Larissa Miyachi named UC Davis' 2012 University Medalist

June 19, 2012
Davis, CA -- A Yuba County, Calif., resident destined for medical school will join yet another class when she graduates from the University of California, Davis.

Davis, CA -- A Yuba County, Calif., resident destined for medical school will join yet another class when she graduates from the University of California, Davis. As this year’s top graduating senior, Larissa Miyachi will become the 2012 University Medalist — the latest in a select group of graduates who have further distinguished themselves for their achievements and their impact on their world.

The more than 45 medalists — only one is selected each year — include the U.S. Treasury Department’s chief economist, the president of a Thai university, an art professor and other academics, 10 doctors as well as engineers, lawyers and math teachers. Their work ranges from trying to find a cure for cancer to helping the poor in developing countries.

Together, they have earned at least 53 advanced degrees, and seven younger medalists are still working toward doctorates or, like Larissa, bound for medical school. Several hold patents.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said the university is extremely proud of its University Medalists. "They exemplify the best of UC Davis: the quest for discovery, the passion for service and the drive to excel.”

Miyachi is a biochemistry and molecular biology major. James Hildreth, dean of the College of Biological Sciences, proudly interrupted one of her classes to congratulate her, and classmates broke into applause.

The University Medal, established by an anonymous donor in 1965, recognizes a graduating senior for excellence in undergraduate studies, outstanding community service and the promise of future scholarship and contributions to society. Today, the award includes a plaque with an inlaid medal and a $2,000 honorarium.

Miyachi was home-schooled in Oregon House, attended Yuba Community College and then transferred to UC Davis. Her fellow medalists include a man who studied on the G.I. Bill, a high school dropout, a Vietnamese refugee and international students.UC Davis put Miyachi at the lab bench even before she enrolled. An internship at the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology introduced the community college student to scientific research: “If it hadn’t been for that, I think I might not have realized my interest in medicine.”

Miyachi did research with nanoparticles for possible cancer therapy and, as a volunteer at the UC Davis Medical Center, assisted nurses and helped care for radiology and cardiology patients.

Like Miyachi, the medalists recounted the profound effects of opportunities to explore their world and challenge themselves through honors programs, research, study abroad, internships and a campus book project, as well as intercollegiate athletics and club sports. They remember mentors by name.

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About the Author

Kellie Chadwick | Editorial Intern

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