Skip to Content

Arnold School of Public Health

  • 2022 Commencement

2023 Student Awards

The Department of Environmental Health Sciences is proud to announce the recipients of their 2023 Student Awards. These six students were selected for their outstanding performance both academically and outside the classroom.

Katya Altman

Ph.D. Student of the Year Award - Katya Altman

Since her undergraduate studies overseas, Katya Altman has been interested in engaged approaches to science communication. As a student in the Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program, Altman works with the NIEHS-funded Center for Oceans and Human Health and Climate Change Interactions and researches long-term coastal sustainability and solving complex environmental issues by engaging and meaningfully involving diverse communities. Over the summer, Altman is finishing her dissertation research, working with the Future Earth Coasts, and waiting for the results of the prestigious NOAA Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. 

Ryan Leighton

Outstanding Environmental Microbiology Student - Ryan Leighton

Ryan Leighton became interested in environmental health sciences and microbiology while he was an undergraduate student working with the Institute of Marine Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill. After staying at UNC to complete an M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering, he spent a year at the CDC as an ORISE Fellow in waterborne disease and prevention. He is interested in how Vibrio species interact with plastic materials and how marine and human environmental variables can affect Vibrio biofilm growth. Leighton will wrap up his Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences in August and plans to work for the federal government as a research microbiologist.

Md Mahmudun Nabi

Outstanding Nanomaterials Science Student - Md Mahmudun Nabi



Md Mahmudun Nabi studied engineering in his native Bangladesh before completing a master's in the field at the University of Stuttgart. After conducting research and teaching at various international universities, Nabi decided to enroll in the Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program and work with the Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk  so he could address the engineered nanoparticles pollution in the surface water around the world.. Currently an industrial wastewater engineer at SC DHEC, his goal is for all communities to have access to uncontaminated water in all aspects of their lives. 

Karlen Correa Velez

Outstanding Oceans and Human Health Student - Karlen Correa Vélez



After earning a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, Karlen Correa Vélez completed a Master of Science in Biology from the flagship university’s Mayagüez campus, where she examined the detection and microbiological and molecular characterization of Vibrio bacteria in clams and oysters. Correa Vélez joined the Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program to continue researching Vibrio bacteria in the Norman Microbial Ecology Laboratory. After graduating in August, she plans to pursue a career in academia focused on studying the impact of climate change on coastal microbial communities. 

Lacy Barnette

Outstanding Sustainable Farming Student - Lacy Barnette


Lacy Barnette earned her undergraduate degree at Winthrop University and then taught middle school math and science before enrolling in the Master's of Earth and Environmental Resource Management program at USC. During this time, she worked with Soil Health Labs -- becoming so passionate about the impact of agricultural practices on soil health that she continued her studies with the Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program.  After graduating in August, she'll apply her expertise, which is focused on science communication in agriculture, as a Clemson Extension Associate to ensure research is relevant and implementable for producers. 

Mirza Isanovic

Outstanding Public Health Service Award - Mirza Isanovic

As a master's and then doctoral student in environmental health sciences, Mirza Isanovic worked in the Norman Microbial Ecology Laboratory to study bioaerosolization of various antibiotic resistant genes from wastewater treatment plants. He applied these skills during the COVID-19 pandemic when Norman's Lab was called upon to monitor levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Isanovic saw it as a learning opportunity and a chance to serve his community, which is why he was selected to receive his department’s Outstanding Public Health Service Award this year. He graduates in August with his third degree from USC and plans to work for the CDC.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.