UC Irvine undergraduate students and alumni have won 15 of the nation’s most competitive academic awards this year, and will use their scholarships to work on critical research in social and educational issues around the world.

The awards include four Fulbright Fellowships, six National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and two of only six Goldwater Scholarships awarded in the entire University of California system.

UCI’s vigorous screening process for scholarship nominations has resulted in an impressive success rate at a time when endowments for government and privately funded scholarships have been slashed. This year, for example, the Gates Foundation, whose scholarships fund graduate study at University of Cambridge, distributed 68 percent fewer awards – down from 90 in 2009 to 29 in 2010. Of the awards offered, 38 percent went to Ivy League students. Two UCI students were interviewed and one – Cleo Tung – received the award.

“The Scholarship Opportunities Program facilitates such success,” says Rebecca Harris, program director. “We provide bright and dedicated undergraduates with the communication skills – writing, editing, public speaking and interviewing – needed to compete successfully for top awards. Through working with us, students learn to evaluate and strengthen their talents and interests to achieve their academic and career goals.”

Four of the scholarship winners are seniors who will join more than 7,000 undergraduates participating in commencement ceremonies this weekend, June 11 to 13. For more information visit UCI’s 45th Commencement website.

U.S. Fulbright Program: The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest international exchange program in the nation and provides funding for graduate students and professors to study abroad and teach in more than 150 countries. The fellowship program was created to foster understanding between the people of the U.S. and those of other countries.

  • Michelle Tsai ’10, a double major in psychology & social behavior and criminology, law & society, won an English teaching assistantship grant and will teach in Mexico.
  • Jason Molina ’08, a graduate in economics and international studies, received a binational business grant in Mexico.
  • Mark Sueyoshi ’08, who graduated with honors in international studies and East Asian cultures, will teach English in Indonesia.
  • Andrea Bishop ’07, a magna cum laude English graduate, will teach English in Argentina.
  • Alternate Long-Co Nguyen ’10, still is in the running to receive full Fulbright funding and wants to study risk factors for Hepatitis B in rural South Vietnam. Finalists were Shea Horgan ’09 and Elaine Cho ’09.

2010 Gates Cambridge Scholarship: Gates awards fund graduate study or a second bachelor’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Administered by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the award is designed to create a network of future leaders who will bring new vision and commitment to addressing global problems and improving the circumstances of people around the world.

  • Cleo Tung ’09, magna cum laude graduate in criminology, law & society, will study the effectiveness of the current asylum system of the United Kingdom in serving the needs of females seeking refugee status. Currently, gender persecution is not a basis for asylum.
  • Andy Hoang ’09 was a finalist.

2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship: The Goldwater Scholarship was designed to encourage outstanding sophomores and juniors to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, computer science and engineering. It covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award in these fields.

  • Yas Sanaiha, biological sciences major, is a Regents’ Scholar and member of the Campuswide Honors Program, and has presented research at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program symposium. Her research with Christine Gall, anatomy & neurobiology professor, found that mental activity could stave off age-related cognitive and memory decline. Study results appeared in the March 1 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sanaiha, a junior, will pursue an M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. program in preparation for a career intertwining her passion for medicine and scientific inquiry with her desire to contribute to local and international communities.
  • Kevin Slagle, a double major in physics and math, has received multiple UROP grants and plans to study particle physics in graduate school and then join a research and development team. This year, he will publish the results of his Majorana Neutrino research as his senior thesis. He is a junior.

2009-10 Merage Institute for the American Dream Fellowship: The award offers high-achieving seniors $20,000 in two stipends for education, travel, internships or mentoring. Established by Iranian-born entrepreneur Paul Merage, the Merage Institute seeks to honor hardworking immigrant student leaders in the U.S.

  • Cristian Martinez ’10, a graduating senior with a double major in political science and international studies, will use her stipends while working as a full-time, unpaid intern in a U.S. government agency or as a research assistant at a non-governmental organization that focuses on international and U.S. foreign policy. She is currently finishing the academic year in Brazil, studies made possible when she won a Boren Scholarship last year.
  • Danny Nguyen ’10, a graduating senior in biological sciences, was a finalist.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships: The fellowships fund three years of graduate study at $40,500 a year toward research-based master’s or doctorate in science, engineering or social science in the U.S. or abroad.

  • Damek Davis ’10, mathematics major
  • Ricardo Komai ’10, graduating with double major in materials science and mechanical engineering
  • Brian Tarroja ’09, bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering, with a specialization in energy systems, cum laude, with a minor in materials science engineering
  • Katie Pickrahn ’09, bachelor’s degree, chemical engineering, summa cum laude, with a minor in materials science engineering
  • Satoru Emori ’08, bachelor’s degree, materials science engineering, summa cum laude, with a minor in mathematics
  • Maria Osuna Garcia ’06, bachelor’s degree, Earth & environmental science

Coro Foundation Fellowship in Public Affairs: The fellowship funds a nine-month intensive experience-based postgraduate training program in public affairs. Participants work with high-level decision makers, carry out a series of individually tailored field assignments with government, business, labor, media, political and community organizations, and participate in weekly seminars. Founded in 1942, it is funded through private, corporate and individual donations.

  • Megan Braun ’10, graduating with a degree in history, also was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist.
  • Elaine Cartas ’10, alternate, a double major in psychology and sociology will be designated as a winner if any current Coro finalists choose not to participate in the program.

Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship: The world’s largest privately sponsored international scholarship program for university-level studies, scholarships are designed to further international understanding.  Rotary Scholars represent the U.S. as “ambassadors of goodwill” in foreign countries.

  • Kevin Pham, ’10: Political science major and a member of the Olive Tree Initiative, he plans to conduct grassroots conflict-resolution work in Israel and Palestine in the future and study and promote the role of art and music in citizen peace-building.,

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.