BMEGG Outstanding Graduate Student Award for 2015

It is my pleasure to announce this year’s BMEGG Outstanding Graduate Student Award goes to Jeni Lee from Prof. Kyriacos Athanasiou’s laboratory. While a doctoral student in the BME Graduate Group, Jeni has made significant advances in the laboratory to engineer functional cartilage replacement tissues for treatment of arthritis with the use of novel chemical and mechanical stimuli, with an overarching goal to translate the technology to the clinical setting. She has been highly productive in her time at UC Davis, publishing 6 full-sized research papers and reviews to date (one of which was highlighted in Nature Reviews Rheumatology in March 2015). Her work has been presented broadly at national and international meetings. However, her contributions to BMEGG have far exceeded excellence at the bench.

Jeni is an outstanding mentor to students in the lab, the BMEGG, and students beyond BME interested in learning more about science and technology. She has mentored several undergraduate students in the laboratory, works with our own undergraduate students via the BESA/BMES mentoring program, and participates as an active eMentor with many neighboring high school students in Elk Grove, Vallejo, and Rancho Cordova. These represent a small sampling of her activities that are extensive and quite impressive, demonstrating her commitment to sharing her enthusiasm of science with others.

She is also an active member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology (DEB) and volunteers regularly for many outreach efforts including the Teen Biotech Challenge and at the Discovery Museum/Powerhouse Science Center. Moreover, she is embracing the entrepreneurship component of translating technology with her co-founders of ViVita, a startup tissue engineering company that has been actively (and successfully!) competing in numerous area business plan competitions to gain funding and propel the company to the start-up phase. Jeni has been successful with many other accomplishments at the campus and community level, but to emphasize the quality of her accomplishments and impact, I will conclude with a few quotes from her letters of nomination:

“Her enthusiastic and hard-working disposition, coupled with her own eagerness to learn, has led to the acquisition of valuable skills that she applies vigorously to her own work and selflessly shares with her mentees.”

“Jeni is a multi-talented woman, who excels in the classroom, research laboratory, business world and public service. She truly connects with people and shows maturity far beyond her years.”

“I can truly say I have encountered few other students who are as consistently patient, generous with their time, and talented at guiding other students.”

As it does every year, this year brought a highly competitive and exceptionally strong pool of nominees. My sincerest appreciation goes to the faculty who helped prepare the nomination packets and provide such supportive letters for each of the nominated students. All nominations were reviewed by 6 faculty in the BMEGG, representative of our various research areas. Please join me in congratulating Jeni for her outstanding accomplishments and receiving this award. She is an outstanding ambassador and representative of BMEGG.

All the best,

J. Kent Leach, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor
Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery
Chair, Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group
University of California, Davis 
Genome and Biomedical Sciences Building 
451 Health Sciences Drive 
Davis, CA  95616 

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