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2008 Bullitt Environmental Fellowship Winner

Clarita Lefthand Begay’s doctoral research will advance techniques to distinguish viable pathogens from nonviable detritus in the environment.

Clarita Lefthand BegayClarita Lefthand Begay, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Washington has been selected to receive the second annual Bullitt Environmental Prize.  The prize, established in honor of Priscilla Bullitt Collins, the late chair of the Bullitt Foundation, carries a cash award of $100,000, distributed over two years.  The awards ceremony was September 9, 2008.

The Bullitt Environmental Prize is awarded each year to an outstanding graduate student at a university in the Pacific Northwest who has overcome a disadvantaged background, compiled a sterling academic record, been endorsed by key professors, and demonstrated promise of emerging as an environmental leader.

Ms. Lefthand, who is fluent in Navajo, is deeply committed to serving her community. Raised in a culture in which pursuit of a doctorate in a scientific discipline is highly unusual, Clarita intends to apply environmental health science to reservation problems and to serve as a role model for younger Native Americans.

For her masters thesis, Clarita tracked microbial sources of fecal contamination for the Tulalip Tribes in the estuarine waters of Tulalip Bay, conducting the research in ways that directly addressed tribal concerns. Her work was selected for presentation at national meetings of the American Society for Microbiology and the National Environmental Health Association.

Ms. Lefthand’s doctoral research will attempt to advance techniques to distinguish viable pathogens from nonviable detritus in the environment—increasing the accuracy of predictions of risks to human health from aquatic ecosystems. Her research interests are summarized on her Web site at:

At the University of Washington, Clarita is a member of the Planning Committee for the Environmental Health Research Experience Program.  She has represented the Department of Environmental Health at the last two annual meetings of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.  She is a key member of the local chapter of Native American Students in Advanced Academia and she spearheaded that organization’s 2007 national meeting on the UW campus.

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