Wolf-Dietrich Heyer professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics — Honored for “clever genetic, molecular and biochemical analyses leading to important contributions to mechanisms of recombinational DNA repair, and its regulation by DNA damage checkpoints.” He serves as co-leader of the Molecular Oncology Program at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, coordinating campuswide basic cancer biology research. And he’s the director of the National Cancer Institute-funded training grant on oncogenic signals and chromosome biology, working with the next generation of cancer research leaders.



Neil Hunter, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator — Honored for seminal insights into the mechanism of chromosome recombination during meiosis, the process by which cells divide to form gametes (sperm and eggs). Defects in meiosis can cause infertility and are responsible for a large percentage of the more than 1 million miscarriages each year in the United States. Meiotic errors also are a leading cause of congenital disease in humans. Hunter’s lab has defined fundamental aspects of the DNA exchanges that occur during chromosome recombination, and the regulatory pathways that govern this essential cellular process. Hunter is affiliated with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and also has an appointment in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, School of Medicine.




College of Engineering

Simon Cherry, distinguished professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering — Honored for his work in pioneering new medical imaging technologies to improve cancer detection and treatment, especially in positron emission tomography, or PET. In 2015, the National Institutes of Health awarded Cherry and his colleague, Ramsey Badawi, a $15.5 million grant to develop the world’s first total-body PET scanner. This scanner allows all tissues and organs to be imaged simultaneously with 40 times more sensitivity than existing combination PET/CT scanners. It also reduces a patient’s radiation exposure dramatically. Cherry was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2016.

College of Letters and Science

James B. Ames
, professor in the Department of Chemistry — Honored for contributions to the field of biophysical chemistry, particularly for elucidating structures of calcium sensor proteins in vision and their relation to neurodegenerative diseases. Ames combines powerful nuclear magnetic resonance techniques with biophysical approaches to make discoveries about the shape and structure of this important family of proteins. Ames’ laboratory is studying a protein called retinal recoverin and the guanylate cyclase activating proteins that are involved in inherited eye disorders. The lab’s long-term goal is to understand how calcium sensor proteins transmit signals within cells and operate in diseases such as vision loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dean J. Tantillo, professor in the Department of Chemistry — Honored for contributions to the field of applied theoretical chemistry, particularly for mechanistic studies on organic reactions. Tantillo’s research spans many areas of organic chemistry, from natural products biosynthesis to physical organometallic chemistry to computer-aided design of catalysts. His lab is particularly interested in understanding how plants synthesize complex terpenes (a type of hydrocarbon), such as the oils that scent peppermint, pine trees and oranges. Tantillo has received the UC Davis Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Awards for both graduate and undergraduate instruction. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.



Francisco J. Samaniego, distinguished research professor emeritus in the Department of Statistics — Honored for research in reliability theory and comparative statistical inference, for award-winning teaching and dedicated service as editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association, and for other contributions to the profession. He received the U.S. Army Wilks award in 2008 for his career contributions to engineering reliability. He has received the UC Davis Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. He is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and is a member of the International Statistical Institute.

Contributing to this report: Andy Fell, senior public information representative, Office of Strategic Communications; Becky Oskin, communications specialist, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, College of Letters and Science; David Slipher, director of marketing and communications, College of Biological Sciences; and Kelley Weiss, senior writer, dean’s office, College of Engineering.