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Best Professor: Alex Filippenko

What's the best part about Alex Filippenko? Is it the unwavering commitment to learn his students' names, even when he has close to a thousand of them? Maybe it's his rare ability to explain complicated, technical scientific concepts to the layperson. Or the handfuls of candy he throws into the crowd at Halloween for his Astronomy C10 class, with the occasional camera for good measure. Or - no, it's definitely the fact that he's the Snoop Dogg of science.

Year after year, Filippenko is the professor to beat for Best of Berkeley hopefuls, having won over six times in almost as many years. Not only is he great in the lecture hall, but also near a telescope - he's won awards for his teaching, including the U.S. Professor of the Year award in 2006, and for his research, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000. One wouldn't expect anything less from a professor with around 1,500 "likes" on his Facebook page.

While Filippenko is noteworthy for many reasons, perhaps the best is that he embodies what this campus should be: a world leader in cutting-edge research, and a great resource for any Berkeley student regardless of his or her major.

-Evante Garza-Licudine

Best Female Athlete: Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd was not voted Pac-10 Player of the Year - apparently that award was too limiting.

Instead, Lloyd won AVCA Division I National Player of the Year, the first Cal player to do so.

The setter's senior campaign was arguably the greatest individual season in Cal volleyball history.

The Bonsai, Calif., native logged 1,384 assists at a rate of 11.83 per set, eighth best in the country. Her deft passing quarterbacked Cal's offense to the third best hitting percentage (.308) and the sixth most kills per set (14.63) in the nation.

It wasn't just her pinpoint sets. At 5-foot-11, the All-American was ninth in the Pac-10 in blocks, with 1.08 per set.

Lloyd was a leader of the most successful Cal volleyball team in history. The Bears swept their season series with Stanford for the first time in 31 years en route to their first-ever Pac-10 crown. They advanced to their first-ever national championship match, not dropping a set until the title loss to Penn State. Even before NCAA tournament, Cal coach Rich Feller called her "the best that we've had."

There's no reason to argue with him.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

Best Male Athlete: Nathan Adrian

Nathan Adrian is the fastest American swimmer of all time.

Already a gold and silver Olympic medalist and double American record holder in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, Adrian spent the 2011 season bolstering his already sterling resume.

The senior won every single sprint freestyle event that he swam during the season, collecting two individual Pac-10 and NCAA titles along the way. Adrian was also instrumental in helping his team fend off Texas at the NCAA Championships, anchoring the winning 400 freestyle relay to clinch the title for the Bears - their first since 1980.

The Bremerton, Wash., native also broke his own American record in the 50-yard freestyle (18.66) at NCAAs, ensuring his status as the fastest man to swim 50 yards of any stroke in history.

Adrian leaves Cal having collected 11 NCAA titles and eight school records. And the best part is that he's just getting started.

Adrian will look to represent Team USA at the 2012 Olympics in London, where he'll be considered a contender to medal, if not win, both the 50 and 100-meter freestyle, and cement his title as the next great American sprinter.

-Connor Byrne

Best Place to Use Your Meal Points: Golden Bear Cafe

The smell of fried food wafts over Sproul Plaza as students walk by, tempting them to stop at the Golden Bear Cafe. It has all the works to satiate hungry college students with meal points at the ready, and is conveniently situated for a quick bite between classes.

Whether you need to pick up a bag of chips or want to go all-out with a smoothie, burger, salad and soup, the cafe offers tons of options. Check out the grill, which provides fish tacos and samosas if you're feeling fancy, or chicken strips (if you need some comfort food). The breakfast also merits praise.

You'll definitely wait in line during lunchtime rush hour, but the lightning speed with which the cashiers ring up the food is nothing short of miraculous. Though outdoor seating is limited, the tables offer a great people-watching spot to observe the eccentricities of Sproul. When hunger strikes at 3 after class, the GBC stands as a reliable source of food when the dining halls are closed.

Also make sure to check out the new frozen yogurt station, complete with delicious toppings. As warm weather arrives, don't be surprised to see meal points disappearing from your account.

-Alisha Azevedo

Best Place to Use Your Meal Points: Qualcomm CyberCafe

When you think of Qualcomm Cyber Cafe, you usually think of wraps. Custom-made wraps. Spinach, whole wheat, flour - the choice of flatbread is yours. Tucked away in a corner on the north side of campus in Sutardja Dai Hall, Qualcomm is one of the few cafes in or around the immediate area that offers quality wraps.

Most Qualcomm customers are en-"wrap"-tured by the wrap combo, which includes a drink and bag of chips to your liking. The food options don't stop there, though. Have your pick of gourmet salads, mac & cheese, soup - or if you wanna go wild, try a breakfast wrap.

It even gets better than that: There's a Peet's Coffee inside Qualcomm, too! It's the closest Peet's you'll find if you live right off of North Gate, and it's one of three Peet's locations in Berkeley that takes meal points.

You can leave Qualcomm with a pumpkin spice latte in one hand and a whole-wheat turkey wrap in the other. Bonus to spending meal points and time in Qualcomm: Every once in a while they'll play Shakira's Laundry Service album (ya know, the "Whenever, Whatever" one). What a deal.

-Dominique Brillon

Best Class: Political Economy 100

In his course, political economy professor Alan Karras transforms himself from a Machiavellian Prince into a Hobbesian dictator and a pragmatist in the vein of Rousseau. He embodies Adam Smith, Hegel and Marx in turn, each with the command of a brilliant orator, all in attire that would convince any aesthetics aficionado that he's stepped straight from the pages of The Sartorialist.

Professor Karras masterfully guides students through the canon of political and economic theories of the last five centuries. He challenges students to explore how the writings of this host of thinkers - largely dead, white, bearded men - have shaped the way we and our governments deal with the world and individuals.

Karras is a professor in the old school dealing with old schools of thought, but he will not accept old thinking. Your questions will be deflected back toward you. You'll gain more than a repository of information - and bragging rights for conquering Hegel. Instead, students will question the assumptions and -isms that make up the modern world, and create their own.

-Noor Al-Samarrai


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