LAURELS: Block, Jackson Named 'Distinguished Emeriti'

Photo: Distinguished Emeriti Block and Williams, with campus leaders, posed
Pictured at the awards ceremony, from left: Bill Rains, chair of the Emeriti Association Awards and Recognition Committee; Fred Block, Distinguished Emeritus; William Jackson, Distinguished Emeritus; Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi; and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter.

Quick Summary

  • Michele La Merrill receives Outstanding New Environmental Scientist grant from national institute
  • Jessica Bissett Perea of Native American studies wins fellowship to complete book on ‘Music, Media and Indigenous Self-Determination in Alaska’
  • Meat Lab student team wins top honors, again, in state competition

The Emeriti Association has presented its Distinguished Emeritus Awards for 2016 to Fred Block of sociology and William Jackson of chemistry, recognizing “outstanding scholarly work or service performed since retirement.”

Block has taken his research in a new direction, and his scholarly contributions “have been nothing short of stunning,” his nominator said, while Jackson has not only continued his research but also his commitment to boost diversity in the chemistry ranks.

Block, a political and economic sociologist, took emeritus status in 2010, about a year after he began researching the role of the state and industry in fostering technology innovation. “Block's work on the U.S. innovation system provides powerful documentation of the centrality of the U.S. government's role in moving technologies from the laboratory to the commercial space,” said his nominator, sociology chair Vicki Smith. “Block’s work shows that whether it is computer and information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, clean energy technology or other fields, the public role has been indispensable in supporting the key technological breakthroughs.”

Smith asked: Is there much more a UC Davis emeritus can do to establish his or her reputation as a leader and a global citizen?

“It seems there is,” she said, noting how Block “continued to mentor and serve our students and our faculty, even after retiring.” She said Block has been on the Ph.D. committees of 14 UC Davis students since transitioning to research professor status (chairing or co-chairing four of them).

Chemistry chair Susan M. Kauzlarich nominated Jackson, citing his continued excellence in research and his service to the department and the university.

Jackson has developed novel methods for studying how light affects small molecules that are abundant in the universe, important for understanding comets and planetary atmospheres. He took emeritus status in 2006, and since then he and his collaborators have developed a unique instrument that could open up studies of simple molecules such as nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide in the deep vacuum ultraviolet spectral region, which is critical to our understanding of the chemical processes high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Brainfood Talk

Professor Emeritus William Jackson gives a Brainfood Talk this week on the topic of “Using Photochemistry to Understand Chemical Reactions in the Universe." Brainfood Talks are sponsored by the UC Davis Emeriti Association and the UC Davis Retirees Association.

  • WHEN: 11:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. Thursday, March 10 (talk begins at noon)
  • WHERE: AGR Room, Buehler Alumni Center
  • ADMISSION: Free and open to the public; no preregistration
  • EXTRAS: Coffee, tea and cookies provided; bring your lunch if you wish.

Kauzlarich cited Jackson’s long history in fostering diversity in science, as a founder of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) and service on the first Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering, with a congressional mandate to advise the director of the National Science Foundation.

She said he continues to mentor graduate students and is the principal investigator for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Minority Ph.D. Program that supports underrepresented graduate students in chemistry.

“Since his retirement in 2006, he has worked to increase the minority enrollment in our graduate program from 5 percent to 16 percent,” Kauzlarich wrote. “He has spent a considerable amount of time not only recruiting the students but also mentoring them once they are enrolled in the graduate program. As a result, the retention rate of those students has been much higher than the retention rate of the departmental graduate students.

“Professor Jackson exemplifies the best of our emeritus faculty,” Kauzlarich wrote. “His continued commitment to the department and the university is exemplary and is a model for all us.”


Michele La Merrill, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology, is one of five recipients of an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for research on how substances in the environment could harm human health.

La Merrill will receive more than $1.3 million over five years to explore whether exposure to the pesticide DDT before birth could lead to insulin resistance during childhood. The condition, which can lead to overproduction of insulin by the pancreas and high glucose levels, is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Banned in the U.S. since 1992, DDT is still prevalent in the environment.

The project is based in the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center.


Jessica Bissett Perea, an assistant professor in the Department of Native American Studies, has won a fellowship that she will use to complete her first book, Sound Relations: A History of Music, Media and Indigenous Self-Determination in Alaska. Perea, a native of Alaska who is a registered member of the Knik Tribe, has been at UC Davis since 2013.

The $30,000 career enhancement award for junior faculty is funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and is meant to increase the presence of minority and other faculty members who are committed to breaking down stereotypes and promoting cross-racial understanding in the arts and sciences. The yearlong fellowship allows exceptional junior faculty to work on their research in pursuit of tenure.

Perea, who holds a Ph.D. in musicology from UCLA, is one of only 10 scholars to receive the fellowship and the first from UC Davis. She has been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley and support from the Hellman Fellows Program, the UC Institute for Research in the Arts, the UC Center for New Racial Studies and the UC Davis Humanities Institute.


The UC Davis Meat Lab’s student team has taken top honors in the California Association of Meat Processors collegiate competition for the eighth consecutive year. Five universities competed during the processors’ annual convention, held in February at California State University, Chico.

In each year’s competition, the students all prepare the same meat product — this year it was fresh sausage made with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which just happens to come from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in the competition’s host city.

UC Davis students took first and third place: Dennelle Flake, grand champion, for her “Bangkok Banger”; and Lauren Eis, champion, for her “Deconstructed Beer Sausage.” The UC Davis team also scored the most points, securing the Norm Eggen Award for the fourth time in four years (ever since the award was introduced).

Also, Krista Leili-Marrazzo became the third UC Davis student in five years to win the CAMP Scholarship.

In the commercial division, for meat processing professionals from around the state, UC Davis students won champion honors for two meats: bacon, made by Esteban Aleman; and “Merguez Style Sausage with Spinach and Feta,” made by Miguel Guillen in the fresh sausage category.

“We are very proud of all our students and their accomplishments,” said Caleb Sehnert, Meat Lab manager and team advisor. “But we are most proud of our champion bacon in one of the most competitive categories.”

Sehnert forms a new team annually from among the Meat Lab’s student employees — each of whom must have completed the small-plant operations course (Animal Science 49G) that he teaches, and completed an internship.

 Meat Lab team, holding plaques, posed
Meat Lab champions, from left, Lauren Eis, Erin Brown, Esteban Aleman, Caleb Sehnert (advisor), Dennell Flake, Krista Leilin-Marrazo and Miguel Guillen.


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