Senate and Federation Honor 15 Top Academics

The Academic Senate and Federation have presented their top academic honors for 2024, and the faculty recipients are being showcased not just for their expertise, but also for their teaching, mentorship and public service.

In all, 15 faculty members have received awards from the two groups at UC Davis.


The Academic Senate and Academic Federation’s joint awards reception is scheduled for May 13: More information is forthcoming.

Honorees this year include Distinguished Professor Walter Leal, of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who received the Faculty Distinguished Research Award from the Academic Senate; and Health Science Clinical Professor Kirsten Gilardi, of the School of Veterinary Medicine, who received the James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award from the Academic Federation.

The full list of winners, with profiles submitted by awards committees from the senate and federation, follow:

Academic Senate

Faculty Distinguished Research Award

Walter S. Leal examines container of small insects
Walter Leal is an expert in insect olfaction and chemical ecology. (Sasha Bakhter/UC Davis)

Distinguished Professor Walter Leal, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences

Distinguished Professor Walter Leal has made groundbreaking discoveries in entomology that have significantly transformed the science of insect olfaction and chemical ecology. These include discovering the mode of action of the insect repellent DEET, which has since paved the way for the development of better repellents that help to protect populations worldwide from insect-born illnesses. Leal is widely praised for advancing knowledge in his field, and for his creativity in designing new approaches to basic research and the sustainable management of agriculture. He exhibits passion as a researcher and is a highly valued leader in entomology. He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, an honorary fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and an inductee to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is a champion of research excellence at UC Davis and is known across our colleges for his generous and active support of faculty, emeriti and campus researchers overall.

Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award

Associate Professor Frances Moore, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Frances Moore
Frances Moore

Professor Frances Moore specializes in assessing the social cost of carbon to evaluate climate change policy. She has consulted multiple times with the Government Accountability Office regarding the quantification and management of climate risks. Prior to the formal Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, rule-making processes that integrated Moore’s work, she consulted with the National Center on Environmental Economics at the EPA regarding damage functions. She was an author of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, one of the most visible agenda-setting documents for U.S. climate change policy. In recognition of her expertise, Moore served as senior economist in the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President from September 2022 to 2023.

Professor Courtney G. Joslin, School of Law

Courtney G. Joslin
Courtney Joslin

Professor Courtney G. Joslin is one of the leading U.S. legal scholars on the rules governing the parent-child relationship. Based on her expertise, Joslin was chosen to serve as the primary drafter for the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act, or UPA. Joslin has been actively engaged in passing the 2017 UPA in several jurisdictions, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, New York and Rhode Island. Moreover, Joslin was chosen to serve as the liaison from the Association of American Law Schools to the Joint Editorial Board on Uniform Family Laws.

Distinguished Teaching Award – Undergraduate Teaching

Professor Tobias Menely, Department of English, College of Letters and Science

Tobias Menely
Tobias Menely

Professor Tobias Menely teaches a diverse range of courses, including 18th century literature, environmental humanities and climate fiction. Students appreciate how he makes challenging concepts like literary theory relevant and understandable. He spearheaded the creation of a new climate fiction course for nonmajors, expanding the reach of humanities-based learning. One student highlighted that Menely met the challenges of virtual teaching and supported his students by creating a space for dialogue. Menely has mentored some of the department’s most outstanding students, guiding them to success in competitive scholarships and graduate programs.

Professor Louie Yang, Department of Entomology and Nematology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Louie Yang
Louie Yang

Professor Louie Yang engages, inspires and challenges his students. His nominators spoke to his ability to cultivate lifelong learning through meaningful lectures, exercises and one-on-one feedback. Professor Yang shows respect for the unique needs and interests of each student and helps them transition from consumers of knowledge to producers of it. As noted by his nominators, Yang demonstrates an ongoing commitment to learn from his students, a characteristic that makes him highly deserving of this award.

Associate Professor of Teaching Ozcan Gulacar, Department of Chemistry, College of Letters and Science

Ozcan Gulacar
Ozcan Gulacar

Professor Ozcan Gulacar, through scholarship and practice, strives to ensure that every student can succeed in chemistry, regardless of prior experience. He leverages an innovative pedagogical toolkit in the teaching of large-enrollment general chemistry classes, where he also mentors undergraduate student researchers in the study of problem-solving and knowledge structures. Gulacar created UC Davis’ first-ever preparatory chemistry course (CHE 001V) and a series of first-year seminar classes to help students with little prior chemistry experience develop interest in the topic and build the skills necessary for their future success. His passion for teaching is celebrated by his students and faculty colleagues alike.

Distinguished Teaching Award – Graduate and Professional Teaching 

Professor Erkin Seker, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

Erkin Seker
Erkin Seker

Professor Erkin Seker has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to graduate student education through service, scholarship, teaching and mentorship. He has served as graduate advisor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Group and recently helped create a popular National Science Foundation-supported Designated Emphasis in Neuroengineering. He created and taught the course “Navigating Graduate School” to help first-year students transition to graduate school. Mentees laud Seker as a “mentor for life” who “leads by example.” Collectively, his work creates a nurturing environment for personal and professional growth that aspiring scientists need at all levels in their training.

Associate Professor Margaret Ronda, Department of English, College of Letters and Science

Margaret Ronda
Margaret Ronda

Professor Margaret Ronda’s mentoring is described by her students as “multifaceted,” “inspiring” and “kind.” She is a scholar and practitioner of poetry; students praise her ability to illuminate both the history and the practice of poetry to mixed classes of Ph.D. and MFA candidates. She mentors many, including first-generation, underrepresented and female students, placing them at their ease while upholding rigorous standards. Her diverse teaching strategies and personal generosity have been transformative. As one student wrote, her demeanor in class is “a purified form of encouragement, all contained in a look.”

Professor Elisabeth Krimmer, Department of German and Russian, College of Letters and Science

Elisabeth Krimmer
Elisabeth Krimmer

Professor Elisabeth Krimmer is outstanding for using her own prestige in the field of German literature to help graduate students innovate in the discipline. Students describe her ability to translate new approaches to research to other senior scholars, such as using autobiography as a relevant site for analysis. She’s included students as co-authors in ways that expand the idea of authorship. Professor Krimmer’s work as a mentor enables her graduate students to explore the multifaceted links between successful teaching of undergraduates and the work they do as researchers. She is known within and beyond her department for her exceptional generosity.

Academic Federation

James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award

Kirsten Gilardi with gorilla in background
Kirsten Gilardi with a silverback gorilla in 2013. (Courtesy Sandy Buckley)

Kirsten Gilardi, director, Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center; and health sciences clinical professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine

Health Sciences Clinical Professor Kirsten Gilardi has been part of the UC Davis Community since 1989. She is currently the director of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a research, service and teaching center of excellence. In 2005, she founded the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Program, which hires experienced commercial scuba divers to remove gear and other marine debris from near-shore waters in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner. This program continues to help reduce the potential impact of losing fishing gear and marine debris on living marine resources and underwater habitat. Beyond her significant accomplishments in her field, her colleagues around the world highlight her passion for her position at UC Davis “that expects her to protect wild animals and wild places.”

Distinguished Service Award

Professor in Cooperative Extension Kali Trzesniewski, Department of Human Ecology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Kali Trzesniewski
Kali Trzesniewski

Professor in Cooperative Extension Kali Trzesniewski’s research examines the development and contribution of growth mindsets in children, adolescents and young adults to school achievement. Using this expertise, she has worked across departments, colleges and units on the UC Davis campus to implement PERTS’s (Project for Education Research That Scales) “Social Belonging for College Students” intervention at orientation. Trzesnienwski has evaluated program outcomes and has continued to enhance the intervention, aiming to improve the undergraduate experience through belonging. The efforts she began in 2017 and continues today are estimated to have positively impacted over 60,000 undergraduate students. 

Excellence in Research Award

Professor in Cooperative Extension Pramod Pandey, Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine

Pramod Pandey
Pramod Pandey

Professor in Cooperative Extension Pramod Pandey’s exceptional research on manure management has significant impact in rural areas across California. Pandey’s research addresses contemporary issues including the impact of livestock on global warming and antibiotic resistance. His innovative and risk-taking approach to control waste in agricultural production has provided a leading edge for his research program. Pandey’s multidisciplinary applied research in manure and water has secured consistent significant external funding. He was also able to develop an impressive research and outreach program with significant social impact.

Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching or Mentoring

Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor April Choi, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine

April Choi
April Choi

Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor April Choi is a gifted teacher with a continuously stellar record of clinical teaching and resident evaluations. Her accomplishments are exceptional. A mentee describes her: “You stand out as a mentor — in a very strong group of mentors — for being so incredibly engaged in our learning curve.” Choi’s commitment to creating deep learning experiences generates high praise: “Her grasp of all diagnostic aspects of the case is remarkable, and so supports deep and useful discussions with integration of all clinical and pathogenesis material.” She is collegial, positive, and described by her department chair as “an emerging leader in our service, department, and professional curriculum… a quintessential professional, with her eye focused on the very best she can do for her colleagues and students.”

Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Continuing Lecturer Katie Arosteguy, University Writing Program, College of Letters and Science

Katie Arosteguy
Katie Arosteguy

Continuing Lecturer Katie Arosteguy is recognized for 13 years of excellent teaching practice and pedagogical contributions. Students describe Arosteguy as exceptional because she fosters an intellectually stimulating and engaging learning environment. Her stellar teaching evaluations confirm she is an impactful teacher. Arosteguy’s commitment to excellence extends beyond her own classroom and into the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, where she works with instructors across campus to improve writing instruction in their courses.

Continuing Lecturer Christopher Froh, Department of Music, College of Letters and Science 

Christopher Froh
Christopher Froh

Continuing Lecturer Christopher Froh is a world-class percussionist who stands out for his ability to engage students in musical theory, history and performance. His teaching across the pedagogical spectrum from large lectures to small studio lessons to performance groups is consistently met with effusive praise and outstanding evaluations. Froh’s enthusiastic and approachable instruction not only underpins the academic engagement of his undergraduate students, but also epitomizes the pedagogical mission of his department and the university community.

Media Resources

Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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