Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 4:05 pm | A Few Clouds 68º


UCSB Announces Winners of Thomas Storke, Other Top Prizes

For their scholastic achievement, their extraordinary service to the university and the community, and their personal courage and persistence, three graduating seniors at UCSB have been named winners of the university’s top awards.

• Yuncheng (Stephen) Chih, of San Diego, is the recipient of the Thomas More Storke Award for Excellence, the campus’s highest student honor, for outstanding scholarship and extraordinary service to the university, its students and the community.

• Christian Ortiz Gonzalez, of Paramount, is the recipient of the Jeremy D. Friedman Memorial Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership, superior scholarship and contributions to undergraduate life on campus.

• Cynthia Marin is the recipient of the Alyce Marita Whitted Memorial Award, which recognizes a nontraditional student’s endurance, persistence and courage in the face of extraordinary challenges while pursuing an academic degree.

These and other student award winners will be honored at a University Awards Ceremony and Reception, 3:30-6 p.m. Friday, June 15, in the campus’s Corwin Pavilion.

The 2018 recipient of the Mortar Board Award, which is given in recognition of having earned the highest cumulative GPA of the graduating class, will be announced at the ceremony.

Chih, winner of the Storke Award, also will be honored at the Humanities and Fine Arts commencement, 1 p.m. Sunday, June 17, on the Commencement Green.

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in cell and developmental biology and a minor in music (cello), Chih’s academic achievements at UCSB have made him what his nominators say is among the most accomplished students they have ever seen.

One of his nominators, Stuart Feinstein, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and co-director of the Neuroscience Research Institute, said Chih’s GPA of 3.99 includes just one A-, with the rest being grades of A+ and A.

Chih’s coursework included some of the most rigorous classes at the university, including six quarters of honors organic chemistry, physics, upper-division genetics and a cancer/oncogenesis course.

“This is nothing short of phenomenal,” Feinstein wrote in his nomination.

Another of Chih’s nominators, Kathleen Foltz, an associate professor in MCDB and interim dean of the College of Creative Studies, said one the most impressive aspects of Chih’s time at UCSB was working in both her and Feinstein’s labs researching the anti-cancer drug eribulin and its interactions with urchin and mammalian cells.

Chih later picked up a second project in the Feinstein Lab focused on how the protein tau affects microtubules during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Both Feinstein and Foltz said they expect him to be a co-author on a peer-reviewed paper on that research.

Chih, who plans to attend medical school and become a physician/scientist, came to the U.S. from Taiwan at age 16.

He has excelled as a mentor to other students as well, serving as a peer adviser, a tutor in the campus’s Campus Learning Assistance Services, and as a learning assistant in chemistry and MCDB courses.

Outside the university, Chih serves in the Santa Barbara-based Doctors Without Walls, which provides health service and more to the homeless.

“Stephen is the real deal. He is well-rounded, smart, has a great sense of humor and is very kind,” Foltz said.

Friedman Award recipient Ortiz Gonzalez, a fourth-year undergraduate double majoring in sociology and German, became an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) peer advisor shortly after arriving at UCSB.

Noticing a need to destigmatize mental health issues among first-generation and low-income student, he created a pilot program that allowed EOP students to receive help in a comfortable environment.

In his time at UCSB Ortiz Gonzalez has served as a career peer, a community service officer, a Student Resource Building Governance Board secretary, and as vice president of Theta Nu Kappa Multicultural and Academic Fraternity.

In his third year, he was selected for the prestigious Goodspeed internship in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. As the Goodspeed intern, Ortiz Gonzalez served in a number of leadership roles. He also led the Student Affairs Council.

In recent weeks, Ortiz Gonzalez achieved a major goal: UCSB’s convenience stores will now accept CalFresh, known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Discovering that many students struggling with food security were eligible for CalFresh, he worked closely with campus administrators to bring the program to UCSB.

After graduation, Ortiz Gonzalez plans to study in Berlin, Germany, and pursue a career in higher education. Marin, winner of the Whitted Award, will graduate with a degree in theater, with an emphasis in costume design.

— Jim Logan for UCSB.


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