Samantha Lewis honored at Chancellor Christ’s Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award celebration

Assistant Professor Samantha Lewis and Chancellor Carol Christ standing in front of a staircase in University House.

On January 22, 2024, Chancellor Carol Christ hosted a reception at University House honoring 2023 Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award recipient Samantha Lewis, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Development and Physiology. Lewis received the Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award and $35,000 grant in recognition of outstanding scholarship, teaching, mentoring, and service to UC Berkeley. Her research focusing on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and related scientific insights are critical contributions to individual and population health, given the significant role of mitochondrial disease in the prevalence of inherited metabolic disorder and the association of mtDNA integrity with aging, metabolic disease, cancer, and neuromuscular-degeneration. Many Cal faculty and colleagues working within the physical and biological sciences were in attendance at the spirited event among more than 55 guests, including alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and family members engaging in conversation and fellowship over food and drink.

The Prytanean Faculty Award is our commitment to uplift women that are striving for tenure track in academia through an unrestricted monetary grant while balancing multiple intersectional identities and responsibilities. As President, it has been a joy to leverage my background, lived experiences, and passion to give back in such a meaningful way while upholding our pledge for faith, service, and loyalty to the University of California, Berkeley. Prytanean Alumnae President Tina Cheung.


The Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Enrichment Award and Cal Science Faculty

QB3 Faculty affiliate Samantha Lewis joins over 40 faculty members, as fellow Award recipients and honorary Prytanean Alumnae, representing more than 30 disciplines and departments. Since 1986, the Prytanean Honor Society Alumnae Board has awarded over $600,000 in unrestricted grants to support UC Berkeley’s mission to attract and retain outstanding early career faculty members who identify as women. Cal faculty working within and at the intersection of the physical and biological sciences are well represented among Award recipients prioritizing diverse student representation and exemplary leadership. The majority of recipients remain at UC Berkeley and build upon Cal’s world renowned legacy of outstanding teaching, research, and service.

Large group photo of 2023 Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award ceremony attendees.

Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award recipient Samantha Lewis with 2023 Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award Ceremony Attendees. Photo: Justin Wang

Cal faculty in the sciences have been both supporters and recipients of the Prytanean Faculty Enrichment Award since its inception. Lewis was chosen from a pool of more than twenty exceptional applicants by selection committee members Sheila Humphreys, inaugural UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering Director of Diversity; Rebecca Abergel, Associate Professor in Nuclear Engineering and Chemistry and Heavy Element Chemistry Group Leader at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Marla Feller, Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biological Sciences with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. Additional reviewers include fellow Prytanean Faculty Award recipients, Henrike Christian Lange (2020), History of Art and Italian Studies, and Mechanical Engineering Professor Grace Gu (2021), whose lab works at the intersection of mechanics, additive manufacturing, materials, and artificial intelligence. Britt Glaunsinger (2011), Chair and Professor in Molecular and Cell Biology and Plant and Microbial Biology, was also critical to the selection process. 

One of the first women to receive tenure in the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, Professor Emerita Angelica Stacy was the inaugural Prytanean Faculty Award recipient. Recognized for outstanding mentorship, Carolyn Bertozzi, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry and MacArthur Fellow, received the 1998 Award. Soon thereafter, Co-Chair of Integrative Biology, Chair of Biological Sciences, and Professor Eileen Lacey received the Prytanean Award and Cal’s Distinguished Teaching Award. 

Recently, Markita Landry, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and 2019 Award recipient, was named a 2023 Schmidt Science Polymath. Landry also receives $500,000 per year for up to five years to research the intersection of single-molecule biophysics and nanomaterial-polymer science and developing new tools to probe and characterize biological systems. The 2012 Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Award is one among many for Diana Bautista, Professor of Cell Biology, Development, and Physiology. Having studied cell signaling since graduate school, Bautista’s research untangles the complex cellular and molecular interactions that contribute to chronic inflammation. Bautista prioritizes equitable and inclusive laboratory structures, values, and experiences in leading the Somatosensory, Epithelial, Neuroimmune Sciences LabSENse Lab with Ellen Lumpkin. Current research focuses on lung inflammation and cellular-level change associated with COVID-19 infection and effects on the nervous system.

Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Enrichment Award recipient Samantha Lewis, Chancellor Carol Christ, and previous Award recipients Diana Bautista, Grace Gu, and Henrike Lange.

Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Enrichment Award recipient Samantha Lewis, Chancellor Carol Christ, and previous Award recipients Diana Bautista, Grace Gu, and Henrike Lange. Photo: Justin Wang

Samantha Lewis

Since 2019, Lewis has been an Assistant Professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. She received postdoctoral training at UC Davis, a Ph.D. in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics from UC Riverside, and an undergraduate degree in zoology from Oregon State University. Selection committee members championed Lewis’ distinguished research and publication records; prestigious speaking engagements; exemplary capacity for professional service and being a role model; and clarity of scholarship, mentoring, and teaching goals.

Dr. Lewis is an outstanding scientist who is working to understand how mitochondrial DNA is regulated within healthy cells and how dysregulation can lead to a variety of diseases including metabolic disorders, cancer, and neurodegeneration in humans. She is also a gifted and generous teacher, and an exceptional role model and mentor for underrepresented students and women in science at UC Berkeley and beyond. – Diana Bautista.


In addition to the Prytanean Alumnae Faculty Enrichment Award, Lewis recently received the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship and University of Chicago Marine Biological Laboratory Whitman Fellowship. Lewis was also awarded a $500,000 grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in 2023 to support collaboration with Assistant Professor Abdoulaye Ndao at UC San Diego and a 2023 Beckman Young Investigator to develop and implement specialized nanomaterials to spatially map organelle respiration in live cells and tissue. Other sources of honors and grants include but are not limited to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, Stanford Diabetes Research Center, Society of Hellman Fellows, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Mitochondrial Medicine Society, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and National Science Foundation. 

Her drive and passion to generate scientific ideas, knowledge, and innovation to address meaningful concerns central to health and well-being are infectious, as evidenced by numerous examples of positive student and trainee opportunities and outcomes. Partnering with various professional and community organizations in a leadership, advisory, teaching, and mentoring capacity, Lewis strengthens Cal’s dedication to scientific innovation and discovery while increasing educational access and pathways to success. For instance, Lewis serves on the international non-profit Bioimaging North America’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 

Lewis is a core leader of Partnering to Advance Imaging Research for Underrepresented Minority Scientists Program (PAIR-UP), a consortium of Black imaging scientists who use advanced microscopy in the biomedical sciences. Working closely with Merritt College, Lewis’ outreach efforts include acclimating Bay Area kindergarten through sixth grade learners to STEM with Scientific Adventures for Girls. The Lewis Lab also provides Merritt College students with mentoring and training, including tools, guidance, and support networks for successful long-term continuation in bioscience careers. 

Lewis and her lab are recognized for collegial, congenial, and innovative approaches to scientific training and practice involving cellular mechanisms of mitochondrial DNA integrity and inheritance. In fact, The Lewis Lab attracts trainees ranging from high school students to postdoctoral scholars, who receive dedicated mentoring and exposure to unparalleled professional opportunities. Every summer, Lewis hosts a high school student and an undergraduate student as part of the University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS).

Beyond being an incredible scientist, Lewis is a fantastic person and mentor. She tailors her mentorship to the individual and always finds time for one-on-one meetings with every lab member. She knows the  career goals of every one of us and constantly shares opportunities that can push us toward our goals. I am proud to be a part of the Lewis lab, and I love that our lab is composed of talented scientists from diverse backgrounds. – Eve Kakudji, PhD student in the Lewis Lab


Members of The Lewis Lab: Tejashree Waingankar, Casadora Boone, Samantha Lewis, Adam Begeman, Eve Kakudji, and Ahmad Shami.

Members of The Lewis Lab. Tejashree Waingankar, Casadora Boone, Samantha Lewis, Adam Begeman, Eve Kakudji, and Ahmad Shami. Photo: Justin Wang

The Award Reception at University House

As the first woman to serve as Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Christ tirelessly advances policies and practices that honor and support students, staff, and faculty with diverse experiences and identities. To begin the reception, Chancellor Christ evoked her shared identity as a woman and scholar in honoring Lewis, praising fellow students, faculty, Prytaneans, and women who:

“defied their prescribed role as homemakers — as well as societal beliefs of their inferiority — to earn degrees and professorships, and to fight for and raise funds for vital services. When you walk around campus, be proud to know that many things you see or experience were envisioned or influenced by women, from the first infirmary to women’s housing, to the funding of student scholarships and faculty awards.”


The Chancellor and Cynthia Golembeski, Faculty Award Chair, presented flowers and the Award to Lewis. In accepting her award during a room full of applause, Lewis expressed heartfelt gratitude in acknowledgment of supportive colleagues, friends, and family. Poignantly, Lewis thanked her son Tevian, who stood with her at the podium, for reminding her of the importance of her research and scholarship. Lewis’ guests, including her father Anthony and partner Tatsiana, her sister Rio, and son Tevian, and friends and colleagues, such as Feather Ives, a Molecular and Cellular Biology Research Associate who also leads PAIR-UP, contributed to a truly memorable event.

Lewis and guests were among kindred Cal colleagues, alumni, and friends contributing to increasing diversity and equity of access, experiences, and opportunities for underrepresented or historically marginalized people within academia. Ellen Lumpkin and Marla Feller, Distinguished Teaching Award recipient and member of the National Academy of Sciences, were among the guests at the festive reception. Previous Faculty Award winners and honorary Prytanean alumnae, Daniela Kaufer (2010), Diana Bautista (2012), Henrike Lange (2020), and Grace Gu (2021) also celebrated with Lewis. Additional colleagues in attendance include QB3 faculty affiliates and neuroscientists Abby Dernburg, Professor of Cell Biology, Development and Physiology, and Matt Welch, Francis Williams Chair in Biological Sciences. 

Moreover, Prytanean Honor Society undergraduates and Prytanean Alumnae were overjoyed to honor Lewis, who exemplifies UC Berkeley’s motto Fiat Lux. Lewis, Prytanean Faculty Award recipient and honorary Prytanean alumnae, is among the best contributing to new scientific ideas and knowledge generation that benefit society and the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Outstanding faculty such as Lewis are rare yet form the foundation for what makes UC Berkeley a renowned academic institution committed to fostering and supporting diversity of ideas and experiences as central to excellence. 

Cynthia Golembeski, Faculty Award Chair; Leigh Genser, Cal Alumni Association Liaison; and Sana Shaikh, Secretary, are Prytanean Alumnae Board Members.