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Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal

 Award Description

The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), 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 division will select a winner from each division at UC San Diego.  Award winners will have the opportunity to be honored at commencement when they receive their medals at the time of being hooded. Winners will also be recognized as a recipient of the medal on the Graduate Division webpage. 

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


  • One PhD student from each department will be considered for the division-level award.
  • PhD students who are registered with the medical or pharmacy schools will be included with the division of biological sciences; IR/PS and Rady PhD students will be included with the division of social sciences.
  • PhD students must have defended their PhD thesis and completed their paperwork with the Graduate Division between April 1st of 2021 through March 31st of 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 (i.e., 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

  • Department level: Department nominations and requirement materials are due to the divisional dean no later than April 22nd, 2022.
  • Divisional level: Divisional selections are due to GPSA VP Academic, Mikah Bertelmann, at by May 6th, 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, make sure all required materials are submitted to your department chair by Monday, April 18th, 2022
  • If you are a committee chair and would like to nominate one of your students, notify your student and department chair ASAP, and request that the student begin preparing his or her application materials so that all required application materials are submitted to department chair by Monday, April 18th, 2022
  • If you are a department chair, prepare to receive application materials and select a department nominee by Friday, April 22nd, 2022
  • If you are a dean of division, prepare to receive departmental nominations and prepare to submit your divisional selection by Friday, May 6th, 2022

 Notification of award

Award winners will be notified of their selection by May 9th, 2022. Awardees will be recognized at Graduate Commencement on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Congratulations to the 2021 recipients!

  • Arts and Humanities: Sebastian Speitel (Philosophy)
  • Biological Sciences: Robert Kim (Neuroscience)
  • Wertheim School of Public Health: Lara Marquez (TBD)
  • 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)

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)