S.E.M. Division Academic Excellence Awards

Academic excellence awards and scholarships are given to students that have demonstrated excellence and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom. Students selected to receive an Academic Excellence Award must meet the following criteria:

  • Completion of a minimum of 30 units at Cerritos College with a 3.5 grade point average or higher;
  • Completion of nine units in the area of recognition with a 3.5 grade point average (or higher); and
  • At the recommendation of a faculty member in the area of recognition.

Following are the 2022-23 SEM Division academic excellence award winners and scholars.

Student Yuridia Camacho Cornejo

Yuridia Camacho Cornejo (Glorya Welch Math Scholarship)

It has been a great pleasure getting to know and work with Yuridia Camacho Cornejo. Her hard work, motivation, discipline, passion for teaching, and enthusiasm towards being a lifelong learner have been consistently evident. The quality of her work is always outstanding, and she truly is a model student. In class, she is always very engaged and asks questions to legitimately understand the material rather than just focusing on performing well on assessments. She carries such an inclusive and welcoming attitude, her peers cannot help but be influenced by her kindness. She goes out of her way to make her classmates feel included, helps those around her, and shows great leadership skills. We know Yuri will be an amazing teacher and want her to be proud of where she is today. We have no doubt that her future will be full of even greater accomplishments.

Ripley Otero

Ripley Otero (Newton Werner Chemistry Scholarship)

It is always a pleasure to have a student who has a thirst for knowledge and the eagerness to broaden their horizons. Ripley initially started his schooling hoping to be a chemist, but was encouraged to work in the field of computer science. But without the passion for it- he was never truly satisfied.  He has returned to his first passion, Chemistry, with the intention of working in research.  As an Organic Chemistry Student, he excelled at understanding how things worked and focused on getting all of the small details right.  While he was far and away the top student in the class, he always took time to help the others to understand what they were seeing.  Because of that, he was asked to become a tutor for the next group of Organic students.  He has taken on this job with a passion, too.  We see him often in the study room helping students, even when he isn’t there officially.  Ripley has become a member of the Chemistry team, helping serve students and exciting them about the possibilities that being a chemist can provide.

He is excited to see what can be created with small atoms and molecules.  With his dedication and enthusiasm for chemistry and research, I know he will be successful in the field.  I am excited to witness the contributions that Ripley will make in the future. He is motivated to improve the quality of life through Chemistry. It is inspiring to see students who strive to be a part of the new discoveries that will revolutionize our understanding of the world around us.

Amy Parker and Isaac Donovan Gonzalez

Amy Iris Parker (CIS: Computer Science)

Amy Parker took all main courses in programming from the CIS department. She excelled in all these courses. She participated in various hackathons (including ABC Code Jam) and trivia competitions (National History Bowl and National Science Bowl). While Amy was in high school, she took classes at Cerritos College as a full-time student. She can manage her time for academic study and extracurricular academic activities. Amy is the Director of Equity and Diversity for ASCC.

Amy commits to academic enrichment in computer science and the Cerritos College community. She plans to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona in the Fall of 2023.

Isaac Donovan Gonzalez (CIS: Programmer)

Isaac Gonzalez is majoring in computer science. Isaac excelled in all CIS programming classes taken at Cerritos College. He had a research internship at UCB to program 3D virtual applications. Isaac presented his research poster at the 2022 NDiSTEM conference. He is currently a member of Cerritos college's NASA SUITS team. His responsibility is programming the Unity game engine to create a User Interface integrated into an Augmented Reality headset for space exploration. He was also a member of the NASA Micro-g NExT project. He assisted with the design portion of the lunar object marker for NASA.Isaac is still waiting to hear from UCB, UCLA, UCSD, UCI, and San Diego State for his 4-years university transfer.

Sambram Alddair Espinoza

Sambram Alddair Espinoza (Physics) 

Sambram is a very enthusiastic student who continuously demonstrates his dedication and interest with the quality of his work. He always showed great passion and knowledge.  Sambram takes great pleasure in learning new things, and he always asks thoughtful and insightful questions. Sambram took two 9-week Engineering Physics classes with me last semester.  He received an A in both classes and always made the extra effort not just to get the grade but to understand and master the material.

Mario Miranda

Mario Miranda (Mathematics)

I have had only a few students as good as Mario.  He started with me in math 140 (trigonometry) in the Fall of 2021.  He earned an A (one of only two earned in the entire class.)  The next time I saw him was exactly one year later; he enrolled in my calculus 3 course!  I asked him how he could have gone from trig to calc 3 in only one year, something that should have taken him 2 years!  He responded that he never took any break since taking trig with me.  In fact, in the summer of 2022, he took a year's worth of calculus, calc 1 and calc 2.  This is almost unheard of!  He only received one B.  This guy is a math machine!  He is currently enrolled in my math for engineers class, math 250 - Combined Linear Algebra and Differential Equations.  Of course, he's earned an A(+) so far.  I'm extremely proud of this young man!

Enedina Hu Loera and Han Jen Lee

Enedina Hu Loera (Biochemistry)

Enedina is an outstanding student deeply respected by both chemistry and biology faculty.  Enedina has a 3.79 GPA and wants to some day be a psychiatrist.  The chemistry faculty are trying to use psychology to convince her to become a chem major.  Enedina is an active member of the Adventure club taking hikes on the weekends all over Southern California. She wants to transfer to UCLA or UCSD.  She loves being at Cerritos College.  What she likes best is the community with a very diverse student population.

Han Jen Lee (Chemistry and Curie Scholarship)

Nina Lee is an outstanding student.  In chemistry 112 she had the top grade and nobody else was even close.  She did all of this while taking 21 units and earning a 4.0!  In all her classes at Cerritos Nina has one B. Nina pours so many hours into her studies.  She goes way beyond the minimum.  She loves to learn, sit in the front row and ask very good questions. As a person Nina is a joy to be around.  Other students like being around her too.  This semester we asked Nina to tutor Chemistry.  Nina wants to be a medical researcher.  Nina wants to transfer as a biochemistry major to UCLA or UCSD or UCI. Right now she is considering going to Medical School.

Kaleb Reilly

Kaleb Reilly (Pre-Physical Therapy)

Congratulations on winning the AE Award in Pre-Physical Therapy. Ever since taking my chem 110 and 112 courses, your questions in and after class set you apart. You did everything right and what stood out was how you followed everything in lecture to a T on your exams. It is rare these days to find students that pay attention on how to succeed in the course even after suggestions are made on what to study. You were one of those students that got it! This is why you are the recipient of this award. The biology and chemistry department came to the consensus on this. We know you will do well in the PT program at CSULB coming up and I have a strong feeling you will go on and get your DPT and become a professor. Once again congratulations. It was a pleasure having you as a student in my classes.

Kevin So

Kevin So (Microbiology)

Kevin is an exceptional and ideal student that excels academically in microbiology and other science courses.  Kevin is currently our tutor for microbiology but before becoming an official tutor, he would help all his classmates. During lab, Kevin was extremely helpful and encouraging to other students.  He goes out of his way to help the students and has even assisted other students with performing lab experiments.  His classmates praised him and thanked him for all his help especially since he helped them improve their scores. Kevin is the type of student that is always ahead of the class and can excel in all his classes while taking multiple science courses at the same time.  Kevin dreams of becoming a dentist.

Samuel Idahosa

Samuel Idahosa (Natural Science)

It was a pleasure to have Samuel in my major's biology course for Fall 2022. He did a great job throughout the course, worked well with all his lab mates (there was often laughter in the area), and often approached after class to talk further about topics. It wasn't until towards the end of the semester when I realized that he was taking both Bio 200 and 201, both very demanding courses.  In order to do well in both takes an incredible amount of focus, hard work, and determination. It is rarely done. He earned “A”s in both courses. Well done! Samuel is interested in medicine, specializing in Hematology.

Norra Anpree

Norra Anpree (Pre-Pharmacy and John Boyle Scholarship)

From day one, Norra showed exceptional ambition and determination, in my major's biology course. After lecture or lab she would come up and ask questions to make sure she understood the material.  We write a few research papers in the course, and she always did an excellent job of reflecting and analyzing the information.  In all her work it was evident that she gave 110 %. It was not unexpected that she earned an "A" in the course. Actually, her transcript is a sea of “A”s. Norra's experience in a pharmacy externship has fueled her desire to go into the field of pharmacology.

Tyler Overgaauw

Tyler Overgaauw (Biology and Jules Crane Scholarship)

In both Biology 200 and 201, it took less than two weeks to determine that Tyler Overgaauw is a top-notch, voraciously curious student. Every class Tyler had a question that showed his ability to think deeply and make multidisciplinary connections. Tyler not only made an impression on us, but on other students. A student once commented, “I want to understand concepts like that guy in the back that always asks questions."  Tyler is so full of wonder about the world that I believe he sees an overlay of chemical equations and biological processes as he looks around. He is most interested in human body functions and plans to pursue a medical career. Tyler wants to learn as much as possible to make impactful changes that improve lives. He strongly believes that if we all joined this effort, life would be easier for everyone. Congratulations, we are proud of you and look forward to hearing about the ways you improve our world. 

Manasvi Mehta

Manasvi Mehta (Pre-Medical and Paige “Scholar” Scholarship)

Congratulations on winning the AE Award in Pre-Med. Since starting here at Cerritos college at the age of 16, you have solidly excelled in all of your core science courses. The biology and chemistry departments recognize your academic achievements here and came to the consensus that your excellence in your pre-med coursework here is deserving of this award and we wish you more success in your future coursework in Biology as you transfer to UCLA. We know you will do well there as you move on towards completing your goal of becoming a doctor. Your patience, strong work ethic, and smarts will get you through all the challenges the medical field throws your way. Congratulations Manasvi on a job well done!


Erik Jesus Arias-Gonzalez (Engineering and U.S.S. Pelias Scholarship)

Erik is a very busy student who takes advantage of the opportunities available. He jumped into the NCAS program his first semester at Cerritos and has not looked back! While maintaining high grades in demanding physics and engineering courses and working two jobs, Erik also completed NCAS and went on to be the Build and Test Lead for our Micro-G NExT team. He traveled to Johnson Space Center to represent Cerritos College and to test the device he built. Erik has just finished his coursework with Cerritos and is currently an intern at NASA Wallops Flight Facility until he transfers in the fall.


Alexandra Schmidt (Zoology)

Sasha did very well in both Biology 200 and 201.  At a time when the college was trying to come back to campus, and things were in flux, Sasha handled the fluid situation well and earned an A in both courses.   Part of a networking assignment I gave the class was to get in touch with people that are in positions that you want to be in. Sasha called her pets' veterinarians and set up meetings to learn about their educational pathways. She took their advice to heart. She volunteers at two cat rescue shelters and was recently hired as a vet assistant. Sasha's goal is to transfer to Cal Poly or to San Diego state after she graduates from Cerritos, then head off to vet school. Ultimately, she wants to work with exotic pets.


Following are the 2021-22 SEM Division academic excellence award winners and scholars.

Lillian Alwood (Delver's Gem and Mineral Society Scholarship)

Lillian Alwood (Delver's Gem and Mineral Society Scholarship)

Lillian was the top student in our physical geology and dinosaurs courses. We were so impressed by her intellect, attitude, and enthusiasm that we hired her as an embedded tutor for the Earth Science Department. Lillian is very bright and has a firm grasp on all the geoscience-related topics she encountered as a student and those she is now teaching to our students. Her enthusiasm for geology and the earth sciences, and perpetually sunny disposition are energizing and genuine, and her abilities as a scholar placed her at the top of our classes. As a tutor, her professionalism, work ethic, and communication skills have been exceptional. She regularly asks for guidance and suggestions to ensure that she is meeting the expectations for her as a tutor. Her eagerness for learning new things and expanding on her current knowledge is impressive. Recently, she was accepted into the coveted REU program at Cal State Los Angeles, where she will live and work this summer researching water chemistry and applying the data to water quality issues in urban areas. We are confident that Lillian’s character and capabilities will enable her to reach her educational or professional goals.


Philopateer Mina Botros (Pre-Medical)

Philopateer Mina Botros (Pre-Medical)

On behalf of the Biology Department, I am honored to present Philo Botros with the Academic Excellence award in pre-medicine. During exams, there is often one student that stays longer than the rest. Last semester, that student was Philo Botros. He would sit alone, in a large lecture hall that seats over 100 students, using every last minute to double-check his answers. His strategy along with all the hard work he put in, paid off in making him the top student in his class. This semester he continues to be the last person in the room as my embedded tutor. Aside from assisting students, he fills the time helping me prep supplies for the next day and stays after to help clean. When Philo’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt, they knew it would be difficult adapting to a new country. Philo has managed to flourish and he credits his parents with providing him the skills to succeed. Currently Philo is considering between a career in anesthesiology or biological research. Congratulations Philo!


Vanessa Encinas (Curie Scholarship)

Vanessa Encinas (Curie Scholarship)

Vanessa is an outstanding chemistry major and chemistry student! She excels in all of her chemistry classes. Vanessa was one of our "pandemic tutors" which means she was a tremendous help to several faculty learning to manage hybrid labs. Vanessa could practically teach the lab herself. Besides being an excellent tutor she is a very good role model to the students she helps. She is also works in the chemistry stockroom. So not only is Vanessa a very good student she contributes to the chemistry department in big ways outside the classroom. The entire chemistry faculty agree that Vanessa Encinas deserves the 2022 Madeline Curie Chemistry Scholarship.


Sienna Gilliam (Engineering)

Sienna Gilliam (Engineering)

Ms. Gilliam is a 4.0 student, role model, and example of achievement. Her diverse life experience has led her to Cerritos and engineering study and now the sky is her limit. She represents Cerritos College in an exceedingly good light.

She has expressed to me a goal to continue her studies in mechanical engineering and her desire to work with others who have a passion for creating innovative designs that work to solve everyday problems while considering nature and the environment. She wants to help her classmates succeed, making the world to be a better place.

She was selected to participate in the Cerritos/NASA NCAS program. This included an MVP award for hands-on engineering work.

Sienna's goals include graduate study, there is every reason to believe she will achieve her goals.

I would gladly choose her as a member of any engineering project in the future.


Sienna Gilliam (Paige “Scholar” Scholarship)

Sienna Gilliam (Paige “Scholar” Scholarship)

Sienna Gilliam is a truly exceptional student who has earned top grades in all of her science courses and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. She is a returning student and parent transitioning to engineering from a career in design. She was a tutor for one of our Chem 112 courses and significantly helped the instructor survive during the pandemic. She also did an internship with one of the chemical industries, RD Abbott rubber company, that our department has had students work for in the past. She is committed to doing her best in everything she attempts. Congrats Sienna!


Min-Rung ‘Nicole’ Hsu (Natural Science)

Min-Rung ‘Nicole’ Hsu (Natural Science)

I’m Dr. Chace Tydell, professor of biology and I’m honored to introduce Min-Rung ‘Nicole’ Hsu, recipient of the John Boyle Scholarship and winner of the natural science academic excellence award. Nicole is one of the most exceptional students many of us have seen in the last decade. It is that much more remarkable that she has been able to impress us with her intellect, diligence, and mastery of biology, chemistry, physics and math in this time of Zoom lectures and social distancing. Nicole has maintained a 4.0 GPA while taking a reckless number of units each term. Every term since spring 2020 she has taken 20 to 25 units, and typically 200 level courses! In fall of 2020 Nicole stacked Intro Bio ( a lab class) with Chem 111 (another lab class) with Physics 100, then she added Critical Writing and Analytic Geometry to fill things out.

Nicole is also very mature and proactive in managing her education. Determined to gain research experience, even during the pandemic, she applied to many programs and ultimately traveled to Illinois to spend the summer in research at Urbana Champaign. Nicole is primarily interested in an MD/PhD program to allow her the options of research or medical practice or both.

Nicole’s brilliance, kindness and disciplined work ethic will make her unbeatable as she transfers. I know that MIT, Johns Hopkins or Yale would be very lucky to be her chosen school. Nicole is highly deserving of this award.


Christen-Jaela Manuel (Chemistry)

Christen-Jaela Manuel (Chemistry)

The Chemistry Department proudly presents Jaela Manuel as our Academic Excellence Award winner in Chemistry, the recipient of the Newton Werner Chemistry Scholarship and the American Chemical Society Award. Jaela has straight A’s in all our 5 chemistry sequence courses including CHEM 110, 111, 112, 211, and 212. She is also the winner for our Newton Werner Scholarship that recognizes our best student in organic chemistry. Jaela is one of the best embedded tutors I’ve ever had. She is proactive, helpful, kind, and diligent, and is highly praised and respected by all students she has helped. Jaela is also a rising star in chemistry research, currently conducting research at USC, and just received an offer to continue it this summer. Outside of campus, she also actively volunteers at her church and in her community. Her research for clean, renewable energy has intrigued her to pursue environmental sustainability in the cosmetics industry. She plans to earn a B.S. in Chemistry after transferring to UCLA or UCSD. We wish her the very best.


Marco Salazar (Joan Licari Scholarship)

Marco Salazar (Joan Licari Scholarship)

Marco has taken several of our department's classes over the last few years, including physical geology, oceanography, environmental geology, and earth history. He was a phenomenal student and active participant that went above and beyond all classes. His dedication to his intellectual growth was evident, as he completed extra credit assignments for experience even though they were not needed for his grade. Despite Marco's academic success, his attitude and classroom interaction were even more impressive. Marco was eager to participate in classroom discussions. He was a very constructive, approachable, and positive member when working in teams. His excellent attitude brought up the energy and enthusiasm of those around him. In addition, Marco went above and beyond to improve his understanding, seek out opportunities for growth, and network with faculty. He regularly came to office hours to clarify course content, talk about internship opportunities, and ask for feedback and advice. In addition, Marco has expanded his academic experience and growth beyond the classroom by participating in both the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars internship in Spring 2021 and the Be-Stellar Program at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in the summer and fall of 2021. He is a star student who is paving his way to a fantastic future in the field!


Saly Troeung (Joan Licari Scholarship)

Saly Troeung (Joan Licari Scholarship)

Saly was a student in our physical geology and earth history classes. She was an excellent student and regularly stopped by during office hours to further her understanding of the material and inquire about internship opportunities and career pathways. Her genuine curiosity about the curriculum resulted in excellent questions that helped stimulate class discussions, which helped her classmates to be more engaged and to better understand that material. She was meticulous in her workmanship, resulting in exceptionally high-quality work and outstanding grades. Saly was one of the "first wave" students to return to campus after it was closed because of the pandemic; her professionalism and reliable attendance and contributions helped her instructor and classmates as they transitioned back to in-person learning. Saly also possesses maturity and confidence that makes us confident she is destined for success beyond Cerritos College, whatever her educational or career goals.


Ugo Umekwe-Odudu (Biology)

Ugo Umekwe-Odudu (Biology)

On behalf of the Biology Department, I would like to present Ugo Umekwe-Odudu with the Academic Excellence Award in Biology and the Jules Crane Scholarship Award, which traditionally goes to the top student in Biology. At first, Ugo seems shy and unassuming. But Ugo is so much more – he is funny, genuine, patient, and a fast-learner. Even though the pandemic prevented Ugo from physically performing the labs in my class, he quickly picked up the techniques this semester as a tutor and didn’t miss a beat with being able to guide other students. Ugo’s interest in medicine developed early. Having grown up in Nigeria, he has a keen awareness of the difference in access to medical care between his country of origin and the U.S. The disparity was deeply felt as he lost an older brother in Nigeria to a disease that would have been treatable here. Ugo is determined to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, and eventually return to Nigeria to work and make significant changes in underserved communities so kids don’t have to “come to America” to achieve their dreams. Congratulations Ugo!


Jaclyn Vu (Biochemistry)

Jaclyn Vu (Biochemistry)

Jaclyn Vu is highly respected by her chemistry and biology instructors. In addition to being an outstanding science student Jaclyn has a film brand in which she does commercials for various types of businesses such as boba shops, security companies, and even the 55th Congressional District Office. She also works part time at Disneyland. Jaclyn plans to transfer to a UC this fall to pursue a biochemistry agree at a UC and eventually do a PharmD program.


Deborah Shaw (CIS: Computer Science)

Deborah took all CIS courses in programming and computer science and got an A in all classes. She is a quick and independent learner. Deborah graduated with a BA degree in Economics from UCLA. She would like to get a graduate degree concentrating on AI and Data Science. After graduation from graduate school, Deborah plans to work for a company that needs AI to predict a user’s behavior and market trends or uses Data Science to make decisions and solve problems.


Frida Hernandez (U.S.S. Pelias Scholarship)

Frida is a very enthusiastic student who continuously demonstrates her dedication and interest with the quality of her work. She always showed great passion and knowledge. Frida takes great pleasure in learning new things, and she always asks thoughtful and insightful questions. She always makes the extra effort not just to get the grade but to understand and master the material.


Kenia Marroquin Ramos (Glorya Welch Scholarship)

It is a great honor to nominate Kenia Marroquin Ramos for the Glorya Welch Scholarship. Kenia has been a model student throughout her courses at Cerritos College. She has shown dedication to her studies by asking questions, attending office hours, and participating in tutoring sessions. These efforts have proved to be beneficial as Kenia has shown great improvement, particularly in math. Kenia takes initiative in her progress and is an excellent advocate for herself. As a future elementary teacher, her students will be lucky to have her facilitating their education.


Vini Patel (CIS: Programmer)

Vini Patel is majoring in Computer Science. She got A's in Differential Equations and Linear Algebra course, all calculus courses, and four programming courses. She has a grade point average of 4.0. Vini is one of few students at Cerritos College who are excellent at mathematics and programming. She is also a math tutor. She plans to transfer to UC.


Yolanda Gomez (Physics)

Yolanda is a very dedicated student who has maintained a high GPA despite the many obstacles that she has faced. She continuously demonstrates her commitment to her education with the quality of her work. Miss Gomez came to the United States when she was 14 years old and had to face with a new culture and language. After graduating from High School, she had to deal with homelessness for 5 months while trying to continue her education. Still, she never gave up her dream of earning a degree. I nominate Yolanda Gomez for the Academic Excellent Award in Physics for her dedication and quality of work in the area.