2019 Graduates Receive UHP Leadership, Research and Innovation, and Community Service Awards

Every year the University Honors Program awards students for implementing the values of UHP: leadership, research and innovation, and community service. These are this year's winners.


2019 UHP Student Leadership Award:  Jennifer La, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Honors students are motivated to take the resources and skills they have learned throughout life and through UHP to be trailblazers. The UHP Leadership Award identifies a student who has exhibited leadership, excellence, and a dedication to being a positive, driving force in society. This year's recipient is Jennifer La, who also the delivered the Keynote speech at the Spring Banquet.

Jennifer is currently the President of the Pre-Pharmacy Club at UC Davis and also holds two leadership roles at the Willow Clinic, a healthcare clinic that serves the homeless population in Sacramento. For the last two years she has served as the clinic's Pharmacy Manager in addition to now serving as the Smoking Cessation Manager and as a Lab Manager in the Social Environment and Stress Lab. After advancing from the role of research assistant to lab manager at the clinic, she took on the role of training new research assistants while continuing to process blood samples.

In addition to these leadership roles, she has also collaborated with pharmacy schools to organize mentorship programs with current UC Davis students and on-campus health fairs, annually trained 40 undergraduate members of Willow Clinic on the clinic’s pharmacy system and dispensary protocols, and managed the clinic’s critical role of providing needed medication to the homeless of Sacramento. She's also created an interactive booklet for smoking cessation patients, which allowed them to reflect on and retain information from the 4-week cessation program.

To be a leader is to be an advocate for others. Leadership entails empowering members of a team and making sure all members feel valued and appreciated.”  --Jennifer La


2019 UHP Student Research and Innovation Award:  Joleen Cheah, Biological Sciences
2019 UC Davis University Honors Program graduate Joleen Cheah is awarded the UHP Student Research and Innovation Award
2019 UC Davis University Honors Program graduate Joleen Cheah is awarded the UHP Student Research and Innovation Award

Honors students are encouraged to engage in research or scholarship in which they have the opportunity to apply classroom experiences to real-world situations. The UHP Research and Innovation Award acknowledges a student’s dedication to academic rigor, creativity, learning, and exploration through a research or creative project.  This year's awardee is Joleen Cheah, who spent four years researching mechanical cues that are sensed within cells under the mentorship of Professor Yamada. This research led to a deeper understanding of cancer cell behavior. Joleen is also the first, and only, undergraduate member of the Committee for Postdocs and Students in the American Society for Cell Biology. Her responsibilities include reviewing grants, and helping to organize and moderate sessions at the annual meeting. Over the past four years, she has presented research 14 times, received 7 scholarships, including the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship this year. Additionally, Joleen makes YouTube videos for her projects to bring more visibility to the importance of undergraduate research.

“[My] paper has garnered multiple inquiries from various researchers for further details. I am pleased to see that my work is being read and utilized by the scientific community.”-- Joleen Cheah

Joleen was also awarded the 2019 College of Biological Sciences Medal.


2019 UHP Student Community Service Award:  Sofia Donovan, Biological Science
2019 UC Davis University Honors Program graduate Sofia Donovan (second from right) receives her UHP certificate of completion
2019 UC Davis University Honors Program graduate Sofia Donovan (second from right) receives her UHP certificate of completion

Honors students understand the responsibility to serve the community, but some truly go above-and-beyond in their service. The UHP Community Service Award recognizes a UHP student for exhibiting a commitment to giving back to the community during their undergraduate career. This year's winner is Sofia Donovan, who volunteered for the organizations Camp Kesem and Water, Hands, Hope. In serving Camp Kesem, Sofia has dedicated more than 1,250 hours and raised more than $4,000 to support children who have a family member who has gone through cancer. Sofia started volunteering with the organization as a camp counselor and has increased her service through multiple leadership roles, including: Unit Leader, Administrative Team Member, aiding in the oversight of 135 campers, as an Alumni, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator, and currently as an Outreach Coordinator, where she recruits children and families to attend this free camp program. With Water, Hands, Hope, a Non-Governmental Organization, Sofia dedicated three weeks of service in the Summer of 2017 to rural, poverty areas of Papa New Guinea. She assisted in helping implement water, sanitation, and hygiene principals, and routine health care checks at a rural clinic. These activities directly lead to the development of her Signature Work.

"Meeting people from diverse backgrounds who’ve been faced with difficult life circumstances has humbled and strengthened me. . . I have contributed to and benefited from incredible connections with campers and fellow counselors."-- Sofia Donovan