University of California, Davis: Donors Support 12 New Chancellor’s Fellows

UC Davis has named a new class of Chancellor’s Fellows — faculty members who will carry the chancellor’s imprimatur for five years in recognition of their outstanding work in academia.

“These 12 newest fellows represent our university at its very best,” Chancellor Gary S. May said. “They are now part of a proud 22-year history for the Chancellor’s Fellows program. These fellows are making advances that help solve complex and critical issues, while also helping our students become critical thinkers and problem-solvers.”

UC Davis has designated 178 Chancellor’s Fellows since 2000. For all that time, the UC Davis Annual Fund, Davis Chancellor’s Club and the UC Davis Parents Fund have provided unrestricted philanthropic support to each of the fellows for research or other scholarly work.

“We are so grateful for donor support of the Chancellor’s Fellows,” said Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of Development and Alumni Relations. “This program gives our faculty the resources to conduct innovative research that helps UC Davis make even greater contributions to the world.”

The 2021-22 Chancellor’s Fellows, each of whom has been awarded $25,000, are listed here with their department or school in parentheses: John Albeck (molecular and cellular biology), Ching-Hsien Chen (internal medicine), Gerardo Con Diaz (science and technology studies), Carrie Finno (veterinary medicine), Evgeny “Eugene” Gorskiy (mathematics), Michele La Merrill (environmental toxicology), Marina S. Leite (materials science and engineering), Barbara Linke (mechanical and aerospace engineering), Gerardo Mackenzie (nutrition), Danny C. Martinez (education), Mijke Rhemtulla (psychology) and Jaroslav Trnka (physics and astronomy).

Read more about each fellow and their research interests in the boxes below. Click on any of the boxes to see the fellow’s faculty page.

John Albeck
Associate professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences

His research explores the mechanisms of cellular signaling in the cells of mammals, with a focus on how signaling and metabolism are intertwined in normal cells and in those with diseases, especially cancer. Among peer researchers and colleagues, he is regarded as a leader in the emerging field of single-cell systems biology, and his work has provided a framework to explain how tumor cells respond to their microenvironment, which may lead to more effective therapeutic strategies.

“In every regard, Dr. Albeck represents the best of what UC Davis stands for and we couldn’t be prouder of his achievements.” — Jodi Nunnari, Distinguished Professor and chair emerita, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, UC Davis

Ching-Hsien Chen
Associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine; and Comprehensive Cancer Center, UC Davis Health

As a researcher, she has a passion for understanding and improving the treatment of cancer and fibrosis. She has been successful in developing robust and productive research programs to discover useful, novel biomarkers for several key molecular complexes associated with oncogenesis and fibrogenesis. These biomarkers are developed with the goal to predict treatment outcomes of patients undergoing clinical trials with combined inhibitors specifically targeting aberrant oncogenic signaling.

“She is one of the most dedicated young ‘true scientists’ that I have known at UC Davis based on direct observations of her time at bench science, her scientific production, and her effectiveness with collaborative investigators and mentees.” — Carroll E. Cross, Distinguished Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology, School of Medicine, UC Davis

Gerardo Con Diaz
Associate professor, Science and Technology Studies, College of Letters and Science

He studies how law and policy shape the digital world. His research examines the history of computing and the role of intellectual property law in forming digital technologies. He is the author of the prize-winning book Software Rights: How Patent Law Transformed Software Development in America. He is currently at work on a book about copyright in the internet era.

“Professor Con Diaz is a veritable force of nature as a scholar, teacher and innovator.” — Estella A. Atekwana, dean, College of Letters and Science, UC Davis

Carrie Finno
Associate professor, Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine

She is an equine internal medicine specialist and veterinary geneticist, and also serves as the director of the Center for Equine Health. Her research focuses on companion animal genetics, particularly the genetic and environmental risk factors associated with equine neuromuscular diseases. She is currently testing whether early long-term vitamin E intervention might slow or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Most impressive is her translation of discoveries from genomic studies of vitamin E deficiency in horses to a novel hypothesis, which if borne out by experimentation, would represent a potential low-cost, low-regret therapeutic strategy for mitigating a devastating human disease for which there is currently no treatment to slow or prevent its progression.” — Pamela Lein, chair, Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis

Evgeny “Eugene” Gorskiy headshot
Evgeny “Eugene” Gorskiy
Professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Letters and Science

His work crosses multiple fields of mathematics. As a doctoral student at Moscow State University, he applied tools from algebraic geometry, which deals with curves and parabolas, to knot theory, which studies how curves can be tangled or untangled by crossing over each other. Knot theory can be used to describe a wide variety of natural phenomena, from the paths of subatomic particles or how DNA is packaged in a cell to the shapes of solar flares.

“In his work, Professor Gorskiy typically combines techniques from two or more areas in novel ways. It has enabled him to obtain results that push mathematics forward in new directions.” — Estella Atekwana, dean, College of Letters and Science, UC Davis

Michele La Merrill
Associate professor, Department of Environmental Toxicology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

A toxicologist who is also affiliated with the Genome Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Environmental Health Center, she addresses how environmental exposure to chemicals during key developmental stages can impact people’s risk for metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, and cancer. Her innovative approach combining human epidemiology, animal models and cell culture has produced valuable findings about endocrine-disrupting chemicals and the factors that increase people’s vulnerabilities to them.

“The field of environmental toxicology has already been greatly enriched by this young scientist, because of her intellect, but also her courage, tenacity and concern for the public health implications of her research and the research of others.” — Barbara Cohn, director and senior research scientist, Child Health and Development Studies, Public Health Institute

Marina S. Leite
Associate professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

She is internationally known for her research on functional materials for applications ranging from solar cells to photonics. Her group is particularly interested in identifying and controlling the physical and chemical phenomena that lead to degradation in perovskites, a promising class of highly efficient photovoltaic materials, which convert light into energy. They also exploit novel materials to further control the electromagnetic spectrum, which could have implications ranging from color displays to space exploration to photocatalysis and other clean energy technologies.

“I believe that Marina is perhaps the best and the brightest of the young generation of scientists exploring the local origins of photovoltaic and photonic phenomena in solids, elegantly combining material synthesis, local probe methods, and theory.” — Sergei Kalinin, corporate fellow, group leader for the Data NanoAnalytics Group in the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Barbara Linke
Associate professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering

She is known for her work in green and energy-efficient manufacturing and abrasive machining processes. To make product design and manufacturing more sustainable, her lab studies concepts of sustainable and smart manufacturing, physical principles of manufacturing processes like grinding, milling and three-dimensional printing, and part quality, which includes distortion, surface integrity and 3D surface topography.

“Barbara always motivates, inspires and creates an encouraging environment for her students to grow professionally, and her enthusiasm and love for teaching is contagious. … She is always supportive, helpful and constantly challenges her students to think more deeply and to explore different perspectives.” — Jayanti Das, former Ph.D. student

Gerardo Mackenzie
Associate professor, Department of Nutrition, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

A nutritional biochemist, he researches the role of diet and lifestyle in cancer development and prevention. He explores dietary interventions, such as the ketogenic diet that has gained attention for its anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory potential in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy as a novel treatment for pancreatic cancer. He also looks at the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the link between obesity, inflammation and cancer.

“All aspects of Dr. Mackenzie’s academic record at UC Davis demonstrate exemplary contributions to creative scholarship, service, teaching and mentoring, and particularly a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion for all students.” — Helene Dillard, dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

Danny C. Martinez
Associate professor, School of Education

He researches the education, linguistic experiences and broader identities of Black, Latinx and other nondominant youth. His work documents — largely through ethnographic methods — linguistic practices in schools, teacher reflexivity and youth communication. His exceptional work has advanced goals and practices aimed at increasing diversity and equity at multiple levels.

“Professor Martinez is an incredibly productive scholar pushing the boundaries of his field, and a skilled teacher with a strong commitment to service and to diversity.” — Michal Kurlaender, department chair and professor of education policy, School of Education, UC Davis

Mijke Rhemtulla
Associate professor, Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Science

A quantitative psychologist, she studies the interface between psychological research questions and the statistical models that are used to answer them. Her work examines how observed measurements of psychological concepts can be linked to statistical representations of those concepts, and what goes wrong when popular methods are applied incorrectly.

“Professor Rhemtulla has developed an innovative and impactful research program and has an outstanding publication record. She is an effective and involved teacher and mentor and is a generous and committed citizen of our department, the campus and her field.” — Estella A. Atekwana, dean, college of Letters and Science, UC Davis

Jaroslav Trnka
Associate professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Letters and Science

He specializes in elegant geometries that help us understand interactions between elementary (subatomic) particles — such as quarks and the Higgs boson — that are the building blocks of everything in nature. His work focuses on scattering amplitudes, a type of mathematical object for computing the probabilities that different particles will interact. The results give theoretical predictions for the results of real-world experiments such as those at the Large Hadron Collider.

“It is very rare to have contributed in such a ground-breaking manner so early in a theoretical physics research career.” — Estella Atekwana, dean, College of Letters and Science, UC Davis

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