Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Dominates at Graduate School Awards

M. Brian Blake, Ph.D., M.S., Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School, hosted the inaugural University of Miami Graduate School Awards at the Student Center on the Coral Gables Campus, where three members of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology received top honors.

Eric Hunt, a senior graduate student in the laboratory of Sapna Deo, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, received the Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant Award at the April 11 ceremony. When not advancing his research, Hunt, the recipient of a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship and a “Science Made Sensible” fellow, enjoys participating in community outreach activities, creative writing and performing with his band.

Leslie Doleman Knecht, a senior graduate student in the lab of Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., M.S., the Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute, was honored with the Student Exemplar Award. A role model for junior students, Knecht was recognized for her leadership in the classroom, research laboratory and community, and for her perseverance in overcoming significant health and personal challenges after suffering a stroke at age 23.

“I am very proud of the achievements of our graduate students, Eric and Leslie, for their incredible research and leadership at such an early stage of their professional careers,” Daunert said.

Finally, Deo, who also directs the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, won the Outstanding Graduate Program Director Award for her tireless efforts, creating new degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology, establishing university-wide collaborations, and especially her unparalleled devotion to the students.

“I feel fortunate to work with a graduate program director of the caliber of Sapna Deo,” said Daunert, who described Deo as “the epitome of an innovative, devoted and generous educator.”

Daunert also noted that the competition was tough with more than 100 nominees from all colleges and schools. “I am also grateful to the record number of biochemistry and molecular biology students and colleagues who spearheaded these nominations,” she said. “As a community, it is important to appreciate and recognize our students and colleagues, so I am very proud of our department as a whole for the tremendous community spirit and support that it continuously shows.”

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