Skip to Content

Arnold School of Public Health

Four Arnold School graduate students named 2020 Breakthrough Graduate Scholars

February 5, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

Graduate students from the Arnold School of Public Health received four of the university’s 2020 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar awards. The Office of the Vice President for Research chooses a dozen or so exceptional students from the nominations submitted by graduate directors across UofSC, selecting those who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, actively contribute to research and scholarship in their fields and exhibit potential for future success. Yoojin Cho (health promotion, education, and behavior), Lynsey Keator (communication sciences and disorders), Elizabeth Regan (exercise science) and Sutapa Sarkar (environmental health sciences) were among the 14 Breakthrough Scholars selected for superior performance in their programs and an impressive list of achievements.

A doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Cho came to UofSC in 2014 to study the behavioral and regulatory aspects of tobacco control research. Working with mentor Jim Thrasher, Cho is committed to conducting research to combat nicotine addiction – particularly examining how tobacco control policies can be leveraged to influence smoking behavior. For her dissertation project, the Korea native is working to examine warning label strategies for communicating relative risks of cigarettes and emerging nicotine products such as e-cigarettes to Korean adult consumers. To date, Cho has published 11 peer-reviewed articles with six as first author including one published in PLOS One – all while maintaining a perfect GPA. Her honors include her department’s Olga I. Ogoussan Doctoral Research Award, the UofSC Walker Institute’s Seung Yeun Kim Graduate Fellowship, and an Office of the Vice President for Research’s Support to Promote Advancement and Creativity (SPARC) grant.  

“Throughout her doctoral experience, Yoojin Cho has shown individual initiative, reliability and the ability to collaborate with others, while also showing the creative application of the knowledge and skills she has gained during her time as a Ph.D. student,” says Thrasher. “I have no doubt that her work will significantly contribute to scientific understanding around the ways to regulate and communicate about innovative tobacco products that are changing the landscape of tobacco in South Korea and around the world.”

Inspired by her younger brother’s experiences with a phonological disorder, Keator is a speech-language pathologist and second-year Ph.D. student studying with stroke and aphasia expert Julius Fridriksson. Keator’s research explores the use of noninvasive brain stimulation to treat aphasia while also addressing gaps between research and clinical practice through translational projects. In addition, Keator engages in action-based community outreach projects, such as a monthly Lunch Bunch event to provide fellowship for individuals with aphasia while educating members of the hospitality industry about how to best engage this population. Along with five published manuscripts, Keator is also the recipient of several prestigious awards: the Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences Fellowship, her department’s Elaine M. Frank Endowed Fellowship, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Fellowship for the Research Symposium in Clinical Aphasiology, and the UofSC Graduate Civic Scholars Program.

“Lynsey Keator’s previous clinical and research experiences, as well as her current work at the University of South Carolina as a doctoral student in the Aphasia Lab, are a testament to her invested interest in science as well as her motivation and aptitude, which contribute to her productivity as a doctoral student,” says Fridriksson. “She exemplifies effective leadership skills by leading a variety of research projects related to clinical outcomes and novel research related to neuroimaging methodologies.”

Regan joined the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Exercise Science program (ranked No. 1 in the nation) to bridge the science and practice of her work as a physical therapist. Now in the final year of her program, Regan’s dissertation project integrates stroke survivors into cardiac rehabilitation. After her May graduation, her goal is to continue focusing on the translation of physical activity research in healthcare and community settings for stroke survivors. During her program, Regan has worked on multiple research projects with mentor Stacy Fritz, resulting in five published papers. The recipient of the Adopt-a-Doc Award from the Academy of Physical Therapy Education, Regan is also a Presidential Fellow and an American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellow and has already received several grants, including an National Institute’s T-32 pre-doctoral research training grant (UofSC’s Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Program), Component Grants for Physical Activity, Exercise and Health Promotion (American Physical Therapy Association), Health Policy and Administration Research Grant, and a SPARC grant.

“Elizabeth Regan’s research focus, combined with her skills as a physical therapist and her previous clinical and academic experience, makes her an excellent Ph.D. candidate,” says Fritz. “Her research career is focused on investigating physical activity for those with chronic mobility limitations, and I believe her intelligence, drive and determination will allow her to succeed in this field.”

Originally from India, Sarkar earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a  master’s degree in biochemistry and then interned at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases before moving to the United States. She joined the Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program in 2017 and quickly found a home in mentor Saurabh Chatterjee’s Environmental Health and Disease Laboratory. Since Chatterjee established it in 2012, this award-winning lab has conducted cutting-edge biomedical research on how environmental toxins contribute to liver disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity. Sarkar, who has engaged in several research projects, is the fourth lab member in six years to be named a Breakthrough Graduate Scholar. Her productivity (eight publications in peer-reviewed journals with two as first author) is even more remarkable given the original, bench science research that is performed in the lab. She maintained a nearly perfect GPA and was selected as a Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow. Sarkar is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine after recently graduating from UofSC.

“Ever since Sutapa Sarkar has joined my laboratory, she has been actively engaged with different projects,” says Chatterjee. “She is a good listener and is able to work well either as a part of a team or by herself. I have found her to be an intelligent and hardworking student and she has the ability and confidence to accomplish any work assigned to her.”


Shan Qiao (HPEB) and Krystal Werfel (COMD) named 2020 Breakthrough Stars

Health promotion, education, and behavior Ph.D. candidate Alycia Boutté named 2019 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.