Herz Gold Medal awarded to Anna Urias and Raphael Cohen

The Herz medal is the University's most prestigious student academic honor

Anna Urias and Raphael Cohen

Herz Gold Medal awarded to Anna Urias and Raphael Cohen

The Herz medal is the University's most prestigious student academic honor

Anna Urias and Raphael Cohen

The University is awarding its most prestigious student academic honor, the Herz Gold Medal, to two students this spring commencement season.

The honor will be bestowed upon Anna Urias, graduating with a double major in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics and Raphael Cohen, graduating with a degree in Microbiology and Immunology with a minor in Spanish.

The Herz Gold Medals are awarded to graduating seniors with the highest University grade-point average with the most letter-graded credits (beyond 120) that have been earned at the University.


As a freshman from the Folsom, Calif. area, Urias set her sights on a career in medicine, applying to colleges with strong biology programs. But, when he father needed a series of surgeries on his spine and his treatment involved implanting a spinal cord simulator — a device that sends tiny pulses of electricity directly into the spinal cord to relieve pain — she was inspired to pursue engineering.

“I saw the impact that the spinal cord stimulator had on my dad’s life, and I realized that I wanted to explore this field of medical technology,” Urias said.

Once she arrived at the University, she dove into her studies in engineering, with a bit of trepidation and a lot of gumption.

“When I was very young, I had an instructor tell me that I wouldn’t make it in the STEM field,” she said. “Despite the discouragement, I took a leap of faith and chose to pursuing engineering. Now, many years later, I’m proud to be graduating into a STEM field that I’m truly passionate about. The journey taught me an important lesson: Never let anyone deter you from exploring something that interests you. Imposter syndrome can be daunting, especially when others seem experienced, but remember, everyone starts somewhere.”

Urias said she was very appreciative of the University’s dedicated professors, highlighting their invaluable support as she frequently attended office hours to enhance her skills and understanding. She also served as an executive board member of the University’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) for three years and credited it as one of the most rewarding things she’s done during her undergraduate education. Through her involvement with SHPE, Urias contributed to organizing various social and professional development events at the University, attended regional and national conferences and found opportunities for personal growth and meaningful connections within her community.

 Following graduation, Urias will be employed at her second internship with Medtronic, where she will gain professional experience in the medical device industry. And in the fall, she will attend Purdue University to pursue her master’s degree in Biomedical Device Development.


As a senior in high school in Las Vegas during the start of the COVID pandemic, Raphael Cohen had a front row seat in how a virus could turn our world upside down.

A few years later, when he was enrolled in his first upper division course at the University of Nevada, Reno, Biology 300 (Genetics) it was a gamechanger.

“I learned which disease is caused by this bacteria or this virus, and it was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me,” he said. “I knew exactly what major I want to be in and I know I want to be in healthcare.”

As he progressed through the course, he developed a deep understanding of the material. His skills advanced and he was accepted as a discussion leader for the course. The discussions are 50 minutes each week and cover a specific topic aligned with the lecture. Students in discussion groups (10-15 students per section) do activities such as small-group problem-solving, reenacting biological processes and educational games.

“It’s been special to me,” he said. “Growing up, I was terrified of public speaking, but this was an introduction into that realm of public speaking on a topic I fell in love with … and it’s giving me teaching skills and leadership skills.”

The invaluable experience will assist him in the next step of his career as Cohen will begin medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the fall.

Throughout his time at the University, he also had the opportunity to volunteer with Infinity Hospice Care, played intramural soccer and spent about 1.5 years scribing at the Renown Emergency Department.

“It’s been a great journey. Ultimately, I want to thank my brother and sister as by no means do I think I could succeed without their guidance,” he said. “Also, my role models, my parents, are the best support system ever. And, my friends up in Reno who helped me take a step away from studies to just be a student. That can be hard, but they wanted to make sure I was having fun too.”

About the Herz Gold Medal

The Herz Gold Medal is the University’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.

Funding for the award is provided by the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation and the Thelma B. and ‘Thomas P. Hart Foundation, a Reno-based charity. The foundations continue to honor the Herz family and this tradition of recognizing excellence.



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