Undergraduate Awards

Palais Award 2023

The Stephen M. Palais Memorial Undergraduate Research Award was created by his family in memory of former student Stephen Palais, after he tragically passed away in 2002. Stephen loved his years at UCSC, and was particularly fond of the science and mathematics courses, and the faculty. The family chose to honor his memory with this endowment. The award is jointly administered by the Department of Mathematics and the Department of MCD Biology, and the Math version is given every 4 years. It recognizes meritorious undergraduate research.

For 2023, we are awarding the Palais to several students...

Nora Jones 

Nora JonesMy name is Nora Jones and I am graduating this year with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics!

I originally came to UCSC wanting to study chemistry after spending my whole life studying classical dance. In my second quarter here I realized (with the help of my TA, Jadyn Breland) that the only part of chemistry that I enjoyed was the math—something that I have always loved. Once I began taking more rigorous, upper division math classes, I fell more and more in love with the subject as a whole. I have gravitated to the abstract beauty that is mathematics and like to view it as the perfect intersection between science and art—two things that I had a difficult time finding a balance between my whole life. I am grateful and honored to be granted this award and would like to thank everyone that I have met in this department—the graduate students, my peers, and the professors that have made my experience here welcoming and manageable even through all of the chaos. I also would like to thank my dear friends and family who have supported and cared for me all of these years. I am excited to be continuing my mathematics education this fall, pursuing a Master’s here at UC Santa Cruz.


Zora Kramer 

Zora KramerMy name is Zora and I feel honored to be receiving this award. I am a French-American math enthusiast and classical guitarist from San Francisco, CA. 

I attended French elementary and middle schools with math curricula that introduced basic problem solving language. When I left the French curriculum, I attended a public American high school, where the subject was taught very differently. Instead of presenting a problem and its methods of solutions, I was expected to provide brief numerical answers on repetitive worksheets. I longed to go back to a system that valued the process of problem solving. 

Mathematics at UCSC gave me the opportunity to engage with abstract mathematical concepts with passionate professors and a curious community. At UCSC, I continued my classical guitar practice alongside my studies in mathematics. I learned how much the two disciplines complement one another and my understanding within each field. As my mathematical studies deepened, so did my musical practice, and vice versa. Through this work, I strengthened my identity in each discipline. 

I have deep gratitude for each professor, graduate student teacher, peer, and staff member who shaped who I am today. I am sure that their words and actions will reverberate throughout my life and career. I would like to especially thank John McHugh and Deewang Bhamidipati for validating student experience and advocating for accessibility in the classroom. Thank you to Beren Sanders, Jie Qing, Kasia Jankiewicz, Torsten Erhardt, and Francois Monard for being exceptional educators and expanding my depth of knowledge. I also want to thank Debra Lewis for her work on my thesis. For their contributions to my education, I would also like to thank Bill Coulter and Chris Mallett, Music Department faculty.


Morea Lee

Morea LeeHello, my name is Morea Lee and I am graduating this year with a Bachelors of Science in Pure Mathematics.

I came to UC Santa Cruz with an interest in math thinking I would someday want to teach it, but I really had no idea what it meant to study pure mathematics. After beginning my journey with upper division math courses, I completely fell in love with the subject and have come to appreciate the rigor and abstractness that these courses have taught me. Throughout all of the chaos of the past four years, not only did I find enjoyment for the math I was learning, but also a space of comfort and support within the mathematics department community.

I am honored to be receiving this award and my success here is due in part to so many others. I would love to extend a huge thanks to the graduate students, professors, and my peers in the department as well as my friends and family that have continued to love me unconditionally. This fall, I will continue my education with beginning my Masters at UC Santa Cruz. With this new chapter I hope to continue to challenge myself and share my passion for math with others.


Yahya Tamur

Yahya Kerem TamurHello, my name is Yahya Kerem Tamur and I'm finishing my third year at UCSC, majoring in computer science and math.

I've always been good at math, but I got especially interested in pure mathematics in high school when I started reading some textbooks. Two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that I could take classes from the Ph.D program here at UCSC, and I've been happily taking any class in mathematics I can since. I'm hoping to continue to do the same by doing a PhD after I graduate next year.

I really appreciate the award and I'd like to thank all the professors I've had the opportunity to learn from.




Note: The Palais Award would normally have been given by Math in 2022, but it was given in 2023 instead. The 2020 recipient was (or would have been) selected by MCD Biology, but this info doesn't seem to be published. The next Palais Awards will be given by MCDB in 2025, and by Math in 2027.


Mathematics Awards 2022

Congratulations, Robert Ferydouni and Maxine Taubman, recipients of our Mathematics Awards for 2022 ! Both received awards in recognition of their accomplishments in the Pure Mathematics concentration of the Mathematics major. We are honored to celebrate their hard work and to be able to present them with an award.

They were selected by Mathematics faculty as recipients of this year's J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award in Mathematics. The family and friends of Professor Youngs, a former professor at UCSC, established the award after he tragically passed away in 1970. Professor Youngs was a member of the Mathematics Department and a Fellow of Cowell College. The endowment was established to honor his memory by supporting two annual prizes, one for an outstanding student of Mathematics enrolled in Cowell College, and one for an outstanding student of Mathematics enrolled anywhere on the Santa Cruz campus. The Youngs Award is intended to encourage and sustain awareness of the beauty of mathematics by recognizing those who, as Youngs did, "reveal the grace inherent in the discipline, independent of its application to other fields"; “the excitement and elegance possible in mathematics.”

We wish them all success in their future endeavors !

Youngs Awards 2022

Robert Ferydouni

بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ.ferydouni.jpeg

My name is Robert Ferydouni and I will be graduating this year with a B.S. in Mathematics. The concept of existence at its foundation is an infinite, daunting and exhausting situation we have an inherent will to understand, though we are subjugated to play its game. Many of the ways people choose to live a fulfilling life force one to ignore this question: beginning a family, working a high-paying and socially impactful job, etc. The only fulfilling activity that does not is striving to learn about existence, picking up crumbs of knowledge in this subject along one’s years. Getting closer to understanding the game of existence is the only way I can feel peace and independence with regards to being forced to play it, though I cannot explain why. In practice, this can be done by devoting one’s life to an academic field. However I believe no field does this as uniquely and distinctly as mathematics and physics, precisely because of its ability to be so abstract.

This goal is at the heart of mathematics, and I would like to deeply thank my professors and other faculty who have influenced me to pursue this goal, as I begin a PhD in mathematics, by offering their fantastic insight in each of their classes. I would like to give particular thanks to Professors Katznelson, Cooperstein, Morales, Tromba, Hatinoglu, Sun, Boltje, Dong, Qing, Monard, Suh, and Ehrhardt, as well as Deewang Bhamidipati and John McHugh. I am honored to be considered for this award.

Maxine Taubman


Hello, my name is Maxine Taubman. I am a fourth year Mathematics major from Black Canyon City, Arizona.

I have always found a sense of comfort in math; solving problems and finding answers helps to alleviate some anxieties within myself. There are many, many problems in the world, and having the ability to use problem solving skills to help possibly fix even just a small percentage of them, is one of the most beautiful things about math.

I would like to thank all of my professors and advisors, as well as all of my teachers I've had throughout the years. I would also like to thank my family and friends. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for their unconditional love, sacrifices, and support. Thank you.







Youngs Awards 2021

Eric Huang

eric huang

My name is Eric Huang, and I’m entering my fourth year here at UCSC, majoring in Pure Mathematics.

I’ve always enjoyed math, but my passion for the subject only grew as I took more classes here. I love the challenge that the subject provides, and the complexity and beauty of the theory that is revealed when you push through that challenge. All of the math classes I’ve taken here have been a delight, with some of my standout favorite subjects being Galois Theory and Algebraic Geometry.

I am honored to receive this award, and would like to thank all the professors who have taught me math during my time here, as well as anyone else who has helped me on my mathematical journey. After finishing my final year here at UCSC, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. 


Ian Wallace

ian wallace

Hello! My name is Ian Wallace. I've just graduated from my undergraduate program in Pure Mathematics.

My fascination with mathematics stems from my lifelong interest in puzzles. I was particularly attached to puzzles that are only solvable by looking at it at just the right perspective, such as mechanical puzzles, or learning new skateboard tricks, for instance. Math is all about those perspectives, and the subsequent epiphanies, so I became very attached. My favorite subjects that I learned through the program have been group and ring theory, real analysis, and topology. I also enjoyed experimenting in discrete mathematics and number theory. This Fall, I'll begin my Master's program in Pure Mathematics, during which I hope to explore the theory of polytopes and algebraic topology. After my Master’s, I’ll weigh whether or not to pursue a PhD. My goal is to represent mathematics and mathematicians in as approachable and personable of a way as possible.

I’m honored to have been considered for this award. I'd like to give special thanks to those who have been such positive influences on my mathematical career: Prof. Weissman, Jadyn Breland, Deewang Bhamidipati, and a few friends who know exactly who they are.


Youngs Awards 2020

Allegra Martino

img_3059.jpgHi! I am Allegra Martino, a fourth year Pure Mathematics student soon to graduate from UCSC. My favorite topics I’ve learned about during my time here include the classification of finite groups, algebraic number theory, and Galois theory. My love for mathematics goes beyond the classroom; I enjoy crocheting topological surfaces and knots, another skill for which I can thank UCSC.

I am very thankful to all of the professors who have taught me mathematics during my time here, and all those who have done math with me. I especially want to thank Prof. Boltje, Prof. Cooperstein, Prof. Ehrhardt, Prof. Suh, Natalya Jackson, and Nick Walters for encouraging and supporting me in my career. I hope to pursue a PhD in pure math and do research in algebra in the future. 


Morgan Makhina

makhinaphoto.jpgHello, my name is Morgan Makhina. In a former life I worked as a consulting utility forester in the Yosemite area. Although the job was by no means dull, my last two years as a student at UCSC have been even more exciting.

As quite a few other people, I initially decided to study mathematics because of its applications to physics; however, over time I’ve found certain areas of math interesting in their own right. While it’s hard to pick favorites from the many wonderful courses I’ve taken here, I have particularly enjoyed topology, classical geometry, and linear algebra (the latter two of which I hope to teach someday).

Perhaps what I enjoy most in math is discovering visual/spatial approaches to abstract problems. It strikes me that while humans are not especially good at, say, mental arithmetic or solving systems of linear equations, a long process of evolution has made us phenomenal at far more complicated tasks such as recognizing objects and navigating around obstacles. An apt visualization lets us tap into that powerful computing resource to solve the problems we find difficult.

Aside from the academics at UCSC, I also appreciate this school for its cultural diversity and natural campus setting. For these reasons I plan to remain here as a graduate student.


Youngs Awards 2019

Sandra Nair

sandra_nair1.jpgMy name is Sandra Nair. I am an international student from India, currently in the third year of my double major in Pure Mathematics and Physics. I am constantly amazed by the intersection of these two incredible subjects, as found in string theory and quantum field theory. It is my ardent faith that a final unified theory of mathematics is indistinguishable from the physics counterpart, as Nature has a way of projecting the most fascinating objects into reality. I aim to be a mathematical physicist who studies and explores these abstract territories for a living. The only way for us to make progress in the fundamental sciences is through the influx of ideas and new approaches— both of which are directly proportional to the background of the next generation of scientists. Therefore, it is our duty to encourage and promote underrepresented minorities in STEM— women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, differently abled persons etc. to name a few categories. It is my hope that the recognition brought forth by this award would lead to a greater diversity in the people considering mathematics as a career. We need more people like Noether, Ramanujan, Turing and Hawking to get to the next level. We need scientists who are in touch with their humanity if our kind is to survive the next millennium.

Shane Kennerly

shane_kennerly.jpgHi, I’m Shane Kennerly, and I’m currently finishing my undergraduate degrees in Pure Mathematics and Computer Science here at UCSC. I had originally intended to apply to the university as a proposed physics major, but after taking a couple more math-heavy courses at the end of high school, I realized that what I really liked about physics was the underlying mathematics. Throughout my four years of studying math here, my love for the subject has only grown as I’ve been able to engage more deeply in these concepts through my coursework. I am honored to receive this award, and would like to thank Prof. Junecue Suh, Prof. Robert Boltje, and Prof. Ed Karasiewicz, as well as the rest of the Mathematics Department and the professors I’ve had for giving me these opportunities to learn and helping me along the way. I have thoroughly enjoyed these past four years here, and am extremely grateful for the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve learned, and the experiences I’ve had, both academic and extracurricular. I plan to begin my Master’s in Pure Mathematics here this coming fall, and will hopefully pursue a Ph.D. in the future. 


Youngs Awards 2018

Alyssa Soderberg


Hi, my name is Alyssa Soderberg and I am about to graduate with my undergraduate degree in Pure Mathematics with a minor in Theater Arts, Dance. I fell in love with mathematics during my first year here at UCSC, when I was introduced to calculus. I have always been an artist, and a learning disability student, so I never imagined that I would find myself so passionate about this field of study. As I continued to take more classes, I fell deeply for the challenge, beauty, and delicate intricacy of theory.

I am also a choreographer, performer, visual artist, dance teacher, and graphic designer. I hope to integrate and research pure mathematics through choreography in the future. I may go on to graduate studies, but I hope to pursue my career as a performer and choreographer first. After I graduate, I am going to Paris with nine of my dance peers to attend a performance conference and choreography exchange at the Centre National de la Danse.

I feel honored to receive this award, and want to give special thanks to Professor Richard Mitchell, Junecue Suh, Bob Hingtgen, and my fellow womxn in the department who have supported me through my undergrad education.

Timofey Peshin


I’m a Pure Mathematics and Computer Science major at UCSC. When I had just arrived at UCSC, I knew I would pursue the Computer Science major, but I also wanted to double-major in either Computer Engineering or Pure Mathematics. The decision became trivial once I took my first undergraduate math courses—Group Theory with Prof. Junecue Suh and Real Analysis with Prof. Francois Monard—in the winter quarter of my freshman year. During that quarter, I spent most of my free time either going through problems in Dummit & Foote or reading through Strichartz’s The Way of Analysis. I regularly use the ways of thinking and problem-solving that I discovered during those courses. Although I had always enjoyed math, these courses and professors created in me a new appreciation for it. Since then, I have only had great experiences with my math classes. At the end of every quarter, I could come up with a long list of problems that I could understand and solve that I could not have approached before. After graduation, I would like to go to a graduate program in mathematics.


Palais Award 2018


Derek Mather

img_derrikmather.jpgMy name is Derek Mather and I am a Pure Mathematics major at UCSC. I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, so going to UCSC was a very natural choice. Not to mention that my grandfather, Richard Mather was a founding professor at UCSC when it was just a few trailers. With the exception of taking a few Cabrillo classes in high school, I was homeschooled all of K-12. Most of my time as a homeschool student was spent playing music and tennis. I first learned about Mathematics from Khan Academy. That sparked my interest in Mathematics and Science. After graduating from high school, I spent a few years at Cabrillo and then applied to UCSC as an Astrophysics major. I discovered that it was the Mathematical aspects of Astrophysics that most interested me, so I switched majors upon transferring to UCSC. I really enjoyed my classes and professors at UCSC. I especially appreciated the camaraderie of my classmates. My brother went to UC Berkeley, and I heard about what a competitive environment it is there in the undergraduate program. There was none of that at UCSC and the small class sizes made it easy to get to know my professors and interact with classmates. I am starting the Master's program in the fall, and my goal is to continue on for a PhD.


Youngs Awards 2017

Shay Gilpin and another student were selected by Mathematics faculty as recipients of this year's J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award in Mathematics.  

Short Bio From Shay

Shay Awards Pic

My name is Shay Gilpin and I am just finishing my fourth year at UCSC with a Pure Mathematics major and Chemistry minor. I'm from Boulder, Colorado but have always had a love for the ocean, and UCSC provided the best of both worlds. Mathematics was a subject in which I had always excelled, but early on it was Chemistry that I found interesting. Upon entering my freshman year here I had no intention of studying math; Math 23A with Prof. Richard Mitchell revealed the beauty of math that I had never seen before, and it changed me forever. It was then that my interests turned towards mathematics and led me to where I am today.

During these past two years I have been an active member of Slugs United by Mathematics (SUM) and am currently the president of SUM for the 2016-17 academic year. After graduation I will be continuing an internship at the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, CO under the COSMIC group and have hopes of continuing my academic career in either pure or applied mathematics in the near future.

Youngs Awards 2016

Jackson Vanover

           Jackson Vanover is wrapping up his last quarter at UCSC as a Mathematics major and trying to make the most of the end of his college career. He originally came to the Santa Cruz mountains inspired by the breathtaking location; there is no campus more beautiful than this one! Like most who settled into a mathematics track, he was inspired by a particularly spectacular calculus teacher in high school who showed him the inherent beauty of recognizing patterns and solving puzzles.
           In keeping with the spirit imparted on him by a strong mathematics education, he will be embarking on a path towards teaching following graduation. In the fall, he will be assuming the full-time position of Assistant Director and Tutor at Sage Educators in Marin County. With any spare-time not spent at work, he'll be composing, recording, and performing his own original music in the Bay Area. He'd like to express a huge thank-you to the Mathematics Department at UCSC for the experiences he's had here and for the honor of the J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award.

Michael Kraut

           My name is Michael Kraut and I'm a 4th year pure math major. I think I've always been interested in logical and quantitative ideas, but I really discovered my love for math in middle school. I had amazing teachers and I was always the class show-off who had his hand up first. I stayed in advanced math classes through high school and finished AP Calculus, although it wasn't until I came to UCSC that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in mathematics. Probably the most influential factor in my decision was the Honors Calculus course which I had the privilege of taking with Professor Richard Mitchell.
           Since then I have taken many upper division math classes and even a few graduate courses. I have worked as a tutor with Learning Support Services and this year I tutored a few upper and lower division courses including Honor's Calculus. This summer I will be participating in an REU program at SUNY Potsdam in New York to study Algebraic Graph Theory, and next year I will be studying abroad in Sweden. I plan to take some advanced courses there and begin applying for graduate school. I'm not entirely sure yet whether I want to stay in academia or even which subject I want to study, although I think my experiences over the next year will help me determine what I want to do.

Youngs Awards 2015

Jackson Hsu and Ernesto Gallegos were selected by Mathematics faculty as recipients of 2015's J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award in Mathematics

Youngs Awards 2014

Emily Healy and Matthew Welsh were selected by Mathematics faculty as recipients of 2014's J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award in Mathematics.

Palais Award 2014

For 2014, the recipient was Zachary Drumbor. Faculty chose Zachary in recognition of his stellar academic performance and hard work. Congratulations to him, and all our award recipients !

Youngs Awards 2013

Claire Dodson and Rachel Gaiber were selected by Mathematics faculty as recipients of 2014's J.W.T. Youngs Memorial Undergraduate Award in Mathematics.

Special Award 2013

Jonathan Siegel : Faculty nominated Jonathan for a special Department award (2013) for his outstanding performance as a Mathematics major. Jonathan's achievement in course work at the undergraduate and graduate level, his placement on the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics competition, as well as participation in national research programs, all contributed to the faculty's wish to recognize Jonathan.