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Grants, Accolades and Awards

Professor Colleen Naughton has been awarded the 2021 Grand Prize in University Research by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES). Naughton’s lab created an online dashboard titled “COVIDPoops19” to plot the location of global wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 during the pandemic. With the help of graduate and undergraduate students, Naughton's team scanned Twitter, publications, news articles and webinars to find the latest information on testing results. The dashboard was made possible through an emergency seed grant from CITRIS and now a sub-award from Michigan State University as part of a global data center for COVID-19 wastewater monitoring.

Ph.D. student Deseret Weeks was recently awarded a California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program fellowship for her MIST Management of Complex Systems studies offered by the Ernest & Julio Gallo Management Program.

“Deseret has been actively engaged in sustainability research on campus since arriving at UC Merced in fall of 2019,” her advisor Professor Catherine Keske said. “I’m proud of her scholarly growth and promise as an academic which is being recognized as a recipient of this fellowship.”

Acceptance into the program is a rigorous, competitive process. The fellowship award is intended to create a pathway to tenure-track faculty positions within the CSU system while providing important connections between the CSU and University of California campuses.

Weeks and other fellows will receive support throughout their Ph.D. in the form of professional development and mentorship, grants and forgivable loans. Fellows also have the opportunity to take part in the CSU Pre-Professor Program which includes a semester-long immersive teaching opportunity for doctoral students and post-doctoral students at a CSU.

Cognitive and Information Sciences graduate student Ketika Garg is the recipient of the 2021-2022 UC Guru Gobind Singh Fellowship. Each UC campus is invited to nominate a graduate student from a specific area of India and Pakistan to compete in a systemwide competition. The fellowship provides $30,000 in support.

“I am very grateful and honored to have received this award that was established in the name of a great spiritual leader to help out Indian students who are not eligible to apply for most of the funding opportunities available to U.S. citizens,” Garg said. “I feel very lucky to have been eligible for this fellowship and I hope that other international students can get similar opportunities in the future.”

The fourth-year Ph.D. student joined UC Merced in Fall 2017 after completing a master’s in biology in India. ​Her research interests include anthropology, evolutionary biology and human cognition, and she is studying human foraging patterns and their cognitive basis.

Third-year Ph.D. student Brittany Lopez Barreto has been named a NASA Future Investigator in Earth Space Science and Technology, known as the NASA FINESST program. Her proposal on wildfire and water supply was selected from 835 highly competitive proposals, 351 of which were in Earth Science. The program provides three-year research grants to graduate students who design and perform projects relevant to NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lopez Barreto is a first-generation Latina studying under Professor Erin Hestir in the Earth Observation and Remote Sensing Lab.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate student Haoyu Niu is one of 24 scientists selected for this year's Bayer Grants4Ag program. He beat out over 600 proposals from around the world.

Parasitic nematodes can cause up to 20 percent of annual yield losses for walnut growers. But Niu is aiming to curb those losses through the early detection of nematode infestations with Scio, combining cutting-edge field devices with machine learning algorithms.

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Political Science Professor Jessica Trounstine’s book, Segregation By Design, is the basis for a new initiative by the Association of Bay Area Governments/Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Trounstine and her research team will assess and catalog data in each of the 109 jurisdictions to develop metrics that identify politicies likely to have contributed to housing segregation and availability. This research will help tell the story of housing inequity for Bay Area jurisdictions as they revise their Housing Elements for AB-686.The work is facilitated through STIR Labs, a national applied research program funded by the National Science Foundation which connects governments and academic teams to co-develop and apply research that offer solutions to the critical issues that communities face. 

Sociology Professor Charlie Eaton and three graduate students recently submitted a winning entry in the Dignity and Debt Student Loan Data Visualization Contest. The contest, conducted through Princeton University’s VizE Lab, was created to pursue the potential in visualization in helping to solve the student loan debt crisis. The lab teamed up with the Dignity+Debt Network to call for data visualizations, maps, or short documentary films and photography that portray student loan debt. Eaton worked with graduate students Jay Colond, Luis Ruben Gonzalez, and Waleed Rajabally to produce the winning piece titled “Student Debt and the Hidden Racial Wealth Gap in Federal Aid Formulas”, which can be viewed here.

Sociology Professor Stephanie Canizales is a 2020 recipient of the American Sociology Association's Community Action Research Initiative grant award. Canizales' research is focused on migration and immigrant integration, children and youth, inequality, poverty, mobility, and race and ethnicity. She will use the award to interrogate the effects the converging refugee and health crises on legal, educational, health, and social service providers' lives. Canizales has partnered with Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, a Los Angeles-based organization to more clearly understand the impact of these crises and government responses to them on the work dynamics, practices, attitudes, and overall well-being among service providers working with asylum-seeking Central American children, families, and communities.

Web of Science has named Psychological Sciences Professor Martin Hagger as a Highly Cited Researcher, which places him in the top one percent of researchers worldwide by citations. His work focuses on the nature of self-control and behavior change interventions. His research also identifies the psychological factors such as motivation, planning and habits that are linked to people’s health behavior, and how this information can be used to change people’s behavior. He was also recently ranked the 28th most-influential researcher in the field of Sport Sciences in a recently published study in PLOS Biology.

Sociology Professor Whitney Pirtle has been awarded the 2020 A. Wade Smith award by the Association of Black Sociologists. Established in 1998, this award honors A. Wade Smith’s tireless work as an advocate for racial justice and rising scholars in the field. Pirtle, who was nominated by her students, was recognized for excellence in teaching, mentorship and service to the study of sociology.

Soil biogeochemistry Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe has been elected to be a fellow in the Geological Society of America. As 2019's recipient of the GSA's Randolph W. "Bill" and Cecile T. Bromery Award for the Minorities, her fellowship this year was guaranteed. Berhe has often been recognized for her outstanding contributions to the geosciences through scholarly productivity, her scientific advances on soil carbon cycling and her work to broaden the participation of underserved and marginalized geoscientists.

Social psychology Professor Jenny Howell has been named a distinguished young alumna by her alma mater, Southwestern University in Texas. The awards are only given to one or two alumni annually.

Professor YangQuan Chen has been listed among the world’s most influential researchers by the Web of Science Group, which recognizes researchers most frequently cited by their peers. In 2019, fewer than 6,300, or 0.1 percent, of the world's researchers across 21 fields, earned this distinction. Chen researches unmanned aerial systems (drones), mechatronics, control systems, cyber-physical systems and applied fractional calculus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering. He is the second faculty member in his school to earn this distinction.

For the second consecutive year, Professor Ming-Hsuan Yang has been named one of the world’s most influential researchers by the Web of Science Group, which recognizes researchers most frequently cited by their peers. In 2019, fewer than 6,300, or 0.1 percent, of the world's researchers across 21 fields, earned this distinction. Yang researches computer vision, pattern recognition and machine learning in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering.

Economics Professor Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes won the American Society of Hispanic Economists’ 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award, recognized for both her important and prolific research on issues that affect Latinx communities in the United States and the essential role she has played in promoting the vitality of Latinx economists through her coauthoring and mentoring.

Christina Lux, associate director of the Center for the Humanities, has been awarded Honorable Mention for Best Paper of the Year from the Ecological Society of America ’s Education Section. Lux was part of an interdisciplinary and multi-university team of collaborators who wrote a Bioscience article titled “Poetry as a Creative Practice to Enhance Engagement and Learning in Conservation Science.” The piece, which draws upon peer-reviewed literature, explores the benefits of integrating science and poetry to further conservation scientists’ creative practices.

Sociology Professor Tanya Golash-Boza has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for her project "Prisoner Re-Entry and Gentrification." With this funding, Golash-Boza will explore how gentrified and diverse neighborhoods help or hinder prisoners' reintegration into society. Focusing on her hometown of Washington, D.C., Golash-Boza aims to develop an understanding of barriers the formerly incarcerated face to better inform policy for reintegration and reduce individuals' odds of returning to prison.

Political Science Professor Jessica Trounstine's book "Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities" has been recognized with two American Political Science Association (APSA) section book awards. The book was awarded the J. David Greenstone Book Prize from the Politics and History Section, as well as the Best Book in Race, Ethnicity, and Urban Politics from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics section. In "Segregation by Design," Trounstine explores more than 100 years’ worth of data from thousands of American cities to understand how local governments generate race and class segregation within and between cities, often at the expense of people of color and the poor in order to enhance the wealth and resources of white property owners.


The Geological Society of America (GSA) named Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe the winner of this year’s Randolph W. "Bill" and Cecile T. Bromery Award for the Minorities for her internationally recognized outstanding contributions to the geosciences through impressive scholarly productivity, scientific advances on erosion and fire effects on soil carbon cycling, professional service and leadership, mentoring and training of a diverse team of early career professionals, and broadening participation of underserved and marginalized geoscientists. The GSA recognizes outstanding scientific achievement and distinguished service to the profession each year at its Annual Meeting & Exposition, which is scheduled for late September in Phoenix.

Professor Ahmed Sabbir Arif and his co-investigators received the Michael A. J. Sweeney Award for the Best Student Paper at the 45th annual Conference on Computer Graphics, Visualization and Human-Computer Interaction (GI 2019) , May 28–31, 2019, in Ontario, Canada. His paper, WiseType: A Tablet Keyboard with Color-Coded Visualization and Various Editing Options for Error Correction, presents a novel virtual keyboard. 

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded molecular cell biology Professor Nestor J. Oviedo and his lab $307,432 for one year to study the effects of direct-current stimulation in adult tissues.

The National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, has granted psychology Professor Sidra Goldman-Mellor $448,563 for three years to use California emergency department patient data to examine how suicidal behavior in adolescence affect teens' long-term risks for health problems and healthcare utilization.

UC Merced professor Ming-Hsuan Yang, in the School of Engineering’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program has received the AMiner Most Influential Scholar Annual Award in recognition of his “outstanding and vibrant contributions to the field of Computer Vision.” The award names the world's top-cited research scholars from the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and recognizes outstanding technical achievements with lasting contribution and impact to the research community.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate student Thomas Thayer presented won the best paper award at the IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE) for his paper “Multi-Robot Routing Algorithms for Robots Operating in Vineyards,” that focuses on RAPID (Robot Assisted Precision Irrigation Delivery), a scalable irrigation management solution that aims to help vine growers with water conservation efforts while improving yield and quality. 

Political science Professor Alexander Theodoridis has been awarded the Society for Political Methodology’s 2019 Miller Prize for the best paper in the influential journal Political Analysis with his paper "Worth Weighting? How to Think About and Use Weights in Survey Experiments."