Skip to Content

Arnold School of Public Health

  • 2022 Commencement

2024 Student Awards

The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics is proud to announce the recipients of their 2024 Student Awards. These four students were selected for their outstanding performance both academically and outside the classroom.

Student Award About 
Maxwell Akonde

Outstanding Epidemiology Doctoral Student: Maxwell Akonde


Mr. Maxwell Akonde has been a stellar university citizen, not only as a student (e.g., 4.0 GPA) and researcher but as a leader. He earned acceptance into the esteemed Grace Jordan McFadden Professors Program in 2019. He has worked on the NIH-funded African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES), a multisite study to identify factors that contribute to the racial disparity in ovarian cancer survival, where he has assisted with coordination and has contributed to several manuscripts. His dissertation topic is entitled "Evaluating Multi-Biomarker Panels for the Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer" and represents an important line of inquiry to work on developing tools to detect ovarian cancer in its early, more curable stages. Mr. Akonde has been active in authoring or coauthoring research papers. Mr. Akonde has also presented research findings at scientific conferences and has served as a peer reviewer for journals and as an abstract reviewer for APHA. Mr. Akonde has been active in service at the level of the department, school and university. Within our department, he served as a student representative on the Planning Committee for our gala event last year. At the school level, Mr. Akonde served on the ASPH Dean's Students Advisory Council and initiated the ASPH International Student Forum that provides a venue for students to learn about the public health challenges in countries throughout the globe. At the university level, in successive years he served as the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Secretary of Data Management, was elected the GSA Vice-President, and was then elected GSA President. In these roles, he worked with university leaders to effectively implement university-wide change. In 2020, Mr. Akonde was appointed to serve as a student representative on the USC President's Future Planning Group that drafted an action plan for a successful in-person Fall 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic. He continues to serve as the student representative on the President's Advisory Council and works on university-wide diversity initiatives through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Policy Advisory Council. As an advocate for international students, he has served as a Thinking Globally Ambassador since September 2019 where he works with International Student and Scholar Services to bring openness to diverse cultures in U.S. classrooms. Based on this extensive list of accomplishments in 2023 he was awarded the 2022-2023 ASPH Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Taken in combination, this impressive track record of accomplishments demonstrates that Mr. Akonde is a difference maker in research, service and leadership.

Katherine Brown

Outstanding Epidemiology Master's Student: Katherine Brown

Ms. Katherine Brown is a MPH epidemiology student graduating in May 2024. Her nomination is based on her excellence in research, mentorship and service during her tenure in the graduate program. Katherine is a non-traditional student, who joined EPID after completing a prior decade-long career in the hospitality industry. She returned to get a MPH to pursue her true passion: epidemiology, health disparities and infectious diseases. Her specific accomplishments include:
1) Although Katherine is a MPH student, she still sought out opportunities to perform primary data collection, quantitative analysis and publication. She unearthed a rarely described vector species for West Nile virus at the Riverbanks Zoo (collaboration with adjunct faculty Dr Martha Webber), which required her to independently seek out experts from Penn State University (Dr Michael Skvarla) and the Canadian government (Dr Wayne Knee). This paper is currently in preparation, and she will be presenting this work at the 2024 Entomologic Society of America's annual conference. Being a true scientist at heart, she is already working on a subsequent follow-up study and pilot grant proposal to continue this new line of vector research.
2) Katherine is passionate about mentorship and creating opportunities for under-represented students in research. Specifically, on her own initiative, she fostered and created a pipeline for Coastal Carolina undergraduates to intern at ASPH in a formal capacity so "students, who would otherwise be lacking local public health experiences, can participate first-hand in field epidemiology studies, to support their continued interest and careers in public health". Additionally, she has closely mentored three students (1 undergrad, 2 masters), facilitating opportunities for them take part in a CDC Center of Excellence tick training class in Nashville, TN, and network with professionals and experience field data collections at the Riverbanks Zoo.
3) Although at an early stage of her career, Katherine is civic-minded and already involved in scientific society service. Specifically, she serves as a public health ambassador for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and has an active role with the South Carolina Society of Entomology.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.