titled “Escaping the Habitat:  A Collection of Poetry” under the mentorship of California Poet Laureate and UCR Professor Juan Felipe Herrera.

Andrew Carlson

American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry



Carlson will graduate in June with a degree in chemistry and he plans to enroll in graduate school at UCLA in fall 2014. He is currently working as a researcher in the laboratory of Professor Michael Pirrung, where he is completing research on novel luciferins.

The ACS Division of Organic Chemistry award is in its inaugural year and recognizes senior students who display a significant aptitude for organic chemistry and to encourage further interest in the field.

Javier Fajardo

Pfizer Academic – Industrial Relations (AIR) Diversity Research Fellowship in Chemistry
American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry



A double-major in chemistry and physics who is graduating in June, Fajardo is conducting research with Assistant Professor Vincent Lavallo, whose work is rooted in creative chemical synthesis to develop novel and creative chemical solutions to the most urgent and challenging unsolved problems in synthetic chemistry. He is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

The AIR fellowship, which provides a $15,000 fellowship for research, supports minority chemistry majors who are motivated and interested in gaining experience in disciplines conducive to drug discovery. Fajardo will have the opportunity to tour Pfizer site in La Jolla where he will present his research and tour the facility.

The  ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry award recognizes achievement by undergraduates in inorganic chemistry who display a significant aptitude for organic chemistry and to encourage further interest in the field.

Corey Luth

American Chemical Society’s Division of Environmental Chemistry 2013 Undergraduate Award



A junior honors student majoring in chemical engineering, Luth is working under the guidance of Professor Sharon Walker in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering to research the fate and transport of various engineered nanomaterials released into aquatic environments. He was second author on a paper titled “Effects of Solution Chemistry on the Fate and Transport of Graphene Oxide in Saturated Porous Media” that was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The award consists of a one year membership in the American Chemical Society’s Division of Environmental Chemistry and a certificate.

Fatima Mirza

Accepted to the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop



A senior honors student who will graduate in June with a degree in creative writing and a minor in journalism, Mirza has been accepted into the University of Iowa’s program in Creative Writing, known worldwide as the Iowa Writers Workshop. Founded in 1936, it was the first creative writing program in the country, and remains the most prestigious creative writing program in the country and one of the most selective graduate programs of any kind, typically admitting fewer than five percent of its applicants.

Mirza received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research/Creative Achievement in 2013, has served as an assistant editor and features editor for the UCR student newspaper The Highlander, and was published in Mosaic, UCR’s undergraduate art and literary journal. In the summer 2012 she was accepted to and participated in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Conference.

Mary Nguyen

Barry Goldwater Scholarship Recipient—$7,500 Scholarship Award



A junior chemistry major and honors student, Nguyen conducts research under Chemistry Professor Catharine Larsen and will participate in a summer internship at at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Inc. conducting research to synthesize anticancer compounds. Nguyen also has served as a math academic coach and student leader for the UCR Medical Scholars Program, as a CNAS science ambassador.

The $7,500 Goldwater scholarship is designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in those fields.

Katherine Tsai

Donald A. Strauss Public Service scholarship Foundation Scholarship Recipient – $10,000 Award to start the UCR Mini Medical School



A junior biology major who plans to become a doctor, Tsai is working with Dr. Emma Simmons on the UCR Mini Medical School Project. The honors student has also served as a peer mentor in the Health Professions Advising Center, an SI leader in the Academic Resource Center, and has served as president of Flying Samaritans.

The $10,000 scholarship is awarded annually to no fewer than 14 California college juniors reflect a commitment to public service and education.

Krystal Vasquez

American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry



A sophomore chemistry major and honors student who is conducting research in the lab of Associate Professor of Hydrology James O. Sickman, Vasquez has also served as the opinions editor for the University Honors newsletter.

The award is given to undergraduates who excel in the area of analytical chemistry, and demonstrate great potential as a future analytical chemist.

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