The Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research is given to graduating seniors for accomplishing creative exploration and admirable research. This year's two recipients are students in the University Honors Program.
Joleen Cheah, Biological Sciences, and Megan West, English and Sociology, each received a special plaque and $500 for their distinct discoveries as undergraduate researchers. Additionally, another UHP student, Erin Hisey, Animal Science, received one of the five honorable mentions. A reception was held earlier this month where the students took pictures with the UC Davis Chancellor Gary May and the Undergraduate Research Center Faculty Director, Annaliese Franz.
Joleen was raised in Sunnyvale in the Bay Area where her early exposure to STEM led her to major in biology. Seeing her sister’s achievements as an undergraduate at Davis cemented her decision to attend UC Davis. Joleen has carried out extensive independent research aimed at understanding how cells sense mechanical cues in Dr. Soichiro Yamada’s lab in the Biomedical Engineering Department. She received the Beckman Scholar Award, the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, published a first author paper, and presented her work at international meetings. Joleen is known for effectively communicating her research to both scientists and non-scientists. She placed in the Research Rockstar Video Competition and was a UC Davis Undergraduate Research Ambassador. She also represented UC Davis at the Pacific Rim Universities Undergraduate Leaders Program at the University of Sydney and serves as the first and only undergraduate member in the Committee of Postdocs and Students in the American Society for Cell Biology, where her responsibilities include reviewing outreach grants and helping to organize the annual meeting. Joleen will graduate with one of the highest GPAs in her major and will be pursuing a PhD in biology at Stanford University as an NSF Graduate Fellow.
As a transfer and first generation college student from Redding, Megan had very little experience with research before beginning her studies at UC Davis. In order to gain exposure to research, she participated in the two quarter Mentorship for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters and Science (MURALS) program in 2017, which provides research experiences for populations that are underrepresented in graduate school. She continued this research for her undergraduate honors thesis in the English Department, which won the department’s Best Critical Honors Thesis Award in 2018. Megan then began working on her second honors thesis in the Department of Sociology the following year, which was funded by the Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship. She won other prestigious awards for her research and contributions to the university, including second place in the 2019 Lang Prize for Undergraduate Information Research and the Leon Mayhew Award given by the College of Letters and Science. She was also selected for the Lois Ann Lattin Rosenburg Award given to the top graduating senior in the English Department. In addition, Megan will be graduating with two majors in Sociology and English, along with two minors in Human Rights and Religious Studies.