Arnold School of Public Health Doctoral Student Shelby Butz Researches Her Way Around the World

by Erin Bluvas

Students of Public Health focuses on research projects and other contributions students are making to advance public health. This series is guest edited by Johanzynn Gatewood, an MPH candidate in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida-Gainesville [Full bio].

Shelby Butz

Shelby Butz

STUDENT PROFILES — Shelby Butz had her career goals narrowed down to two paths when she just a kid, and both led to the ocean. “I always loved the water and finding sea creatures in the sand on beach vacations,” she says. “When I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I replied that I wanted to explore and help protect the ocean, or to be a mermaid.”

When it was time to go to college, the Pennsylvania native decided to focus on the first option by moving to South Carolina to attend Coastal Carolina University where she also played on the school’s soccer team. As a marine science major, Butz discovered a passion for research and made her first connection with the University of South Carolina.

Working with two of her undergraduate professors, Juli Harding and Jane Guentzel, she became interested in invertebrates and ecotoxicology. Several of Butz’s laboratory classes were held at USC’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences where she gained hands-on experience conducting research in the field.

“I knew immediately after my first visit to the Baruch Institute, and after meeting the talented and amazing scientists that worked there, that I wanted to be part of the lab and this was where I wanted to conduct my research,” she says. “Once I figured out that I could research anthropogenic input interactions and the effects on marine and estuarine environments to help protect the ocean, I knew this was the right career path for me.”

Choosing USC for her master’s degree in marine sciences was an easy decision. In addition to the University’s connection with the Baruch Institute, Butz was drawn to the established and renowned level of advanced scientific research as well as the opportunity to work with Professor of Biology James Pinckney. “After reading almost every paper he had ever written, I interviewed with Dr. Pinckney to see if he had room for me in his lab,” she says. “He and my lab mates became a second family for me—a science family.”

Her science family expanded when Pinckney introduced Butz to Professor of Environmental Nanoscience Jamie Lead and the field of nanoscience. “After completing my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to be involved with the excellent research conducted at the Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk (CENR), directed by Lead, and to move into an environmental emphasis by focusing on the ecotoxicology of nanomaterials in the marine and estuarine environments,” she says. “Dr. Lead offered me a place in his lab following my July 2015 graduation. With Dr. Geoff Scott as the Chair of the Environmental Health Sciences Department and Dr. Dwayne Porter as the Graduate Director, I knew that this was the place where I would excel and find as well as create the best opportunities for a successful career.”

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Erin Bluvas

Erin Bluvas

Erin Bluvas is the Public Information Coordinator for the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Erin manages communication activities (eg, faculty/staff research and publications, student spotlights) and channels (eg, web stories, social media) for the School’s six departments and promotes associated activities and programs to stakeholders. Erin earned her Bachelor’s (Clemson University) and Master’s (Auburn University) degrees in Communication. She has experience teaching communication courses (both online and in a traditional classroom setting) and managing communication in the manufacturing industry.

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