DURHAM, N.C. –  Four graduating Master of Environmental Management (MEM) students at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment will share the 2020 Virlis L. Fischer Memorial Award for academic achievement.

All four of the students are graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

“Maintaining a perfect academic record is a remarkable achievement in any year but was especially challenging this year given the disruptions caused by COVID-19,” said Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School. “To have four students earn 4.0s under these conditions speaks volumes about the caliber of this year’s class.”

This year’s Fischer Award recipients are:

Cameron Adams of Concord, Mass. – Adams earned his MEM in Coastal Environmental Management and was a Nicholas Scholar and an Orrin Pilkey Fellow.  

As a participant at Duke’s Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, he worked with the National Parks Conservation Association to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental impact assessment following Dominion Energy’s controversial installation of massive transmission lines across a historic and ecologically sensitive section of Virginia’s James River.

For his Master’s Project, “Integrating the Use of Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS) into Coastal Land Management Strategies on the Outer Banks of North Carolina,” he explored how remote sensing and drone-enabled technologies could aid the management of one of North America most beautiful and fragile coastal ecosystems.

Prior to enrolling at the Nicholas School, Adams worked at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Earth and Oceanographic Science from Bowdoin College in 2014.

Beverly deSouza of Cary, N.C. – DeSouza earned her MEM in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. She also was a Nicholas Scholar.

Her Masters Project, “Toxicity of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Pre- vs. Post-Bioremediation,” assessed the effectiveness of using PAH-degrading bacteria and fungi to help clean up heavily PAH-contaminated sites in the environment. PAHs have been linked to a wide array of environmental and human health problems, including cancer and kidney and liver disease.

Prior to enrolling at the Nicholas School, deSouza worked as a laboratory technician, doing molecular and cell biology research at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997.

The mother of three sons, she serves on the Environmental Stewardship Committee at The Raleigh School and also volunteers with Urban Ministries of Durham.

Sena McCrory of Durham, N.C. – McCrory earned her MEM in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. She was a Nicholas Scholar and a member of the University Scholars Program, and also served as a graduate research assistant at the Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab and a research translation intern at the Duke University Superfund Center.

Her Masters Project, “Visualizing Ecotoxicology’s Extrapolation Dilemma: A Discussion of Case Study Data for 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2) and Implications for Ecological Risk Assessment,” examined critical shortcomings in the data extrapolation methods used by scientists to extend toxicity predictions from a handful of short-term lab studies on test organisms to long-term chronic effects for entire ecosystems.

Prior to enrolling at the Nicholas School, McCrory worked as a program coordinator at the Catawba Lands Conservancy and, before that, spent two-and-a-half years working as a sustainable farming apprentice at farms in Pennsylvania, Maine, Virginia and New York. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Rice University in 2014.

Michelle Weaver of Durham, N.C. -- Weaver earned her MEM in Energy & Environment. She was treasurer of the Nicholas School Energy Club and a member of the Duke student team that won 2nd place in the prestigious 2019 Renewable Energy Case Competition at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

She spent the summer of 2019 working in solar project development in Chicago at ENGIE Distributed Solar and is interested in continuing her career in renewables development and integration. Her Masters Project, “Electric Utilities and the Electric Vehicle Market: A Decision-Making Tool for State-Specific Strategies,” explored how growth in the electric vehicle market offers new opportunities for boosting the revenue and resilience of utilities while also supporting climate change goals.

Prior to attending Duke, Weaver was a materials scientist at Cardinal Glass Industries and, before that, served as an ESL Immersion teacher at Samyook Elementary School in Gwangju, South Korea. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2012.

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