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Chusyd is the recipient of the 2016 President’s Diversity Award in the Graduate Student Category

February 8, 2016

Daniella E. Chusyd, MA, graduate student trainee in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC), is the recipient of the 2016 President’s Diversity Award in the Graduate Student category, in recognition of her significant achievements toward developing a more culturally diverse and inclusive university community at UAB.

Ms. Chusyd credits two women with providing her with the vital tools to be a leader and a role model for other women through her actions and accomplishments. Her independent-minded mother was an early example that a woman could achieve anything through hard work and determination. This inspiration served Ms. Chusyd well when she joined UAB as a PhD student and proposed a major research interest that was considered distinctly out of the norm. Encouraged by her main mentor, Tim R. Nagy, PhD, professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, and David B. Allison, PhD, distinguished professor and director of the NORC, she successfully spearheaded her research project focused on examining how total fat in body composition relates to reproductive status in African and Asian elephants, with the goal of establishing an “insurance population” so that subsequent generations have the ability to see elephants in the wild. When she convinced Janine Brown, PhD, of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, to provide the necessary expertise in elephant research as well as to join the project, Ms. Chusyd gained the benefit of this second most influential woman in her life. Ms. Chusyd further displayed initiative and courage to her peers by receiving a grant from the Eppley Foundation for Research when she discovered that no funding existed for her study, in addition to putting together a diverse, multidisciplinary team of collaborators to enhance the impact of the project. This project has already created a global impact, expanding the image of UAB and increasing the understanding of a serious crisis to the biodiversity of our planet.

To become involved in the community, Ms. Chusyd teaches underprivileged high school and middle school girls about science to show other minorities—indeed all those individuals who identify with her, either by race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or life and career goals—that they, too, can make their dreams a reality. Further, her outreach has helped to bridge the gap between UAB and the surrounding diverse communities.

Ms. Chusyd received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Florida before earning a Masters of Arts in Government from the Interdisciplinary Center Hertzliya in Israel (cum laude honors). In 2015 she was the recipient of the highly competitive Ireland Research Travel Award and in 2016 has also won the Smithsonian Scholarly Studies Award for Science.