Multiple MEB graduate students have received awards and recognition for the 2022-2023 academic year. See below for the honorees, brief descriptions of the awards, and comments made at the award ceremonies.

Heidi Aronson received a USC PhD Achievement Award. The PhD Achievement Awards recognize current USC PhD students with exceptional academic profiles. Six awards are made to students from across the university. Students are selected based on their record of success including significant publications as the sole or primary author; job offers that signal the outstanding quality of the student’s doctoral work; major awards in a broadly conceived field; and other markers of excellence appropriate to the student’s field.

“Heidi’s research focuses on the cultivation of microorganisms that contribute to the global sulfur cycle. Microorganisms are a promising, scalable solution to many of society’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to the bioremediation of pollutants, plastics, and heavy metals, and the treatment of wastewater. To fully understand their physiology and to take advantage of the societal benefits that microorganisms can provide, it is essential to grow uncultivated environmental lineages in the laboratory. Heidi developed innovative approaches for collecting and cultivating microorganisms that can be used in fundamental geobiological studies as well as in applied fields. In 2019 and again in 2021, Heidi conducted fieldwork in the Frasassi cave system in Italy. She repelled into the cave and collected an array of samples for aqueous geochemistry, microbial culturing, and DNA sequencing. Heidi has funded most of her PhD research through competitive grants totaling over $200k from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Department of Energy, and other funding agencies. She will graduate with an astounding 13 peer-reviewed journal publications. As her faculty advisor noted, Heidi has an eye for bold research questions, but she couples this grandeur with pragmatic approaches and pure dedication. After graduating, Heidi will begin a postdoctoral position at UC Berkeley.”

Celeste Lanclos received the BISC William Trusten Award. The Award is given to the most accomplished graduate student in the biological sciences department, and Celeste was commended for her excellent service, teaching and research.

“Celeste Lanclos is finishing her Ph.D. in the Thrash lab with an anticipated graduation this year. She’s defending in late May. She began as an undergraduate researcher in the Thrash lab when the group was at Louisiana State University, and joined as a graduate student after graduation. At LSU she helped develop and teach an advanced Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) curriculum for undergraduate biology students that we have implemented at USC after moving here in 2019. Ms. Lanclos was instrumental in developing the USC lab manual for this CURE curriculum, which is now used in multiple different sections. She has also been incredibly productive as a researcher, with two first author publications, including one in the prestigious ISME Journal, two first author resource announcements, and six other co-authored papers. Her final dissertation chapter is also nearing submission. In 2019 she received an honorable mention in the NSF GRFP competition, she has given talks on her research at the Southern California Geobiology Symposium and the Ocean Sciences Meeting, and she has presented posters at over half a dozen conferences.”

Wyatt Million received the Katrina Edwards Memorial Dissertation Award. This award is given for excellence  research in the areas of Geobiology, Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, Geology, and Geochemistry. The Katrina Edwards Dissertation Award was established to honor the memory of our highly esteemed and dynamic colleague Katrina Edwards, a geobiologist who pioneered studies of the microbial ecology of the deep ocean biosphere and who established the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Initiative. Katrina was an impactful researcher and excellent mentor.

“Wyatt received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for BISC 220 Cell Biology and Physiology (2018) and an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for BISC 469 Marine Biology (2019). He was a finalist for the Huey Best Student Presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual meeting (2022), and gave a talk titled “Evolutionary implications of intraspecific variation in plasticity in a reef-building coral.” He was a NSF Coral Bleaching Research Coordinated Network (RCN) Early Career Training Program Award winner (2020) to fund a research visit to another institution to learn a new technique relating to coral bleaching, and received an Iberostar Wave of Change Research Award (2019) to fund research trip to the Dominican Republic to assess population genetics of corals in the area. He had a first-author publication in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) in 2022 titled ‘Evidence for adaptive morphological plasticity in the Caribbean coral, Acropora cervicornis’ and six other first- or co-authored publications. His protocols for in situ 3D modeling coral colonies have been widely incorporated into coral biology with over 3,000 views and 800 downloads, and he is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Justus Liebig University, Giessen in Germany.”

Alexis Floback and Nina Yang received the inaugural MEB Service Awards. These awards recognize graduate students demonstrating outstanding commitment to the section through voluntary service.

Yiming Zhao received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for her service in BISC 121L.

Congratulations to all the recipients for their exceptional accomplishments!