Slugs lauded as Hometown Heroes

Chancellor, faculty, staff and alumni honored at Santa Cruz Works event

Marc DesJardins | UCSC | December 02, 2020

UC Santa Cruz is well represented at this year’s Santa Cruz Works Hometown Heroes awards ceremony, with Chancellor Cynthia Larive, a host of faculty and staff members, and numerous alumni slated to be honored.

The awards are presented by Santa Cruz Works, an umbrella organization of mostly tech-related companies with the mission of making Santa Cruz County a great place to start, sustain, and grow businesses. Fifteen organizations and individuals are being honored for their efforts “to help our community through the onslaught of 2020 challenges: pandemic, wildfires, social injustice, and economic downturn.” More than 50 nominations were submitted.

The chancellor is being lauded for leading campus through significant challenges in her first year: COVID-19 and the Santa Cruz Mountains wildfires that destroyed roughly 1,000 homes. “She has led with calm, care, and integrity — traits sorely needed in the midst of chaos and unrest,” event organizers stated when announcing her selection.

Isabel Bjork and the Genomics Institute are being honored for their contributions to the fight against COVID. The institute, which Bjork serves as executive director, posted the complete genome of the virus on the UCSC Genome Browser, an interactive web-based tool used by researchers worldwide to study genetic data. The institute was also an essential player in uprighting the UCSC Molecular Diagnostic Lab this past spring. The lab has been a valuable campus and community resource, offering COVID testing to students and employees, and to the area’s most vulnerable residents.

Jeremy Sanford, professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology, is being singled out for his role in establishing the lab. In just a few months, he and the other organizers initiated the licensing process, received approval from federal and state agencies, and developed the capacity to test hundreds of samples per day in a lab built from scratch. It’s launch was a significant accomplishment in light of the fact UCSC does not have a medical school and had no diagnostic testing in place. While many faculty members and staff members were involved in its creation, Sanford’s passion for the project stood out, the awards committee stated.

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