Skip to main content

Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal

Congratulations to the 2021 recipients!

  • Arts and Humanities: Sebastian Speitel (Philosophy)
  • Biological Sciences: Robert Kim (Neuroscience)
  • Wertheim School of Public Health: Lara Marquez (
  • Jacobs School of Engineering: Zexiang Xu (Computer Science and Engineering)
  • Physical Sciences: Jesse Peltier (Chemistry)
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Benjamin Birner (Geosciences
  • Research Division)
  • Social Sciences: Richard Gao (Cognitive Science)

Link to the official announcement: link

The official call for the 2022 cycle has not been released. A campus-wide email is expected to be sent February 2022. If you are interested in this award when you defend, find below the details for the 2022 cycle call for nominations:

Award Description

The Graduate Student Association (GSA), in coordination with the Graduate Division and the Office of Research Affairs, is seeking outstanding graduate students who have recently completed their thesis work at UC San Diego. Each department is eligible to nominate one student who has completed an outstanding dissertation in the past year. A committee of faculty assembled by the dean of each UC San Diego division will select a winner for their division. Historically, award winners have had the opportunity to be honored at commencement, where they received medals at the time of being hooded. Winners will be recognized as a recipient of the medal on the Graduate Division website.


This Medal is an excellent opportunity for the university to recognize the work of its most outstanding students as they complete their PhDs. 


  • At most one PhD student from each department will be considered for the division-level award.
  • Medical and pharmacy school students will be considered with the division of biological sciences; GPS and Rady students will be considered with the division of social sciences.
  • Students must have defended their PhD theses and completed their paperwork with the Graduate Division between April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022 in order to be eligible for the award.


  • 2 letters of recommendation from committee members, one of which must come from the committee chair or co-chair
  • Research summary (1000 word maximum) of the dissertation research, including project background and rationale, an explanation of research design (e.g., methods, procedure, analysis plans), and other important aspects of the project.
  • One optional, additional page listing references included in the research summary (references need not count toward the 1000 word maximum)
  • Copy of the dissertation including an abstract
  • Letter of support from the department chair

Criteria For Selection

The quality of the research and dissertation alone is to be considered for applicants to this award.  The criteria to be considered by the committees are:

  • Impact: The importance and impact of the research to the field and/or the department
  • Originality: The insight, originality, and creativity shown by the author
  • Presentation: The effectiveness of the writing, clarity, and organization of the thesis
  • Quality: The soundness of the methodology and the quality of the data

Response Deadline

  • Individual application: Applicants are recommended to check with their department graduate coordinator to see if there are any internal deadlines.
  • Department level: Department nominations and required materials are due to divisional deans in late April 2022.
  • Divisional level: Divisional selections are due to the GSA VP Academic at and April Bjorsen at no later than early May 2022.

Immediate Next Steps

  • If you are a student and would like to be considered for this award, please notify your committee chair(s) and begin preparing your application materials. Students should also check with their department graduate coordinator to see if their department has an earlier internal deadline.
  • If you are a committee chair and would like to nominate one of your students, notify your student and department chair, and request that the student begin preparing his or her application materials
  • If you are a department chair, prepare to receive application materials and select a department nominee by late April
  • If you are a dean of division, prepare to receive departmental nominations and prepare to submit your divisional selection by early May

Notification of Award

  • Award winners will be notified of their selection by mid May 2022
  • Historically, an award winner event has been held around the second week of June 2022


Questions?  Please contact GSA VP Academic at


Congratulations to the 2020 recipients!

  • Arts and Humanities: Sky Johnston (History)
  • Biological Sciences: Jennifer Dumdie (Obstetrics, Gynecology and
  • Reproductive Sciences)
  • Jacobs School of Engineering: Sunmi Shin (Materials Science)
  • Physical Sciences: James Wampler (Physics)
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Travis Courtney (Geosciences
  • Research Division)
  • Social Sciences: Lauren Olsen (Sociology)

Link to the official announcement: link