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The 2024 Alumni Awards

By Laura Seeley

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The College of Natural Science held its annual Alumni Awards ceremony on April 5, celebrating excellence among graduates, students and faculty.

“Our college is renowned for its groundbreaking research, transformative teaching and a network of alumni who are making waves across the globe,” said Phil Duxbury, dean of the College of Natural Science. “It is because of the individuals we honor tonight that we can make a real difference in the world. Their dedication to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and their commitment to excellence are truly inspiring.

To see more photos from the event, please visit the College of Natural Science's flickr album.

Mark Moorman (B.S. microbiology ’86; M.S. food science ’88; Ph.D. food science ’05 ) received the 2024 Outstanding Alumni Award.

Mark Moorman
Mark Moorman. Credit: Trumpie Photography/MSU College of Natural Science

Moorman is recognized worldwide as a premier food safety thought leader. His career has epitomized dedication to MSU’s land-grant mission of advancing knowledge and transforming lives, firmly anchored in service to the microbiology profession and MSU.  

As current director of the Office of Food Safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Moorman leads a large team of professionals focused on improving the safety of our food supply. He is spearheading efforts to adopt novel approaches in the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety.”  

Throughout his career, Moorman has been fascinated by the microbial world and its impact on the safety of our global food system.  His work seeks to better understand the ecology of microorganisms affecting our foods and the identification of preventative measures that can assure the safety of our food supply. 

Mohammad Esfahanian, M.D.  (B.S. physics ’08; B.S. physiology ’08) received the 2024 Recent Alumni Award.

Mohammad Esfahanian speaks at the 2024 Alumni Awards.
Mohammad Esfahanian speaks at the 2024 Alumni Awards. Credit: Trumpie Photography/MSU College of Natural Science

Esfahanian is a clinical assistant professor of pediatric anesthesiology at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. He is board certified in pediatrics, anesthesiology and pediatric anesthesiology.

Esfahanian’s interest is in incorporating regional anesthesia techniques in enhanced recovery after surgery, or ERAS, pathways. He has presented nationally on the effectiveness of head and neck nerve blocks, particularly for cleft palate repair. He has published articles on unique regional anesthesia techniques for the management of postoperative pain after posterior spinal fusion in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, in addition to ERAS programs for cleft palate repair.

Additionally, he is one of a few select course instructors for the Stanford Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship, the educational director of library sciences, and the regional anesthesia rotation director. In 2022, he received the Teacher of the Year Award for distinguished performance in teaching, advising and mentoring the pediatric anesthesiology fellows at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology. 

Richard Lenski, a Hannah Distinguished Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and the Department of Microbiology, Genetics, & Immunology, received the 2024 Meritorious Faculty Award.

Richard Lenski addresses the crowd at the 2024 College of Natural Science Alumni Awards.
Richard Lenski addresses the crowd at the 2024 Alumni Awards. Credit: Trumpie Photography/MSU College of Natural Science

He is known worldwide for the long-term evolution experiment — sometimes called the “Lenski experiment” — with E. coli bacteria that he started in 1988, and which continues today. Eminent evolutionary biologist Doug Futuyma remarks that the work is “an absolutely magnificent achievement.”

Without the Lenski experiment, many aspects of the evolutionary process would still be hidden today.

Lenski’s impact on students and trainees is also legendary. He has mentored more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. In addition, he has mentored people from underrepresented backgrounds in science, helping enhance the diversity of the U.S. workforce. 

“I owe my continued success as a disabled researcher to Dr. Lenski,” wrote Kyle Card, who earned his doctoral degree working in Lenski’s lab. “He saw my potential long before I saw it in myself . . . He cultivates a laboratory where a currency of respect is valued above the research we do. These qualities make him an outstanding scientist — and an even better human being.”

Four individuals received the 2024 Dan Bolin Undergraduate Student Award, which is given annually to juniors in recognition of their outstanding leadership qualities, community service and academic abilities. 

Helena Bunte (zoology) is currently working as a receptionist at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center and is a student research assistant in the lab of András Komáromy, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. One of Bunte's most recent accomplishments is publishing an article about sea turtle conservation in the December 2023 issue of The Current, a student-run magazine.

Destiny Kanning (right) and Phil Duxbury (left)
Destiny Kanning (right) and Phil Duxbury (left) at the 2024 Alumni Awards.

Destiny Kanning (human biology) has worked as an advanced ER/trauma technician at McLaren Health Care, a medical assistant for MSU Health Care, and a student brand ambassador for Kaplan Test Prep. She is currently conducting voluntary clinical research with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and MSU Health Care pediatric specialty clinics. Kanning has been involved with many groups including Doctors without Borders, State Singers and the MSU Weightlifting Club.  

James Hager (computational mathematics) is a research assistant in the Department of Chemistry, where he creates molecular dynamic simulations of soil-like conditions to study how PFAS travel through the environment. Hager is a Dean’s Research Scholar and a member of the University Advancement Student Ambassador Program. He also serves as treasurer and vice president of All Together, a student organization that supports children with developmental disabilities in the Greater Lansing area.

Siddak Singh Marwaha (data science and astrophysics) has held positions as an undergraduate teaching assistant, a research assistant, a physics tutor and a resident assistant. He is actively engaged with the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and recently co-founded a company called Passionett, stemming from a deep-seated desire to contribute to the betterment of humanity. He has volunteered with the Earth Saviours Foundation and Sri Aurobindo Society.