The official kick-off begins fall 2020. Our centennial celebration will be April 2021.
Request to Alumni from the ESE Chair
Please note that the department will celebrate its Centennial in 2020-2021, beginning with a kick-off event in fall 2020 and culminating in an alumni reunion weekend and main event on April 5-9, 2021. I hope that you will keep us informed of any email address changes, so we can share details when they become available. We look forward to your participation and hope you will spread the word! Check out our Centennial webpage regularly for information and updates.
Barbara Turpin, PhD
Chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Gillings School of Global Public Health
COVID-19: Share Your Story
At the Gillings School, we are putting public health into action every day. That action is important now more than ever. Are you a student, researcher or practitioner working on the coronavirus pandemic response? Share your story with us.
ESE Alumni Receive awards at the 2019 American Water Works Association (AWWA) Annual Conference and Exhibition
David Reckhow, PhD, received the AP Black Research Award to recognize outstanding research contributions to water science and water supply rendered over an appreciable period of time
John Young, MSEE, received the Abel Wolman Award to recognize those whose careers in the waterworks industry exemplify vision, creativity, and excellent professional performance characteristic of Abel Wolman’s long and productive career.
Des Lawler, PhD, received the Dr. John L. Leal Award. The Dr. John L. Leal Award is presented annually for distinguished service to the water profession in commemoration of the sound medical/public health expertise and the courageous leadership advancing public health that characterized the life of Dr. John L. Leal.
Eight individuals with UNC connections have received the AP Black Award since its inception in 1967: Faculty (Russ Christman, Charles O’Melia, Philip Singer, Francis DiGiano, Mark Sobsey) and 3 alumni (James Edzwald, Desmond Lawler, David Reckhow). Five individuals with UNC connections have received the Abel Wolman Award since its inception in 1985 (Dan Okun, Charles O’Melia, Philip Singer, James Edzwald, John Young).
2020 ESE Distinguished Alumna
Dr. Yu is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Division of Environment at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and is director of HKUST’s Environmental Central Facility and Atmospheric Research Center. Yu graduated with a doctoral degree from UNC in 1996 and is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.
The Awards Committee of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering seeks nominations for its Distinguished Alumni Award in January each year. This award has honored 32 individuals since its inception 23 years ago. Many graduates of ESE have had noteworthy careers and are deserving of recognition.Read more about previous award recipients
- Stay connected through the Well Connected Online Community, a password-secure online directory that allows you to update your contact information and connect with other Gillings alumni.
- Attend an ESE event or seminar
- Participate in the ESE Alumni/Student ‘Ment/Net’ event held annually in April
- Subscribe to receive emails about external Job Postings (click “show more” and find envr_jobpostings)
- Subscribe to receive emails about ESE Seminars (click “show more” envr_seminars)
- Support the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
- Submit your own alumni update to be posted below: Send your degree, graduation year, and where you are now (position title, location, activities) to email@example.com.
- Submit your own alumni story to be featured below: Send your our degree, graduation year, and where you are now (position title, location, activities); a brief summary or story* about what inspired you to choose your degree/career/UNC; and a high resolution photo to: firstname.lastname@example.org. *please use first person
Leiran Biton, MS (2007)
Air Quality Modeler (Physical Scientist)
US EPA-New England Region, Boston, MA
Nicole Hagan, PhD (2014)
Health Scientist, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, US EPA (RTP)
Elizabeth D. Hilborn, RN, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACVPM
Health Scientist (Epidemiologist), US EPA (Chapel Hill)
Cassandra O’Lenick, PhD
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO
Kang Chang (MS 2011)
Innovation Advisor at RTI International in RTP, North Carolina
Through the completion of my MS as one of the first students at the Water Institute, I saw the need for better systems of learning, private-sector skills and human-centric design in the world of international development.Read more about Kang
In the years following UNC, I worked at a social entrepreneurship research institute to gain a more complete picture of the challenges facing international development. I soon saw the role of innovation and innovation management as being a crucial skillset to create meaningful interventions, support organizational learning and provide a systematic way of creative problem-solving. Since then, I have focused my career on supporting organizational and regional innovation capacity building. In my current role, I support universities, governments and corporations through strategic advising, innovation training and innovation ecosystem development.
Mark Barnett, PhD, PE, BCEE
Professor of Environmental Engineering and Associate Chair
Department of Civil Engineering
I tell my undergraduate engineering students that it’s hard to go wrong with a master’s degree, but a Ph.D. is a longer, tougher slog with a less certain outcome.
Read more about Professor Barnett
Nonetheless, despite the long, tough slog, my North Carolina Ph.D. has afforded me many opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. First of all, I hold a reasonably prestigious, secure, and well-paying job as a tenured professor. Being a university professor is a great job, and no two days are the same. I get to work on a college campus and live in a college town. Other than a few hours a week when I have classes, my schedule is very flexible.
In addition to the other rewards of teaching and research, I have gotten to do many other things that I otherwise would not have gotten to do, including consulting, testifying, serving on government panels, and seeing most of the U.S. and much of the rest of the world.
One of the most personally and professionally rewarding times of my life was living with my young family for five months in the Netherlands while I was on sabbatical, fulfilling a life-long dream of living and working in Europe.
Finally, seeing your former students graduate, mature, and become leaders in their profession is very rewarding.
What inspired me to choose my major was both a profound appreciation for the environment coupled with ensuring our basic public health needs are existent and preserved.
Read more about Rory
Between traveling to South America during undergrad and doing a series of undergraduate research programs in water/wastewater research areas, I started to appreciate the complex and interdisciplinary nature of environmental engineering work. Dynamic ecosystems of water, air and soil have kept me on my toes continuously learning throughout the past 10+ years.
From summer undergraduate research programs at VT and semester research at Illinois, I started to build a foundation on water-related research areas, focuses and needs. From there I attended UNC and continued my research interests.
In between my two years at UNC, I was granted a fellowship to take my research to Perth, Australia as part of the NSF EAPSI program – an incredible program to say the least.
Upon graduation, I moved on to work for GE in their EHS division focusing on corporate environmental issues/affairs, appreciating a different approach in environmental protection through industrial manufacturing and service operations.
Today, as a field engineer for Oasys Water, I have transitioned back to my educational roots working at an exciting startup deploying forward osmosis based desalination systems globally, treating some of the dirtiest and most challenging industrial wastewaters in power generation and oil and gas markets. I have worked on running pilot tests in the US and commissioning full-scale demonstration plants in China.
As my career continues to evolve, my educational roots mixed with various skillsets and my passions have been critical in shaping my career as it is today.
Hannah Gordon Leker
BSPH (2013), MSPH (2015)
Public Health Policy Analyst
Maryland Department of Health
After completing her MSPH, Hannah became interested in the role of policy as a link between research and its practical application in society.
Read more about Hannah
In 2016, she was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine where she worked with the Gulf Research Program and learned more about the links between science and policy.
In her current role as a public health policy analyst for the Maryland Department of Health, Hannah drafts reports and updates public health regulations for the State of Maryland. She facilitates conversations between public health subject matter experts, Department leadership, and legal experts. She also identifies bills of public health importance and drafts position papers on their public health impact during the legislative session. As a public health policy analyst, she enjoys working on a wide variety of public health topics and learning first-hand about how state-level public health policies are created.
Lars Perlmutt, PhD
Office of Air and Radiation, US EPA (RTP)
I continue to be inspired by my late father, Louis, who, as a physician, was a strong proponent of bringing healthcare to rural areas of North Carolina.
Read more about Lars
My love of science, weather, and a desire to help the most susceptible and vulnerable populations led me to pursue an Environmental Studies degree as an undergraduate at UNC (class of 2003) and focus more specifically on the health effects of air pollution while pursuing an MSPH in Environmental Health Sciences (class of 2009) at UNC SPH. Through work at the US EPA on topics associated with exposure science and environmental justice, I ultimately decided to pursue a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences, where I recently finished at New York University (class of 2015). The desire to protect and improve public health has stuck with me, which is exactly why I enjoy my current position back at the US EPA as a Health Scientist in Air Quality Policy.