Biology Student to Receive Dr. Selma Silagi Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science at UCSD

JUNE 2, 2000

Media Contact: Jan Jennings (858) 822-1684

Leena L. Shankar, a molecular biology major in Revelle College at the University of California, San Diego, has been named the first recipient of UCSD's Dr. Selma Silagi Award for undergraduate excellence in science.

Shankar will be honored at an award luncheon June 6 at the UCSD Faculty Club where she will receive a $5,000 award from the Silagi family to use at her discretion. Her name will be inscribed on a perpetual plaque to be housed in the natural sciences building on the UCSD campus.

"Leena is one of the most impressive students I have seen in my 18 years of being provost of Revelle College," said Tom Bond. "She has done three times as much research as the normal undergraduate. She richly deserves this award."

The Dr. Selma Silagi Award honors the late research scientist who moved to San Diego after retiring as professor emeritus from Cornell University in 1987. It is presented to a top UCSD graduating senior in one of the four natural sciences on the basis of academic performance, research, accomplishment, creativity, charisma, and potential for achievement.

Shankar, whose home is in Thousand Oaks, Calif., was named last October by Glamour magazine as one of 10 collegiate "Millennium Movers and Shakers" in the nation.

The young scientist reported the findings of an honors thesis for the Center for AIDS Research in San Diego at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's conference in San Francisco last year and participated in an American Heart Association Research Fellowship project at UC San Francisco, which included presentation of her work to the American Heart Association. She also volunteered with the Coalition on Homelessness.

Among her other activities are working on an independent project studying public health issues surrounding macular degeneration, serving as a teaching assistant for an urban studies and planning class, serving as managing editor for the UCSD student newspaper, The Guardian, helping to create a new Revelle College leadership program, Leaders of the 21st Century, and serving on COAST (Chancellor's Organization for Allied Students).

Shankar was nominated for the Dr. Selma Silagi Award by UCSD professor Flossie Wong-Staal, Division of Biology. The award will be presented each year to a top graduating senior in one of the four natural sciences (biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics) on a rotating basis.

Dr. Selma Silagi received her Ph.D. in genetics from Columbia University, served as a research associate at Rockefeller University, and continued her basic research in cancer until her retirement from Cornell University in 1987 when she moved with her husband, Robert, to San Diego. She is best known for her work in 1966 when she used a mouse model to change malignant melanoma cells into non-malignant cells and back again. She died in 1998. The Dr. Selma Silagi Award at UCSD was established last year by her family.