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Undergraduate Student Awards & Scholarships

The School of Molecular & Cellular Biology is pleased to recognize its many outstanding students with a variety of awards, scholarships, and fellowships from the school and its four departments: Biochemistry, Cell & Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Congratulations to the award recipients for all their dedication and hard work in classrooms and laboratories and thank you to all those who support our students with these awards.

For a comprehensive list of award winners, including a list of students graduating with honors and distinctions, please download the 2021 awards program.


School of Molecular & Cellular Biology Awards

BEST Scholar Program

The BEST Scholar Program recognizes outstanding incoming biology freshmen from Illinois with a financial award and mentorship from the directors of the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology and the School of Integrative Biology.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for a BEST Scholarship, applicants must be Illinois residents who have demonstrated academic excellence in high school. Additionally, they must demonstrate a passion for studying biology and appropriate time management skills through participation in activities and/or work experience. Consideration is given to the students’ background and financial need.

How to apply:

Freshmen are selected upon admission into biology at the university.

2020 Recipients:

Madison Ardagh, Collin Barnes, Nicholas Beronio, Emma Bridgeman, Emma Crawford, Allison Haab, Hannah Hallman, Margaret Keilman, Stav Kramer, Brandon Snipe, Katarina Vrtikapa, Lily Wenger

Oliver J. Bell Merit Scholarship

The Oliver J. Bell Merit scholarship was established in 2014 by Oliver Bell, a 1989 graduate of the Honors Biology program and Department of Chemistry.

Eligibility:

Students in the MCB Honors Concentration who have completed at least one semester in the program. Submission of essay describing how the student intends to use the award to enrich their honors education.

How to apply:

Eligible students will be invited to apply by the Honors Coordinator.

2021 Recipient:

Muskaan Sawhney

School of MCB Undergraduate Research Symposium Awards

Every fall, the school hosts a research symposium to provide students with the opportunity to present research they’ve been working on in a faculty member’s lab. Guest alumni judges conduct the evaluations.

2021 Outstanding Presentation:

Allison Narlock (Dr. Rachel Whitaker), "Integrase Mutant Reveals Major Growth Defects and Alters Gene Transfer"

2021 Honorable Mentions:

Ria Ravi (Dr. Steven Blanke), "The Trifecta of Pathogenesis"; Royal Shrestha (Dr. Huanyu "Joe" Qiao), "Perfluorononanoic acid impedes mouse oocyte maturation by disrupting meitotic functions"

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs)

AbbVie Black Business Network + School of MCB SURF

The AbbVie Black Business Network and MCB SURF provides financial support for a student conducting research on campus. AbbVie is a global research and development-based biopharmaceutical company and the Black Business Network, an employee resource group, promotes career advancement and professional development by sponsoring career initiatives to develop and sustain the next generation of leaders at AbbVie.

Eligibility:

The new fellowship will support an MCB student who is from a population that has been historically underrepresented in the sciences and research careers.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipient:

Le'Mark Russell (Dr. Rachel Smith-Bolton)

Berkowitz Research Fellowship

Dr. Richard Berkowitz earned a BS in biology from the University of Illinois and an MD in pediatrics and pediatric anesthesiology from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. He is currently the Chairman and Medical Director of Anesthesiology, Pain and Perioperative Medicine at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. and Director of Anesthesiology at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, Ind. Additionally, he is the co-founder of the School of MCB Pre-Health and Professional Mentorship Program. The award is for an undergraduate to conduct summer research which will provide the basis for a senior research thesis.

Eligibility:

Must be an officially declared MCB major conducting research for credit in an approved lab with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.50, must agree to continue the research started in the summer in the fall, submit a research summary, and submit a senior thesis. Award winners are selected based on their research proposal, GPA, number of semesters they have been conducting research and a letter of recommendation from their P.I.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipient:

Lina Issa (Dr. Dan Llano)

Dawn M. Carlson MD, MPH Research Fellowship for Women in Science

Established in 2015, this award recognizes undergraduates pursuing research in a campus lab. Dr. Dawn Carlson, a 1982 University of Illinois microbiology alumna, is a vice president at the global pharmaceutical company AbbVie where she has led research in a variety of areas, including endometriosis and juvenile arthritis. She also holds an MD from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

Eligibility:

Illinois high school graduates, with a preference for women, pursuing a career in science or medicine; must be an officially declared MCB major for the semester immediately preceding fellowship; must be continuing as an MCB major in the fall semester following receipt of the fellowship. Students graduating in May are not eligible. Must be conducting MCB 290 research in an approved lab during the preceding spring semester or have written approval of the faculty research advisor to participate in a summer research fellowship in their lab; must agree to continue their research project for course credit during the following fall and, if applicable, spring semester and submit a senior thesis prior to graduation; be free of academic integrity violations.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipient:

Priya Rao (Dr. Mary Schuler)

Jenner Family Summer Research Fellowship

Dr. Kris Jenner and his family provide undergraduate research awards each summer to undergraduate MCB or biochemistry majors who conduct research that will provide the basis for a senior research thesis. Dr. Jenner, president and CEO of Rock Springs Capital in Baltimore, earned a BS degree in chemistry and biochemistry, summa cum laude, from the University of Illinois, as well as a PhD from the University of Oxford and an MD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Eligibility:

Must be an officially declared biology, MCB or biochemistry major for the semester immediately preceding the fellowship with a minimum GPA of 3.50; must be continuing as an MCB or biochemistry major in the fall semester following receipt of the fellowship (students graduating in May are not eligible); must be conducting MCB 290 or BIOC 290 research in an approved lab during the preceding spring semester or have written approval of the faculty research advisor to participate in a summer research fellowship in their lab; student must agree to continue their research project for course credit during the following fall and, if applicable, spring semester and submit a senior thesis prior to graduation; must be free of academic integrity violations.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipients:

Harish Kesavan (Dr. Hee Jung Chung), Niraj Lawande (Dr. Catherine Christian-Hinman), Veronica Pronitcheva (Dr. Justin Rhodes), Royal Shrestha (Dr. Huanyu "Joe" Qiao), Jay Sonalkar (Dr. Supriya Prasanth)

Spudich Summer Research Fellowship

James Spudich is the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor of Cardiovascular Disease in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is an Illinois alumnus, having graduated with a BS in chemistry in 1963. While a student at UIUC he worked in the lab of biochemistry professor Woody Hastings. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has received many awards during his career, most notably the 2012 Albert Lasker Award Basic Medical Research Award, the highest medical award given out in the U.S.

Eligibility:

Must be participating in interdisciplinary research in chemistry, biology (or both) for the semester immediately preceding the fellowship. Must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.50. Must be continuing research in the fall semester following receipt of the fellowship. Students graduating in May are not eligible. Must be free of academic integrity violations.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipient:

David Y. Chen (Dr. Supriya Prasanth)

School of MCB SURF, sponsored in part by Dr. Keith Westcott

Keith R. Westcott received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his MS (1978) and PhD (1980) in biochemistry from the University of Illinois. At Amgen, a California biotechnology company, he was a protein chemistry scientist. He conducted protein science research supporting Amgen’s programs in wound healing, hematopoiesis, cancer, and neuroscience. A longtime supporter of the university, he has received the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Loyalty Award (2013) and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Distinguished Service Award (2010).

2021 Recipient:

Emily Tung (Dr. Wenyan Mei)

School of MCB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

2021 Recipients:

Joshua Adisumarta (Dr. Steven Blanke), Sammy Alhayek (Dr. Steven Blanke), Archit Bajaj (Dr. Hee Jung Chung), Neal Dadlani (Dr. Sayeepriyadarshini Anakk), Maria Victoria Di Franco (Dr. Supriya Prasanth), Tina (Jeong Won) Han (Dr. Kai Zhang), Bryan Himmel (Dr. Beth Stadtmueller), Jessica Hindenburg (Dr. Vivian Tang), Emma Ibanez (Dr. Justin Rhodes), Kevin Ingram (Dr. Bo Wang), Erica Joo (Dr. Huanyu "Joe" Qiao), Laura Kilikevicius (Dr. Gene Robinson), Martin Lundy (Dr. Jeffrey Woods), Alfredo Martinez-Ruiz (Dr. Mary Schuler), Michael McHenry (Dr. Erik Nelson), Brendan Rattin (Dr. Jie Chen), Ria Ravi (Dr. Steven Blanke), Faaiza Saif (Dr. Huanyu "Joe" Qiao), Yiting Song (Dr. Steven Blanke), Yufei Tian (Dr. Zinzhu Yu), Srishti Tiwari (Dr. Erik Nelson), Jan Xavier Uy (St. Steven Blanke), Faisal Zaidi (Dr. Steven Blanke)

Department of Biochemistry Awards & Scholarships

Outstanding Student Award

This award is given to an outstanding senior in biochemistry in recognition of their high academic achievement.

Eligibility:

Biochemistry senior who has attained some level of distinction with a very high GPA.

How to apply:

Biochemistry Awards Committee designates winner after reviewing all distinction recipients.

2021 Recipient:

David Kostyra (Dr. Martin Burke)

William T. and Lynn Jackson Senior Best Thesis Award

Named after William Jackson, a UIUC graduate (BS, ’55, chemistry) and his wife, Lynn Jackson, this award recognizes a senior who presents the best biochemistry senior thesis. William Jackson, who received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin after graduating from Illinois, retired from Eli Lilly in 1998 after a career as an immunologist.

Eligibility:

Biochemistry senior who has been nominated for distinction by faculty advisor.

How to apply:

Biochemistry senior who has been nominated for distinction by faculty advisor. Biochemistry Awards Committee designates winner after reviewing all distinction/thesis recipients. One recipient each year.

2021 Recipient:

Cliff Yerby (Dr. Michael Spinella)

William T. and Lynn Jackson Senior Merit Award for Outstanding Thesis

Named after William Jackson, a UIUC graduate (BS, ’55, chemistry) and his wife, Lynn Jackson, this award recognizes a senior who presents an outstanding biochemistry senior thesis. William Jackson, who received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin after graduating from Illinois, retired from Eli Lilly in 1998 after a career as an immunologist.

Eligibility:

Biochemistry senior who has been nominated for distinction by faculty advisor.

How to apply:

Biochemistry Awards Committee designates winner after reviewing all distinction/thesis recipients. There can be as many recipients as the committee deems worthy.

2021 Recipient:

Autumn Brandenburg (Dr. Dean Riechers)

Biochemistry Summer Research Scholarship

Awarded to a meritorious junior performing biochemistry-related senior research projects.

Eligibility:

Open to juniors performing biochemistry-related senior research projects.

How to apply:

Must be a junior and nominated by their research advisor.

2021 Recipient:

Adam Balutowski (Dr. Rutilio Fratti)

H. Edward Conrad Summer Research Scholarship

Professor Conrad was a long-time faculty member of the Department of Biochemistry, valued by his colleagues and students alike. After working at Mead Johnson & Company and the U.S. Army Medical Nutrition Laboratory, he joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1962. In 1989, he was named a Jubilee Professor of Biochemistry. Professor Conrad built his career around biochemical studies of heparin, other polysaccharides, and carbohydrates in general.

Eligibility:

Open to juniors performing biochemistry-related senior research projects.

How to apply:

Students must be nominated by their research advisor.

2021 Recipient:

Haolin Luo (Dr. Taras Pogorelov)

William T. and Lynn Jackson Scholars in Biochemistry

This award is named after William Jackson, a UIUC graduate (BS, ’55, chemistry) and his wife, Lynn Jackson. William Jackson, who received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin after graduating from Illinois, retired from Eli Lilly in 1998 after a career as an immunologist.

Eligibility:

Must be an undergraduate student performing biochemistry-related senior research projects.

How to apply:

Students must be nominated by their research advisor.

2021 Recipient:

Vishnu K. Gorur (Dr. Hong Jin)

Padbury Family Scholarship in Biochemistry

Guy Padbury (PhD, ’88, biochemistry) has over 30 years of experience as a scientist and organizational leader in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Dr. Padbury has contributed to more than 40 successful global drug registrations including small molecule entities and biotherapeutic agents spanning most major therapeutic or disease state areas. He is currently Chief Development Officer at Scorpion Therapeutics. In 2015, the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences presented him with the Alumni Achievement Award.

Eligibility:

Open to current biochemistry undergraduate students who are among the first generation to attend college and those with financial need.

How to apply:

Resume or curriculum vitae; up to a 250-word statement why you should be considered for the Padbury Scholarship; list up to two references with contact information and their relationship to applicant. It is encouraged that at least one reference is a current UIUC campus member (other than Department of Biochemistry academic advisor). As needed, the department will request reference letters.

2021 Recipient:

Kathy De La Torre (Dr. Jodi Flaws)

Cell & Developmental Biology
Awards & Scholarships

Undergraduate Outstanding Research Achievement Award

This award goes to the most outstanding senior thesis as judged by the CDB Distinction Committee.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for consideration, students must earn research-based Distinction or higher from the School of MCB and have conducted their research in the lab of a CDB faculty member.

How to apply:

All students who submit a thesis for Distinction or higher to MCB are automatically considered.

2021 Recipients:

Wiktoria Kowalczyk (Dr. Andrew Belmont) & Toma Tchernodrinski (Dr. Mary Schuler)

Tom and Cynthia Cycyota Research Scholarship

Tom Cycyota (BS, ’80, biology) is president and CEO of AlloSource, which preserves human tissue from generous donors to create transplantable allografts (human-to-human transplants). Under his leadership, AlloSource has become one of the largest and most respected tissue banks in the country. In addition to his Illinois degree, he has an MBA from Loyola University. In 2015, the College of LAS presented him with its Alumni Humanitarian Award. Cyndy Cycyota is a professor of management at the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds three degrees in business: a BS, MBA, and PhD. Prior to academia, she was a manager for two international accounting firms and a bank.

Eligibility:

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipient:

Darya Asoudegi (Dr. Supriya Prasanth)

Roderick MacLeod Award for Academic Excellence

A native of Scotland, the late Roderick MacLeod earned his BSc from the University of Glasgow and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He arrived at the University of Illinois in 1963 and stayed here for 43 years, receiving numerous teaching awards, including the William F. Prokasy Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2002 and the Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2001. He became an emeritus associate professor of cell and structural biology in 2001.

Eligibility:

The award goes to the student who has the highest GPA among those students who received High or Highest Distinction for a senior thesis for research in the lab of a CDB faculty member.

How to apply:

All students who receive high or highest distinction in MCB are automatically eligible.

2021 Recipient:

Toma Tchernodrinski (Dr. Mary Schuler)

Microbiology Scholarships

Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Microbiology Scholarship—Achievement

This scholarship honors Dr. Francis M. Clark and his wife, Harlie M. Clark. Francis Clark joined the Department of Bacteriology (later the Department of Microbiology), as an instructor in 1933, after having completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Illinois. He had a distinguished career, teaching microbiology and conducting research in the microbiology of foods. He also was past president of the Illinois Society for Microbiology.

Eligibility:

Undergraduate students who are graduating in the current year in May after having conducted outstanding undergraduate research continuously (including the summer term prior) in a Department of Microbiology faculty member’s laboratory beginning the prior spring semester, or earlier.

How to apply:

Microbiology faculty are notified annually of the award guidelines. Faculty advisors are to nominate the undergraduate students in their lab and are to submit the required documents in PDF format to the Department of Microbiology office by the requested due date.

2021 Recipients:

Annie Cheung (Dr. Steven Blanke), Rachel Jones (Dr. Steven Blanke)

Dr. Walter A. and Loretta M. Zygmunt Microbiology Scholarship—Summer Research

Presented to outstanding undergraduate students who conduct research in a department laboratory, this award is named after Illinois alumni Walter and Loretta Zygmunt. Walter Zygmunt received his BS in bacteriology, followed by his MS and PhD in microbiology. After earning his PhD in 1950, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry where he was involved in drug regulatory affairs. Loretta Zygmunt received her BS in bacteriology, followed by her MS in microbiology in 1949. She joined Kraft Foods as a research scientist and later worked as a science teacher.

Eligibility:

Undergraduate students who conduct research in a laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and are committed to conducting research during the upcoming summer on a full-time basis from May 16 to August 15. Recipients must be U.S. citizens. Preference given to undergraduate students who graduated from a high school in Illinois or Indiana.

How to apply:

Undergraduate students apply annually via a common application available on the School of MCB Undergraduate Research website.

2021 Recipients:

Jonathan Forrest (Dr. Andrei Kuzminov), James Lopez (Dr. Brenda Wilson), Jillian Maier (Dr. Carin Vanderpool), Olivia Rodriguez (Dr. Steven Blanke)

Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Awards & Scholarships

Howard S. Ducoff Award for Outstanding Senior Thesis

The Howard S. Ducoff Prize for Outstanding Senior Thesis is presented to the graduating senior who has written the best research thesis. A professor of physiology and biophysics, Howard Ducoff joined the university faculty in 1957 and became emeritus professor in 1992. A charter member of the Radiation Research Society, North American Hypothermia Society, and American Society of Cell Biology, he received the Radiation Research Society SIT Excellence in Mentoring Award. He was a mentor and advisor to many graduate students during his time at Illinois.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for consideration, students must earn research-based Distinction from the School of MCB and have conducted their research in an MIP lab.

How to apply:

Students are nominated by their research advisor.

2021 Recipient:

Nathanlown Dang (Dr. Sayeepriyadarshini Anakk)

C. Ladd Prosser Outstanding Achievement Award

The C. Ladd Prosser Outstanding Achievement Award is presented to an undergraduate student in recognition of outstanding performance in research. A member of the Illinois faculty beginning in 1939, C. Ladd Prosser was a professor of zoology and physiology. He chaired the university’s physiology department from 1960-69 and spent his summers working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Among the many awards and honors bestowed upon him, C. Ladd Prosser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for consideration, students must earn research-based Distinction from the School of MCB and have conducted their research in an MIP lab.

How to apply:

Students are nominated by their research advisor.

2021 Recipient:

Eric Shin (Dr. Hee Jung Chung)