Physical and Biological Sciences Division honors three prominent alumni

PBSci Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize contributions to society by graduate and undergraduate alums

Danesh Moazed
Michael Raymer
Chris Lay

Cell biologist Danesh Moazed, physicist Michael Raymer, and naturalist Chris Lay are being honored by the UC Santa Cruz Division of Physical and Biological Sciences (PBSci) as the recipients of the PBSci Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The division established the awards to honor graduates of the division who have gone on to extraordinary accomplishments in diverse fields and whose careers are characterized by sustained and exemplary contributions to society through research, practice, education, policy, or service.

Danesh Moazed

Danesh Moazed is a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at UC Santa Cruz, earning a B.A. in biology and Ph.D. in biology. He worked with Harry Noller, the Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology, to investigate the structure and function of the ribosome, and this research led to a remarkable 17 publications.

Moazed’s postdoctoral research at UCSF focused on molecular mechanisms controlling gene expression. He then joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where his lab studies epigenetic inheritance mechanisms and their regulation. He has made key discoveries regarding heterochromatin, a tightly packed form of DNA, and its role in regulation of gene expression. Moazed was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

Michael Raymer

Michael Raymer received his B.A. in chemistry and physics at UC Santa Cruz and his Ph.D. in chemical physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is currently Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Emeritus) at the University of Oregon, having been awarded the chair in 2006 for his pioneering work on the quantum nature of light and its interaction with atoms and molecules.

At UCSC, Raymer was inspired by Chemistry Professor Frank Andrews. His experience as a teaching assistant for Andrews, mentoring and teaching a small group of students, led him to co-found the Science Literacy Program at the University of Oregon on a similar experiential model. In the past decade, the program has introduced this model, along with modern teaching pedagogy, into courses taken by over 21,000 non-science undergraduates. Raymer has created several new courses for non-science majors and has authored two books on physics for a general audience. In addition, his public advocacy efforts, leading to the passage of the National Quantum Initiative Act in 2018, helped make research in quantum information science and technology a national priority.

Chris Lay

As administrative director of the Kenneth Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz, Chris Lay has helped transform the center from little more than a repository of natural history collections into a vibrant hub of natural history learning at UC Santa Cruz. He has helped raise nearly $6 million from private donors to support the Norris Center and associated experiential learning field courses, about half of which is an endowment that ensures the long-term future of the center.

Lay earned his B.A. in mathematics at UCSC and an M.S. in conservation biology at San Jose State University. He returned to UCSC as curator of the Natural History Museum in 2008. As a lecturer in environmental studies, he also teaches classes on environmental education, UCSC campus natural history, and museum curation, as well as the department’s renowned Natural History Field Quarter. He has inspired countless students to pursue careers in natural history and ecology, raising funds for scholarships to cover field course fees and to provide stipends for senior internships to help make these opportunities available to a diversity of students. Lay has also helped to develop connections between UCSC and the broader Santa Cruz natural history community.

The PBSci distinguished alumni will be honored at a virtual awards ceremony to be held in December.