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2013-2014 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars

Posted on Saturday, March 8, 2014

ARCS® Foundation Phoenix was honored to present the 2013-2014 Scholar Awards to these outstanding Ph.D. candidates from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona. The ARCS Foundation Scholar Award is $7,000 per fiscal year. All scholars must apply through their universities on an annual basis.

 2013 - 2014


Henry Braun

  • Louis Jugloff Memorial Scholar 
  • ASU: Electrical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Develop reconstruction, detection, and tracking algorithms for use with compressive infrared and visible light cameras. Applications go from autonomous navigation for vehicles and robots on earth and Mars as well as being applied to medical images in diagnosis of conditions such as stroke or brain tumors.


Andrew Brown

  • Kucera Scholar
  • ASU: Physics
  • Research Interest: Use of single molecules as electronic devices and the manipulation of unique molecular properties to develop novel electron devices that will be used in the biomedical industry.


Derek Caseli

  • Wilhoit Scholar
  • ASU: Electrical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Develop, design, fabricate, and test a new type of high-effeciency solar cell utilizing semiconductor alloy nanowires to offer a path to less expensive solar energy.

Jessica Corman

  • Might Scholar
  • ASU: Biology
  • Research Interest: Methods to attenuate nutrient pollution in freshwaters, specifically calcium carbonate deposits and microbial growth in aquatic systems.

Rene Davis

  •  Papadopoulos Scholar
  • ASU: Biological Design
  • Research Interest: Synthetic biology with an emphasis on tecnology that will be used as a diagnostic tool in the diagnosis of tuberculosis infections. Goal is to engineer simple baker's yeast to turn bright red, visible by naked eye, when a patient with active tuberculosis breathes on the yeast biosensor.

Samuel Dodge

  • Burton Scholar
  • ASU: Electrical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Formulate a model for human visual selectivity in a recognition task, and use this model for computer vision based recognition. This will impact society in many ways from self driving cars, to human computer interaction and to computer assisted medical diagnosis.

Rebecca Everett

  • Burton Scholar
  • ASU: Applied Mathematics
  • Research Interest: Mathematical models of cancer treatment. This includes modeling intermittent androgen suppression therapy for prostate cancer patients. This is important for patients with recurring cancer. Mathematical modeling is a beneficial tool for developing therapies and cures.

Elizabeth Hutchins

  • Spetzler Scholar
  • ASU: Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Research Interest: The genetic basis of lizard tail regeneration, providing insights into the mechanisms underlying regeneration of cartilage, spinal cord and de novo muscle groups. Understanding the regeneration of these tissues is the first step toward being able to develop translation regenerative therapies. 

Brian Johnson

  • Johnston Endowment Scholar
  • ASU: Biological Design
  • Research Interest: Basic biology of clinically relevant poxviruses vaccinia and monkeypox. Vaccina virus is responsible for the eradication of smallpox after a global vaccination campaign. Monkeypox is rare but virulent virus and is considered a potential bioterrorism threat.

Avishek Kumar

  • Prentice Scholar
  • ASU: Physics
  • Research Interest: Amorphous materials and biological physics. Developed computational techniques of continuous random networks for use in studying amorphous graphene. Currently working on the grand challenge problem of protein folding, essential for designing of drugs.


Yael Kusne

  • Theodore Family Scholar
  • ASU: Neuroscience
  • Research Interest: Studying glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a frequently occuring brain tumor with poor prognosis. There is a need to improve the therapeutic management of GBM that will provide a new treatment to stop these deadly cells from dividing and migrating, thus reducing the growth of the tumor.

Rebekah McKenna

  • Balster-Evani Family Scholar
  • ASU: Chemical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Metabolic engineering, specifically creating novel pathways for the development of green chemical products. The biosynthetic production of these compounds by engineering E. Coli provides a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels as well as create more energy efficient processes.

Kieth Morrison

  • Ellie and Michael Ziegler Scholar
  • ASU: Geomicrobiology
  • Research Interest: Antibacterial clays which are naturaly occurring nano-minerals that have the ability to kill antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Currently investigating antibacterial mechanisms using scanning transmisssion X-ray microscopy at the Advanced Light Source in Berkley, CA to map the redox chemistry and uptake of soluble metals, interacting with fully hydrated bacteria and biofilms.


Elizabeth Nofen

  • Lawson Scholar
  • ASU: Chemical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Synthesizing smart composite particles with a multifunctional nature for sensing applications. The signals currently focusing on are stress, temperature and humidity by employing mechanophore-modified polymers as well as polymeric ionic liquids as the core in an organic-inorganic core shell composite particle structure.

Caitlin Otto

  • Ellie Ziegler Scholar
  • ASU: Microbiology
  • Research Interest: The mechanism of action of a natural antibacterial mineral mixture. A clay mineral mixture has been identified which exhibits in vitro antibacterial activity against a broad spectrum of bacterial pathogens. This mineral mixture holds considerable potential for treatmemt against topical bacterial infections.

James Ramos

  • Douglas Scholar
  • ASU: Biomedical Engineering
  • Research Interest: The synthesis of metallic nanoparaticles as well as investigations into their application for cancer therapy.  Currently working on developing a systematic investigation into the role of gold nanorod (GNR) surface chemistry and how it may affect their efficacy for photothermal treatment agents. 

Justin Ryan

  • Sonntag Scholar
  • ASU: Biological Design
  • Research Interest: Using artistic training and skills to assist in cerebral aneurysm research. In order to develop more effective treatment devices such as endovascular coils and stents, a stronger understanding of the flow dynamics within vessels is necessary. Realistic anatomical models derived from patient data will help provide a realistic analog for flow studies.  











2013 - 2014

Jolene Bowers

  • Van Denburgh Scholar
  • NAU: Pathogen Genomics
  • Research Interest: Investigating the genetic mechanisms of the spread of important antibiotic resistance genes in some of the top pathogens causing infectious disease. Transition into the doctoral program is directly related to research performed at TGen North.

Annika Keeley

  • Nancy Johnson Templin Endowment Scholar
  • NAU: Wildlife Ecology
  • Research Interest: Ecosystem science studying the effects of habitat loss and landscape fragmentation on animal dispersal and gene flow using behavioral studies, statistical modeling, genetic analysis, and geographic information system tools.

Matthew Lau

  • Mary Anne White Memorial Scholar
  • NAU: Ecology
  • Research Interest: Examination of evolution in the context of complex communities of many species and integrating ecological genetics and network theory. This research has implications for managing natural systems, including restoration of ecosystems impacted by human- caused environmental degradation, such as habitat destruction from pollution and water diversion.

Theresa McHugh

  • The Marley Foundation Scholar in memory of Mr. Milton "Bud" Webb
  • NAU: Biology
  • Research Interest: How changes in summer precipitation in an arid grassland affect soil microorganisms and their associated plant community. Studying the impact of rainfall on soil microbial communities aimed to: assess microbial community responses to both natural and simulated rainfall; identify the response of soil microorganisms to reduced precipitation; and distinguish plant-mediated microbial responses to moisture fluctations.

Tzeidle Wasserman

  • ARCS Scholar
  • NAU: Wildlife Ecology
  • Research Interest: Understanding small mammal populaton and community responses to climate, competition, and historical disturbance using statistical modeling and empirical field data.





2013 - 2014

Benjamin Berman

  • Lauber Endowment Scholar
  • UA: Applied Mathematics
  • Research Interest: Compressed sensing design for medical imaging to acquire faster signals measuring fewer points and maintaining high level signal quality. Working to extend the optimal measurement design framework to Diffusion MRI. Data acceleration and accuracy means increased efficiency and reduced health care costs.

Danielle Buck

  • ARCS/Windrow Endowment Scholar
  • UA: Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Research Interest: The molecular mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle diseases.  Utilization of novel models to determine the structure and function of molecular canges that occur in a skeletal muscle disorder called nemalin myopathy.

David Carlson

  • Eller Scholar
  • UA: Optical Science
  • Research Interest: Extending optical frequency comb technology into the extreme unltraviolet (XUV) spectral region. Currently developing a novel table-top laser system based on high harmonic gneration in the XUV. Immediate applications include a nuclear based frequency standard, tests of fundametnal physics and molecular spectroscopy.

Celine cohn

  • Dr. Lisa Fannin Scholar
  • UA: Biomedical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Creating bio-memetic materials that are capable of capturing cancer cells, such as B-cell lymphomas. Her role as an engineer cannot be unwound from her role as an educator. She taught high school science for three years prior to returning to pursue her Ph.D. 

Jerrie Fairbanks

  • Crawford Endowment Scholar
  • UA: Optical Sciences
  • Research Interest: Development of a real-time, time-resolved detection system using ultra-high speed electronics for light measurements on biological problems. Currently we are unable to record fluorescence decay data from micro-organisms and cells in real-time because available methods damage the organisms. 

Corin Hammond

  • The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar 
  • UA: Soil, Water and Environmental Science
  • Research Interest: Developing novel methods for reducing contaminant transport from mine tailings in semi-arid environments characteristic of Arizona and large portions of the globe affected by mining activities.

Maureen Keenan

  • Lafollette Endowment and Libby Endowment Scholar
  • UA: Biomedical Engineering
  • Research Interest: Applying novel optical techniques for the detection of ovarian cancer by designing and building an optical imaging falloposcope. Optical techniques are well suited to this task because they can be easily miniaturized and made with inexpensive components.

Sarah MacNamee

  • Kathryn Johnston West Scholar
  • UA: Neuroscience
  • Research Interest: Neurodegeneration in glaucoma as well as the role that non-neuronal cells called glia play in brain diseases. Pursuing fundamental questions about glia cell physiology. Current drosophila research is designed to generate new concepts about the way that neurons interact with their central nervous system co-inhabitants.

Brian Mannakee

  • ARCS Scholar
  • UA: Statistics
  • Research Interest: Bioinformatics systems biology and experimental biochemistry to identify the functional drivers of molecular evolution. Developing tools and insights to make experimentally verifiable predictions about where mutations will arise in biological protein interaction networks under selective pressure.



Reece Mazade

  • The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • UA: Neuroscience
  • Research Interest: Understanding how light-evoked inhibitory signals in the retina are modulated by different ambient light states. This work will greatly contribute to our understanding of normal retinal function for use as a baseline for retinal diseases, thus contributing vital information for the modeling and production of retinal prosthetic applications.

Stefanie Novak

  • Haga Scholar
  • UA: Cellular and Molecular Medicine
  • Research Interest:  Fragile X has a strong link to heart disease. Focus is on the protein Fragile X and its role in heart development and disease. 

Sara Parker

  • Spychala Family Scholar
  • UA: Cellular and Molecular Medicine
  • Research Interest: Investigating neural development and the convergence of neuronal polarity, and conservation of these pathways in memory formation.  A cohesive understanding of the mechanisms of memory formation storage, and retrieval will provide a paradigm-shifting platform for contextualizing problems in neuroscience.

Dennis Pollow, Jr. 

  • Eller Scholar
  • UA: Physiological Sciences
  • Research Interest: Understanding mechanisms responsible for protecting females from developing hypertension early in their lives. Currently studying the differences in immunoregulation on the development and severity of hypertension in male and female mice and by identifying mechanisms of the young female protective phenotype using an accelerated ovarian failure model of menopause.

Kayla Polzin

  • Steele Foundation Scholar
  • UA: Biochemistry
  • Research Interest: Understanding the mechanism of metal import and export in two pathogens: E. Coli and the causative agent of anthrax, Bacillus anthracis. This research will provide valuable information for the development of novel antibiotic therapies against these two bacteria pathogens.

Michael Rak

  • Ralph Matteucci Endowment Scholar
  • UA: Virology and Cellular Biology
  • Research Interest: Understanding the mechanisms by which the Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) establishes a latent infection, and what controls the reactivation of latent infection to a productive infection. Identifying what controls HCMV latency provides new ways to prevent or eliminate HCMV infection, as well as direct the development of antiviral drugs.

Brian Wheelwright

  • Burton Scholar
  • UA: Optical Sciences
  • Research Interest: Using large mirrors and small, high-efficiency solar cells, to prototype solar devices with the potential for low-cost solar electricity. Focus is to improve glass-forming techniques, measurement, and sun-tracking to reduce the cost of concentrating solar modules so that they can compete directly with fossil fuels without subsidies.