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The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s Impact Awards are designed to recognize the significance of graduate student research and their contributions to North Carolina in areas of education and economic, physical, social or cultural well-being.

This year, two of the eleven recipients are Trainees at the Carolina Population Center.

The eleven students and recent alumni honored in 2023 — whose research interests range from tidal creek accretion to pediatric obesity — are emblematic of graduate students and their dedication to improving the lives of North Carolinians. The Impact Awards are generously supported by The Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board.

More than 300 individuals have received Impact Awards since their inception. A cross-disciplinary team reviews the nominations and selects award recipients based on the significance of their work to North Carolina and on their ability to effectively communicate their research.

“This year’s Impact Award recipients are creating new knowledge in order to respond to our society’s greatest challenges,” said Beth Mayer-Davis, PhD, dean of The Graduate School. “In a state where the workforce and intellectual ecosystem continues to advance, we need graduate student research to help us continue to prosper. It’s all part of how we serve our state.”

2023 Impact Award recipients from the Carolina Population Center

Emily Duffy 12, (‘14 MS), doctoral candidateEmily Duffy
Department of Nutrition

Estimating the Effects of the Shock of COVID-19 and a Fruit and Vegetable Benefit Increase on Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Participants in North Carolina: A Mixed Methods Study

Duffy’s research focuses on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic-related increase in the in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) among North Carolina WIC participants. Her research uses focus groups to understand the effects of this policy change on families and their food access.


Sophie Ravanbakht, doctoral candidate
Department of Health Policy and Management

The Influence of Intergenerational Acculturation and Stress on Pediatric Obesity in U.S. Latinos: An Exploration Using Decision and Systems Science Sophie Ravanbakht

Ravanbakht’s research focuses on pediatric obesity, which continues to rise. Acculturation — the process and effects of adjusting to a new culture after immigration — has been found to be related to obesity in immigrants and their children. This new research explores the phenomenon among eight- to 13-year-olds, with the goal of shedding light on how clinical providers and policymakers can improve resources, guidance and treatment of obesity among this growing and vulnerable population.