Merrill P. Freeman Medals
Dr. Merrill Freeman was born in Ohio in 1844 and served the University of Arizona as a regent and as a chancellor. His will provided for two medals to be awarded annually to students selected by the UA administration.
Qualifications include outstanding moral force of character. Additional factors which may be considered are: popularity, receipt of athletic awards, membership in organizations, service on committees and as officers. This is a medal award.
2023 Outstanding Senior Award Recipients:
Elizabeth Grace Hala'ufia
Elizabeth Grace Hala’ufia is graduating summa cum laude with honors, earning a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science with a Minor in Biochemistry. Born in Marana, Arizona Grace is the third of five children raised by two wonderful parents, Solomone and Melissa. Staying close to home and family, she has spent the past four years as a track and field student-athlete at the University of Arizona.
Grace is a 2019 UArizona KEYS summer research program alumna. She was mentored by Dr. Daniela Zarnescu, whose lab studies neurodegeneration. This experience provided the groundwork for Grace’s aspirations to understand the molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases. Grace has been a UArizona MARC research trainee for two years. Her contributions to Dr. Zarnescu’s work in modeling dementia-relevant phenotypes in Drosophila appear in a recently submitted manuscript. Through the MARC program, Grace spent a summer at Johns Hopkins University conducting research under Dr. Richard Huganir, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Grace tested several viruses’ abilities to treat autism spectrum disorder in mice. She presented her findings nationwide at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students. Starting her senior year, Grace has been mentored by Dr. Arthur Riegel, whose lab studies the signaling mechanisms of addiction. Her experiments helped Dr. Riegel’s lab investigate a small molecule’s effect on the drug-seeking behaviors of rats, and earned her a second co-authored manuscript submission.
Grace has striven to foster positivity within STEM spaces as a Supplemental Instruction Leader in organic chemistry and physics. She has also offered support as a preceptor for Dr. Roger Miesfeld's biochemistry course and Dr. Alan Nighorn's neurophysiology course.
Across her four years, Grace was awarded with the Marana Unified School District 2340 Scholarship, Wildcat Distinction Award, Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative Fellowship, Maximizing Access to Research Careers Training Award, and Pac-12 All-Academic Honors.
Grace will be pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Neuroscience at the University of California- San Francisco starting August of 2023, with the ultimate goal of conducting neurological disease research that catalyzes life-saving therapeutic development.
Vanessa Addison is graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of
Science in Biochemistry. She is passionate about biomedical science and health education, with personal and professional goals to increase health literacy and provide aid to medically underserved communities.
Vanessa's pursuits are driven by her love for science and service. As a freshman, she interned with the Fight4HER campaign to advocate for affordable health services on Capitol Hill. She volunteers regularly at the Sister Jose Women’s Homeless Shelter and has initiated a social media campaign to raise awareness about the homeless crisis in Tucson. Throughout the pandemic, Vanessa served as an EMT in a mobile POD to vaccinate students and Tucson residents. She also worked in an addiction rehabilitation clinic and quickly recognized the impact of social determinants on people's access to comprehensive care.
In 2021, Vanessa began researching in the lab of Dr. Ross Buchan. Her efforts to understand the
molecular mechanisms underpinning Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis have culminated in an Honors thesis, several award-winning posters, two research grants, and contributions to a scientific publication. She is committed to enhancing STEM inclusivity and has served as a preceptor, CBC Ambassador, peer mentor, organic chemistry tutor, and SALT Center tutor to achieve this goal in the academic environment.
Vanessa is the 2023 Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Senior, and has been honored with the Ronald Gonzalez Wildcat Spirit Award, Michael A Wells Scholarship, Arizona Distinction Award, Highest Academic Distinction, Warner Scholarship, Black and Kletz Scholarship, and a Franke Honors Research Endowment. Her proudest accomplishment is having been crowned the 2022 UA Homecoming Queen.
She is grateful for the unwavering support from her wonderful parents, Heather and John Addison, research PI, graduate mentors, professors, CBC advisors, friends, and the UA community. This fall, Vanessa will attend medical school and pursue her lifelong aspiration of becoming a physician.