Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center

Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

Banner of UROC Mentor Award Recipients in various settings

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) offers the UROC Undergraduate Research Mentor Award to recognize and honor the practice of mentoring undergraduate research and scholarship at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). This award is intended to recognize demonstrated excellence in supporting undergraduate researchers, to encourage mentoring relationships with undergraduate students, and to convey the campus' high regard for such contributions made by the academic and research community at CSUMB and other regional research institutions.

Both CSUMB and UROC embrace the vision of providing innovative and relevant educational opportunities to our unique population of undergraduate students. The UROC Undergraduate Research Mentor Award recognizes mentors who strive to uphold this vision by enhancing research opportunities for CSUMB’s undergraduate population and cultivating a collaborative, intellectual community.

Mentor of the Year 2024

Dr. Sherry Palacios

Dr. Sherry Palacios is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marine Science at California State University, Monterey Bay. Her Biological Oceanography lab seeks to understand the changing ocean. Research focuses on a range of topics including the effect of ocean acidification on seagrass biology; understanding how El Niño - Southern Oscillation and climate change affect phytoplankton biodiversity, primary productivity, and carbon flux in eastern boundary current systems using remote sensing observations; and the development of novel optical algorithms for discriminating phytoplankton taxa and plastics in the ocean. Research in her lab is highly quantitative and uses a number of tools including radiometry observations in the field to optical modeling of the underwater light field to remote sensing image analysis to machine learning and artificial intelligence methods to predict ocean conditions.  

Sherry Palacios


Dr. Palacios moved often growing up and is happy to now call Monterey Bay home. She attended Smith College where she majored in Biology with a minor in Marine Science. She completed her Master of Science degree at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and then went on to earn her Ph.D. in Ocean Sciences at the University of California - Santa Cruz. Her thesis focused on developing novel bio-optical algorithms to describe processes in the ocean including water mass detection and evolution and the discrimination of phytoplankton taxa using high spectral resolution imagery. After her Ph.D. she traveled the world with her husband for a year before returning to a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center where she worked on several airborne missions to develop remote sensing algorithms for high spectral resolution satellite sensors. After her post-doc she worked at NASA as a Research Scientist where she also taught remote sensing courses online and with indigenous tribes throughout the U.S. While at NASA, Dr. Palacios mentored 33 research students in NASA's Student Airborne Research Program, DEVELOP, CAARE, and ESTEEM programs. Her research program at CSUMB has been supported by NASA, the US Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). While at CSUMB, Dr. Palacios has mentored 8 UROC Scholars, 2 McNair Scholars, 14 UROC Researchers, and 2 NOAA Jose Serrano Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI). Many of these students are beginning to pursue careers in the sciences. Some of these students have presented their work at regional, national, and international conferences. Three of her students were awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, and two of her students were awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) funds to pursue graduate studies. 

Over the course of her career, Dr. Palacios has spent 8 months living at sea or in remote field locations including the waters offshore of California, Oregon and Washington, Baja California, Mexico, The Bahamas, and Belize. She has conducted research stuck in the mud, from small boats and large boats, and aboard the NASA fleet of aircraft. The type of research she conducts can be accessible to people of all abilities and this has informed her thinking around making science accessible, equitable, and a place of belonging for all people, which she strives to do with the research students she mentors. She fosters a growth mindset in herself and her students and works with her students towards self-actualization so they gain confidence in their abilities, a sense of ownership of their learning, and an identity as a scientist. Throughout her career Dr. Palacios has had a number of mentors who have invested in her success and she is honored to pass along their wisdom to the students she mentors.