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Marine Biologist Awarded Prestigious GuggenheimFellowship

April 7, 2011
Medina is first UC Merced professor to receive the fellowship, whose recipients have included many Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning scholars, artists and scientists in its 87-year history

Mónica Medina, a biology professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced, has been awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced today.

Medina is among a diverse group of 180 scholars, artists and scientists to receive the fellowship this year, the 87th year of the competition for the United States and Canada — and one of just three in the field of organismic biology and ecology. The fellows were chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants, based on prior achievement and exceptional promise.

“I am deeply touched by the recognition,” said Medina, the first UC Merced professor to receive the fellowship. “The Guggenheim is a fellowship of long tradition, and many of its fellows have moved on to do really great things. I feel extremely fortunate to have been invited to be one of them.”

The fellowship will allow Medina to apply systems biology theory — which she studies, using the relationship between coral and algae as a model — to symbiosis in general. She will collaborate on the project with two internationally prominent scientists: Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, a coral reef ecophysiologist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Hiroaki Kitano, a systems biologist from the Systems Biology Institute in Tokyo.

Medina has fast become one of UC Merced’s most decorated researchers. In 2007, she won the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. And in 2008, she won the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. She recently published a study that showed coral genomes differ depending on their geographic location and that they may be adaptive enough to cope with changing environmental conditions.

“I am so pleased that Professor Medina has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship,” said Mike Colvin, interim dean of UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences. “It is a fitting tribute to the quality and importance of her research and an endorsement of her exceptional promise for future accomplishment. The entire campus should be proud to see a UC Merced faculty member recognized among the very top scholars nationwide.”

According to the foundation, 62 disciplines and 74 different academic institutions are represented by this year’s Guggenheim Fellows. Since its establishment in 1925, the foundation has granted nearly $290 million in fellowships to more than 17,000 individuals, including many Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners.