Physical and Biological Sciences Division honors three prominent alumni

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

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Ian Walton
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Lisa Dabek
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James Skinner

Mathematician Ian Walton, conservation scientist Lisa Dabek, and theoretical chemist James Skinner 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.

Ian Walton

A prominent leader in California higher education, Ian Walton dedicated his career to helping California’s most underserved students overcome barriers to their dreams posed by mathematics requirements. After receiving his Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Santa Cruz in 1977, he served for 30 years on the faculty at Mission College, including five years as president of the local academic senate. For 12 years he was a member of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, where he served two years as president working for the statewide adoption of enhanced English and mathematics graduation competencies and the creation of the Basic Skills Initiative. Although retired for a decade, he has just completed a two-year term as Chair of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Lisa Dabek

Lisa Dabek is the senior conservation scientist at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, and founding director of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). She received her B.A. in biology and environmental studies/natural history at UC Santa Cruz 1983, then earned a Ph.D. in animal behavior and conservation biology at the University of Washington, where she is currently an affiliate faculty member. Under her leadership, the TKCP partnered with indigenous landowners, scientists, students, educators, government officials, and healthcare professionals to help establish PNG’s first conservation area, protecting over 180,000 acres of rainforest habitat for the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and other threatened species. The program has garnered global recognition as a model for interdisciplinary and community-based conservation.

James Skinner

James Skinner, the Joseph O. & Elizabeth S. Hirschfelder Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, is a prominent theoretical chemist who studies the structure and dynamics of condensed phases, most often in liquids. He received his B.A. in chemistry and physics at UC Santa Cruz in 1975. After earning a Ph.D. in chemical physics at Harvard University, he went on to an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and faculty positions at Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Chicago. With 230 publications to his name, he has received many accolades, including a Guggenheim fellowship, the American Chemical Society Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics, and memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

The PBSci distinguished alumni will be honored at a virtual awards ceremony to be held on Friday, April 30, at 1 p.m. Advance registration is required to attend.