Graduate student Isabel Sanchez-Viruet, a Ph.D. candidate who studies the potential of floating wetlands to remove nitrogen from tidal waters, has been awarded the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) 2023 Student Service Award for a high level of engagement and service to the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, UMCES, and the broader community, serving in an array of mentorship, service, and leadership roles.
“Isabel’s exceptional level of dedication and service to the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, UMCES, and a wide-array of state and national organizations stands out and is worthy of recognition,” said UMCES Vice President for Education Larry Sanford.
At the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, she played a formative role in launching Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts and has been an active member in DEI activities. As the student representative to the academic council, she advocates for student needs and improvements to student life to the lab's to leadership. She served as a mentor to REU student Olivia Lopez, and has volunteered with several community outreach programs where she has spoken about Chesapeake Bay ecology to local scouting and school groups. She even translated the UMCES Principles of Conduct to her native language of Spanish.
“We have been lucky to have some outstanding advocates for students at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, but Isabel is one of the very best. She is a dedicated and engaged voice seeking to improve the student experience at UMCES. She has consistently provided valuable advice to me on student issues,” said Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Director Tom Miller.
Isabel’s contributions to UMCES are even more extensive. As co-chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), she is active organizing and advocating for the UMCES student body. She has organized professional development opportunities for UMCES students, such as a multi-day science communication workshop with UMCES’ Integration and Application Network. She also works closely with the Assistant to the Vice President of Education to ensure the student handbook is up to date and develops guidance for student onboarding across the labs. She gives a significant amount of her time to participate in UMCES’ Diversity Equity & Inclusion Collaborative,the Faculty Senate, the University System of Maryland Student Council, the UMCES Administrative Council and Graduate Student Faculty Council, MEES graduate program committees, and other ad-hoc activities.
“We are inspired by the generous way in which she shares her time and energy, the thoughtfulness she offers in working to improve the lives of those around her, and the initiative she takes to translate ideas to actions,” said her faculty mentor and Associate Professor Jeremy Testa.
Isabel has chosen to pass on her valuable experience to students that have a similar background as her and who aim to pursue a career in natural sciences. She is a SEAS Islands Alliance mentor, serving as a role model for undergraduate students from non-continental U.S. territories including Puerto Rico and Guam. She also serves on the committee for the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation that organizes a luncheon that connects new students from underrepresented groups with experienced mentors. She has taken an active role in mentoring students in the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.
Located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast and a national leader in research on fisheries, estuarine ecology, environmental chemistry, and toxicology research of the Chesapeake Bay and aquatic ecosystem around the globe.