The University of Nevada, Reno named Justin Lopez the recipient of the 2013 Herz Gold Medal for outstanding scholarship. The Herz Gold Medal is presented at each commencement ceremony to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average.
Lopez, a graduate of Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in Reno, graduated from the University today with multiple bachelor's degrees, having majored in biochemistry and molecular biology and in biology and having minored in Spanish, chemistry and mathematics. He started his academic career at the University looking around with wide eyes at the thousands of students and faculty around him and said he was "hesitant and downright terrified of what was to come."
Lopez now says he has achieved even more than he planned when he set out to college.
A National Merit Scholar and member of the Honors Program, Lopez said his two University Studies Abroad Consortium summer programs, including the inaugural field study in Havana, Cuba, were highlights of his college career. He is also a member of the National Collegiate Hispanic Studies Honor Society and, with a 4.0 grade-point average, was named this year's Senior Scholar of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.
"I am leaving with indispensable on-campus work experience, conducting research on topics I could never have begun to understand four years ago." Lopez said. "In addition to my experiences in the classroom and lab, I can look back at my study abroad and volunteer experiences in Chile, Costa Rica and Cuba through the University Studies Abroad Consortium. Most importantly, I have made incredible life-long friends in my coworkers, roommates, club members, faculty and fellow students."
Lopez's advisor, Patricia Ellison, associate professor in the University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, recalls suggesting to the then high school senior that he could complete his major in three years. Lopez responded by describing his college plans and she remembers thinking "if he does half of that, I'll be impressed."
And she is very impressed. Ellison instructed two of his lab courses and stated he was always the best prepared. Academic advisor Pamela Sandstrom noted that Lopez has superior communication skills and interacts effectively with others allowing him to help fellow students with lab experiments and complex topics.
Lopez anticipates pursuing his doctorate degree in molecular biology after taking a year to continue research at the University of Nevada, Reno and to volunteer and travel abroad. He relays his appreciation for his advisors as well as the staff of the Honors program for their help in achieving his goals.
The Herz Gold Medal is the University of Nevada, Reno's oldest and most prestigious award and was established in 1910 when the University was only 36 years old by brothers Richard, Carl and Otto Herz. This is the 21st consecutive year that the recipient of the award has graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
Funding for the award is now being provided by the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation and the Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation, a Reno-based charity. The foundations wish to continue honoring the Herz family and will keep the name of the award.