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Arnold School of Public Health

Four Arnold School graduate students named 2016 Breakthrough Graduate Scholars

January 21, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, 

Graduate students from the Arnold School of Public Health received four of the university’s 2016 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar awards. The Office of the VP for Research chooses just a few exceptional students from the nominations submitted by graduate directors across USC, selecting those who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, actively contribute to research and scholarship in their fields and exhibit potential for future success. Keith Brazendale (Exercise Science), Diptadip Dattaroy (Environmental Health Sciences), Justin Hardee (Exercise Science) and Danielle Schoffman (Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB)) earned Breakthrough Scholar awards through superior performance in their programs and an impressive list of achievements.

Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, Brazendale earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s in exercise physiology from Florida Atlantic University. “Through these programs, I gained an appreciation and well-rounded understanding of the practical science underpinning health and well-being in children and adolescents,” he says. During his doctoral program, the Health Aspects of Physical Activity candidate has shifted his emphasis toward preventive research. Alongside mentor and 2016 Breakthrough Star winner Michael Beets, Brazendale has worked with Policy to Practice in Youth Programs to improve the nutritional quality of food and the amount of physical activity that children receive outside the school day. This experience has led to nine scholarly publications (five as first author) for the American Kinesiology Association Master’s Scholar Award Winner and aspiring professor.

A doctoral student in environmental health sciences, Dattaroy earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from St. Xavier’s College in his native Kolkata, India before earning a master’s in biophysics and molecular biology from the University of Calcutta. He then worked as a research biologist at a pharmaceutical company, and qualified for a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship, before moving to the United States to attend the Arnold School. With seven peer-reviewed papers (three as first author) and only 18 months before he graduates, Dattaroy is taking advantage of every moment he has left in mentor Saurabh Chatterjee’s (2016 Breakthrough Star) toxicology and liver research lab. In particular, Dattaroy’s research focuses on the role of environmental pollutants in human diseases at the molecular level and the therapeutic effects of natural compounds in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and their specific mechanisms of action. He intends to further explore his research with a postdoctoral fellowship.

Hardee’s path to public health began with an interest in strength and conditioning, which led to a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of West Florida in his hometown of Pensacola and a master’s in the same subject at Appalachian State University. With a growing interest in basic science research, his focus has evolved into understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating muscle adaptation to exercise. Hardee’s current research, under mentor and department chair James Carson, examines the impact of physical activity on muscle wasting associated with cancer. His efforts throughout his graduate programs have led to first-author status on eight out of the Applied Physiology doctoral candidate’s 11 publications to date. Hardee plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship to examine the molecular mechanisms that regulate adaptive responses to exercise.

Growing up in San Francisco, Schoffman earned a dual bachelor’s degree in human biology and anthropological sciences at Stanford University before staying on as a study coordinator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. She enrolled in her doctoral program in 2011 and began working with mentors Sara Wilcox and Brie Turner-McGrievy. The Presidential Fellow and winner of USC’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership has just wrapped up her dissertation research and is currently writing up her findings. Schoffman’s project looked at the ways in which mobile technology can be used in a family setting to support behavior change and improved communication to lead to better outcomes with regard to healthy eating and increased physical activity. With 16 publications to her name (five as first author), Schoffman is well positioned to pursue a postdoc position in behavioral intervention research.

The 2016 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar award recipients will be featured in a special supplement of Breakthrough magazine and honored at the Breakthrough Graduate Scholars Luncheon in the spring.


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