GMU Biodefense Graduate Student Awards – 2020


This year’s Outstanding Biodefense Master’s student is Michael Krug. Michael entered the program with a background in biochemistry but he quickly mastered the policy aspects of biodefense as well and graduated with an impressive GPA of 3.97. Michael also took an active leadership role in the Biodefense program and co-founded the George Mason chapter of the Next Generation Global Health Security Network which is composed of students and young professionals around the world who work on issues at the next of health and security. This group brought in outside speakers, including former Senate Majority leader Thomas Daschle, and held several social events for students. Michael was also busy off-campus with internships in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with the Nuclear Threat Initiative think tank where he worked on their comprehensive survey of how well countries are prepared for pandemics and other threats to global health security. Michael is now working as a global health officer in the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Michael’s passion for bridging the gap between science and policy and strengthening global health security makes him an outstanding choice for this award.


Saskia Popescu is this year’s outstanding Biodefense PhD student. Saskia has long been fascinated by the intersection of health and security. She entered the program with an MPH and Master’s in International Security. Saskia’s dissertation, “How Cost Containment Undermines Disease Containment: Political and Economic Obstacles to Investing in Infection Prevention and Control,” used concepts from political economy to explain why hospitals don’t spend enough on infection prevention and control programs despite their huge value to public health. Saskia also has extensive experience working in a hospital as an infection preventionist so her dissertation was able to combine both theory and practice. Unfortunately, her work was prescient in predicting the types of shortages and infection control failures we’ve seen throughout the country during the current pandemic. Saskia has also been busy with extracurricular activities. In 2017, Saskia was chosen for the prestigious Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. In 2018, she was selected to be a George Mason Global Health Security Student Ambassador and attend the 5th Global Health Security Agenda Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Saskia has also made a huge contribution to the Biodefense Program as the managing editor of The Pandora Report, our weekly newsletter which provides news and analysis on global health security issues to thousands of readers every week. Saskia has a knack for discussing complex issues in a jargon-free way and throwing in a little snark on the side. Saskia exemplifies the type of scholar the Biodefense PhD program is designed to produce: data-driven, science-based, theoretically-informed, analytically-rigorous, policy-relevant, and passionate about changing the world for the better.


The Frances Harbour Award is given to a biodefense student in recognition of his or her community leadership. Frances Harbour was an associate professor of government in the School, and a founding member and past president of the International Ethics Section of the International Studies Association. She was also a Social Science Research Council/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security Studies

This year’s award goes to Yong-Bee Lim, who is (hopefully) in the final year of his dissertation on the do-it-yourself biology movement. Yong-Bee has been a visible and vocal part of the Biodefense program since he started as a Master’s student. Yong-Bee earned a Presidential Fellowship when he entered the PhD program and worked closely with several faculty members in the Biodefense program. Yong-Bee was a pleasure to work with and has consistently impressed the faculty with his work ethic and creativity. Along the way, Yong-Bee has worked at prestigious institutions such as the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at National Defense University. In 2018, Yong-Bee was chosen for the prestigious Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. Yong-Bee has also been a fantastic ambassador for the program and was always willing to volunteer his time to help recruit new students and mentor existing ones. We can’t wait for him to finish his dissertation and graduate—but we’ll also be very sad to see him go.

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