Distinguished Graduate Student Award

Award Category


2020 Distinguished Graduate Student Award


Nominated for an outstanding first-author contribution to science via a singular scholarly work (peer-reviewed article, book, book chapter).

Maximum Award Recipients

  • 1 Undergraduate Student
  • 1 Graduate Student (Masters/Ph.D.)
  • 1 Junior Specialist

Nomination/Application instructions:

This award is self-nomination, requiring a statement of research that includes a concluding remark on the broader impacts of the research (1-page maximum, 0.5” margins, 12 pt. font), a 2 page resume/CV, and the relevant scholarly work (when appropriate), sent via email as one all-inclusive PDF file. In addition, applications must arrange to have up to two letters of recommendation sent via email directly from the recommender. Letters of reference cannot be provided by an individual who is receiving a letter of reference from the same individual for a different award (i.e., no quid pro quo). Eligibility: Limited to current students/junior specialists/postdoctoral scholars or those within 18 months of affiliation/appointment with the department.

Note: Submit all materials to awardsLAWR@ucdavis.edu by 5:00 pm (PST) on January 15, 2023. The awards committee reserves the right to nominate individuals for awards, withhold an award when no applications are received, and/or increase the number of awards when applications are equivalent in quality. Individuals can receive more than one award when eligible. Awards will be announced in Spring 2023.

Award Recipients 

Liyuan HeThe 2021 Distinguished Graduate Student Award is awarded to Liyuan He. Liyuan is a Ph.D. Student in the Joint Doctoral Program of Ecology with SDSU advised by Drs. Xiaofeng Xu and Jorge Rodrigues. She investigates the role of soil microbial community, primarily fungi and bacteria, in terrestrial carbon cycle. Liyuan has published findings on the biogeography of fungal and bacterial biomass carbon in topsoil, the parameterization of the CLM-Microbe model, and the microbial seasonality impacts on soil carbon emission on prestigious journals. Currently, Liyuan is researching on the role of soil microbes in carbon cycle at large scales.


Past Award Recipients 2020

Kelsey Brewer The 2020 Distinguished Graduate Student Award is awarded to Kelsey Brewer. Kelsey Brewer is a Ph.D. Candidate in his 4th year with the Soils and Biogeochemistry (SBG) Graduate Group. His thesis research applies multiple analytical approaches, with the aim to narrow agroecological and biogeochemical knowledge gaps within perennial integrated crop-livestock management systems. He specifically focuses on the plant-grazer-soil interactions of these systems and the yet understudied implications for agroecosystem biodiversity and productivity, with a particular focus on soil carbon and nutrient cycling and storage dynamics. Beyond that, he works to collaborate with others in developing participatory and stakeholder-engaged research frameworks and approaches that address complex ecological and social challenges within diverse working landscapes and food systems at-large.


Alex E. Cagle The 2020 Distinguished Graduate Student Award is awarded to Alex Cagle. Alex is a Ph.D. Student in the Energy Graduate Group in Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez's Lab. He investigates the environmental impacts and potential co-benefits of floating solar photovoltaics on human-made bodies of water such as irrigation ponds and water treatment reservoirs. Alex recently published findings on the land-sparing opportunities of siting solar atop water bodies in a first-authored publication in the journal Sustainability. Currently, Alex is researching the water quality, panel performance, and biodiversity implications of floating solar photovoltaics across four floating solar arrays across the United States as a part of a multi-year, collaborative research endeavor with the Florida Solar Energy Center.


Past Award Recipients 2019

Kelly DreschlerThe 2019 Distinguished Student Award is awarded to Kelly Dreschler. Kelly is a graduate student in Biological and Agricultural Engineering in Isaya Kisekka’s Lab. She receives this award owing to her excellence in research focused on investigating ways to precisely irrigate almond orchards to improve production and economic outcomes while minimizing environmental impacts of groundwater overdraft.