LAURELS: Harris Lewin Receives Lowell Thomas Award

And the UC Davis Law Review Breaks Into the Top 20

Harris Lewin, UC Davis faculty, portrait
Distinguished Professor Emeritus Harris Lewin serves as chair of the Earth Biogenome Project.



  • Harris Lewin, College of Biological Sciences
  • Ryosuke Motani, College of Letters and Science
  • Gregory Clark, College of Letters and Science
  • Alan M. Taylor, College of Letters and Science
  • Paul Rhode, alumnus, College of Letters and Science
  • UC Davis Law Review, School of Law
  • Sergey Stavisky, School of Medicine

The international Explorers Club recently honored UC Davis’ Harris Lewin for his work with the Earth BioGenome Project, presenting him with a Lowell Thomas Award, named after the famed explorer and broadcast journalist.

The club, which has provided financial backing to scientific expeditions of all kinds for more than half a century, gave seven Thomas awards for 2022 — all for excellence in conservation genetics. The club had asked for nominations of scientists who are “probing the very DNA of life to better understand how it all works, and how migrations, populations and adaptive genetic mechanisms can be managed to contain or even reverse some of these changes — so we maintain the adaptive genetic potential of the world’s organisms.

Lewin is a distinguished professor emeritus of evolution and ecology and a former vice chancellor of research at UC Davis. He has held joint appointments in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, School of Veterinary Medicine and John Muir Institute.

He has studied mammalian genome evolution as it relates to adaptation, speciation and the origins of cancer, and today serves as chair of the Earth BioGenome Project, a working group that aims to sequence, catalog and characterize the genomes of all of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity over 10 years.

Past recipients of the Lowell Thomas Award include Carl Sagan (1980), (1989), Jean-Michel Cousteau (2000) and Sir David Attenborough (2012).

Ryosuke Motani, UC Davis faculty, headshot
Ryosuke Motani

Professor Ryosuke Motani, a vertebrate paleobiologist/evolutionary biologist, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is among the California Academy of Sciences’ 2022 class of fellows.

The academy named a total of 11 new fellows in an announcement Monday (Oct. 10) and will recognize them during an annual gathering tonight (Oct. 11), to be held remotely.

Academy fellows comprise a governing group of more than 450 distinguished scientists and other leaders who have made notable contributions to science or science education and communication. Nominated by their colleagues and selected by the board of trustees, the fellows are partners and collaborators in the pursuit of the academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning and collaboration.

Motani’s major research focus, according to his faculty page, is on the use of physics-based functional morphology to probe physical constraints behind the evolution of animal shapes. Questions along this line include: What made tunas, lamnid sharks, cetaceans and ichthyosaurs all look similar in silhouette; what constraints were behind the long necks of elasmosaurs (long-necked plesiosaurs)?

Complementary research topics cover phylogenetics, systematics and their integration with physical functional morphology.

Gregory Clark and Alan M. Taylor, UC Davis faculty, headshots
Gregory Clark, left, and Alan M. Taylor

The Economic History Association recognized two faculty members and an alumnus of the Department of Economics, College of Letters and Science, with a spate of honors during the association’s annual meeting, held last month in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Distinguished Professor Gregory Clark received the annual Jonathan Hughes Prize of $1,200 for excellence in teaching, in Clark’s case for his work with graduate students as a teacher and advisor at UC Davis, and as an organizer of an annual all-UC conference for graduate students to present their dissertation research.

In addition, the association announced Clark’s election to the Society of Fellows, in recognition of substantial scholarly contributions to the field of economic history. Only two fellows can be elected each year.

The association named Distinguished Professor Alan M. Taylor as the recipient of the Engerman-Goldin Prize, awarded every other year since 2018 to an economic historian for creating, compiling and sharing data and information with other scholars.

Taylor, along with UC Davis economics professor Òscar Jordà and Moritz Schularick of the University of Bonn, created over the past several years a macro-finance database stretching from 1870 to the present for 17 countries. The database is widely used for the analysis of business cycles, credit booms, financial crises, asset prices and other important topics in economics.

The other newly elected fellow is UC Davis alumnus and University of Michigan economics professor Paul Rhode, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics at UC Davis in 1982.

Clark is the third UC Davis economics faculty member to be named to the 39-member Economic History Association’s Society of Fellows. The others are Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter Lindert and Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus Alan Olmstead, both elected in 2019.

Clark and colleagues will co-host the association’s 2024 meeting in Sacramento.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist, College of Letters and Science

"Graphic: "UC Davis Law Review" with UC Davis seal (gold)

The UC Davis Law Review moved up eight spots year over year to crack the top 20 for the first time in the influential Washington and Lee Law Journal Rankings of U.S. journals, coming in at No. 19 in the 2021 rankings released this summer.

Among public university law reviews, the UC Davis journal came in sixth, up two spots from 2020. Closely watched by legal scholars, the list helps determine the most attractive publications for article submissions. 

The rankings are based on the previous five years’ of citation data — the number of times a journal is cited in a court case or in other journal articles. The Washington and Lee rankings comprise the top 400 U.S.-published law journals and the top 100 law journals published outside the United States.

Sergey Stavisky headshot, UC Davis faculty
Sergey Stavisky

Sergey Stavisky, UC Davis Health neuroscientist and neuroengineer who is developing brain-computer interfaces to restore people’s ability to speak, is racking up innovation awards.

The National Institutes of Health announced Oct. 4 that Stavisky, assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine, and co-director of the UC Davis Neuroprosthetics Lab, was among 103 scientists chosen to receive NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards for 2022.

Given to exceptionally creative early career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects in the biomedical, behavioral or social sciences, each award provides $2.3 million in research funding over five years.

“We’re trying to accomplish something that’s never been done,” Stavisky said in a UC Davis Health story about his NIH grant. “We’re taking a different approach from most of the field. The award will allow us to aggressively invest in the people and equipment we need to develop new neurotechnology that lets people speak again.”

In August, as reported in Dateline, Stavisky received a $40,000 UC Davis Early Career Faculty Award for Creativity and Innovation, funded by anonymous donors.

Dateline UC Davis welcomes news of faculty and staff awards, for publication in Laurels. Send information to

Follow Dateline UC Davis on Twitter.

Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

Dateline Student Life