Meet the 2019 University Medal runners-up

images of the four runners up

The medalist runners-up, clockwise from top left: Tynan Perez, Samantha Hao, Harry Main-Luu and Yvonne Hao.

Every year, the competition for the University Medal – the award given each year to the graduating senior who best embodies the highest ideals of UC Berkeley – is fierce. Candidates for the medal, which was established in 1871, must have overcome significant challenges, had an impact on the lives of others and carry a GPA of 3.96 or higher.

Like the winner, Tyler Chen, the runners-up  – Harry Main-Luu, Yvonne Hao, Tynan Perez and Samantha Hao – have proven to be extraordinary students who have demonstrated excellence. Here is a brief introduction to these distinguished scholars:

Harry Main-Luu

Harry Main-Luu (Photo by Megan Lee)

Harry Main-Luu
Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Major: Mathematics
What’s next: Graduate school at the University of Wisconsin

What Berkeley means to me: “I loved mathematics growing up, but I got away from it for six or seven years, trying to pursue musical theater. When I came to Berkeley 2½ years ago, it rekindled that love. It was liberating to come back to math. School has always made me happy; it was my safe space. For me, Berkeley has been learning to love myself and to be so altered by the people I have met here. There are brilliant professors and peers who are so extremely motivated. I have never seen a place where everybody makes so much progress. And that keeps pushing me forward.”


Yvonne Hao

Yvonne Hao (Photo by Jeremy Snowden)

Yvonne Hao
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
Majors: Molecular and cell biology
What’s next: A year or two devoted to research in the Tjian & Darzacq Group lab on campus, then off to medical school
Berkeley moment: “I was a volunteer at the Suitcase Clinic, which is student-run, offering medical and social services to the homeless and low-income populations. I was in the women’s clinic, and we had a regular client. We saw her from her pregnancy to the moment her baby daughter took her first steps. We were all so excited. It showed me the deep relationships we build here. I came into Berkeley expecting to get a degree in biology, but I come out of it having gotten so much more. I’ve grown as a student, a scientist, a teacher, an advocate and an artist.”


Tynan Perez

Tynan Perez (Photo by Irene Yi)

Tynan Perez
Hometown: Chicago
Major: Chemical biology
What’s next: Research and development for now, but ultimately a professorship
What I love about Berkeley: “This campus accepts such diverse populations. It takes chances on people. It totally took a chance on me, coming in with a weird background, a low-income student on the down side. There were struggles around housing that I had, bittersweet and intense moments. But I would not trade that experience for anything. I leave here wanting to impact the world and inspire the world; that’s what Berkeley did for me.”


Samantha Hao

Samantha Hao (Photo by Irene Yi)

Samantha Hao
Hometown: El Dorado Hills, California
Majors: Molecular and cell biology and mathematical biology
What’s next: A one-year internship with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, then on to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The most important thing I learned at Berkeley: “Coming in, I didn’t necessarily have bad viewpoints or opinions, but they were certainly underdeveloped. My time in Berkeley, through meeting different types of people and people of different backgrounds, has given my own viewpoints nuance and perspective. And I know now that I have to constantly strive to learn. Berkeley is the one place that could have installed that in me.”