UC Riverside Academic Senate

Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research is given annually to two graduating seniors who have conducted outstanding research or creative work and to two faculty members with a distinguished record of fostering undergraduate research or creative activity.

2015 – 16 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research Recipients

Ludwig Bartel

In the 16 years since his hiring at UCR Dr. Bartels has mentored close to a hundred undergraduate research students from three colleges and eight departments. Dr. Bartels has developed and supervises the NSF funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site (called MacREU), which supports research experiences for an additional 15 students each summer (mostly from Southern California Community Colleges or California State Universities). Dr. Bartels is willing to accept students into his research group with less than stellar GPAs and those same students show notable improvement while they are being mentored by him. Dr. Bartels has also made student diversity a hallmark of his undergraduate research mentoring effort. 40% of the undergraduate students that Dr. Bartels has mentored since 2010 belong to underrepresented groups, the majority being Hispanic. A nominator writes, “As a first generation Hispanic, my parents had considered attending a university to be a grand achievement, and I often saw it as a ceiling to my education until Dr. Bartels told me that I was capable continuing”. Most of Dr. Bartels’ publications since joining UCR have undergraduate co-authors, including one who earned first-authorship on an article in Science, one of the most prestigious journals (now at 200 citations). It is noteworthy that five of the six peer-reviewed articles that Dr. Bartels published in 2015 had UCR undergraduate student co-authors. Dr. Bartels’ undergraduate mentees present their research at conferences, and earn awards locally and in national competition. A nominator writes “I was treated equivalent to a full time graduate student and I felt obligated, as well as empowered, to pull my weight and perform well”. Undergraduate researchers from Bartels’ group proceed to graduate programs in the sciences and engineering or to medical school, and some have founded their own companies. A nominator writes “Working in Dr. Bartels lab made me realize how much I enjoyed research and made me want to take my education to the next level”. In the past three years, four of Dr. Bartels undergraduate research mentees obtained NSF graduate research fellowships based on their work with him.

Katherine Sweeny

Katharine Sweeny

Katharine Sweeny

Professor Sweeny has mentored well over 300 undergraduate students in the less than 8 years at UCR. The research assistants in her lab are highly diverse, with over 80% consisting of underrepresented minorities and, separately considered, over 75% women. Her involvement with her students is deep and very time consuming. She treats her most committed and capable undergraduate researchers much like graduate students, with many one-on-one meetings and hands-on training in asking good research questions, designing unambiguously interpretable studies, analyzing the data, interpreting results, and writing the studies up in publication format. A nominator writes “Dr. Sweeny had never recommended I simply mimic the formatting of successful publications, but instead taught me the structural framework of professional writing and worked closely with me to integrate it into my own work”. Another nominator writes, “her teaching style is unique and integrates both a ‘hands-on’ approach while also providing significant room to understand and learn the methodology of research through trial and exploration.” Dr. Sweeny has mentored seven Honors capstone projects and has been the secondary advisor for an additional 10 Honors capstone projects. She also supervised two senior theses, as well as was the mentor for three students in UCR’s Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program (MSRIP). Professor Sweeny also supervised three Undergraduates in the Community projects, and eight students employed as interns for psychology department course credit. Two of her students have presented papers at national or international scientific conferences, two have presented at the annual UCLA Psychology Undergraduate conference, and six have published in the UCR Undergraduate Research Journal. Additionally, two of her mentees are co-authors on papers that have been submitted for publication in major research journals. Two of her mentees have received Chancellor’s Research Fellowships and another received the Chancellor’s award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. Many of her students have benefited markedly from Dr. Sweeny’s mentoring, and for several it has been life-changing. A nominator writes, “Dr. Sweeny has been an amazing mentor who has seen potential within me and her students, providing opportunities for us to find it within ourselves. Through her dedication and high standards of excellence, I believe she will continue to mentor, enrich, and inspire the students of today, cultivating the researchers, writers, and professionals of tomorrow.” Several of Dr. Sweeny’s undergraduate researchers proceed to graduate school, law school, or medical school.

Carlos Rodriguez

Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Carlos Rodriguez is incredibly smart with mind and hands naturally knowing how to do research. He won the CEE10 (a Chemical Engineering Introduction course) project competition - to hold a can of soda as high as possible using 80 drinking straws and a roll of tape. CEE10 has this competition every year, and he broke the record by basically improving it from 2 feet to 5 feet! Mr. Rodriguez out-stands from his peers clearly - not only by his high GPA but also his clear mind for his future - a scientist in the field of biomedical engineering. As a freshman and sophomore, Mr. Rodriguez has put countless hours in Professor Xin Ge’s lab to quickly learn research techniques and understand how to design experiments more logically. He is always eager to learn more and willing to dedicate his time on research. He is a solid bench researcher and delivers reliable results. Additionally, Mr. Rodriguez was assigned an independent project, which is very uncommon for undergraduate researchers. The project is about how to improve the production of an inhibitory antibody fragment which targets at a cancer-associated protease, and this has significant biomedical potential. Alongside his research he helps PhD students and plans to submit, with Professor Ge, the manuscript of his research for publication at a major research journal. Mr. Rodriguez has also been the recipient of NASA California Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Fellowship (twice) and Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) Undergraduate Research Fellowship (twice). Mr. Rodriguez has already been admitted to graduate programs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Kentucky, and Keck Graduate Institute.

Brandon Tran


Brandon Tran first stood out due to his top performance in his social psychology courses. Mr. Tran possesses an incredible sense of purpose and passion for understanding research in psychology. He took part in the Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program (MSRIP), producing a paper and presentation as the culmination of his MSRIP experience. His paper was ultimately developed into a manuscript that is now under review (following a very positive set of reviews) at a top health psychology journal, and Mr. Tran is second author (of seven authors total) on the submission. Mr. Tran also published this work in the UCR Undergraduate Research Journal, in which submissions undergo a rigorous faculty-guided peer-review process. He continues to work in Professor Kate Sweeny’s lab as a researcher and lab manager. After winning the highly competitive Chancellor’s Research Fellowship Mr. Tran began working on a project that has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of physician-patient communication. He is examining surgeons’ use of medical jargon (in contrast to their use of plain health-related language that patients can easily understand) as predicted by patient characteristics and as a predictor of patient outcomes. This project will serve as his second Honors thesis. Mr. Tran is in the process of applying to doctoral programs in social and health psychology and has already been offered a position in Professor Sweeny’s lab.

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