Current Scholars

2020/2021 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars


ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2020-2021 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 $8,500 per year. All scholars must apply through their universities on an annual basis.

Arizona State University
Ana Barrios - Douglas Scholar
  • PhD Program - Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering
  • B.S. in Biochemistry with honors and M.S. in Chemistry at the University of Texas in El Paso.
  • Research involves the study of the structure and function relationships of Graphene Oxide and its use in nanomaterials for safe, sustainable environmental engineering 
  • François Perreault Laboratory in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Mark Blei - Wilhoit Foundation
  • Ph.D. Program - Material Science and Engineering 
  • Research aims to understand how to engineer defects of select type and concentration in quantum materials and begin to establish the relation between defects and desired properties. It is of paramount importance to understand how we can engineer these defects-on-demand to reliably manufacture these materials for the new wave of quantum electronics.
  • Tongay Laboratory - Advanced Materials in the Quantum Age
Tanessa Call - Burton Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Neuroscience
  • Tanessa received a B.S. in Psychology from Arizona State University.
  • Her research aims to elucidate morphological and electrophysiological changes that occur following manipulation of SIRT1, a histone deacetylase that has been shown to play a role in anxiety and depressive-like symptoms.
  • Applications of her research will lead to the development of new, highly efficacious antidepressants. 
Joshua Daymude - Johnston Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Computer Science
  • Joshua received a B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Arizona State University.
  • He is investigating the theoretical and algorithmic foundations of programmable matter systems.
  • His research interests include distributed computing, randomized algorithms, collective and emergent behavior, bio- inspired robotics, and machine learning.
Kassondra Hickey - Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biomedical Engineering
  • B.S. in Biomedical Engineering - Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Research is on regenerative strategies in the Stabenfeldt lab, focusing on traumatic brain injury repair through biomaterial drug delivery and cell recruitment.
Wendy Lin - The Ellie and Michael Ziegler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Chemical Engineering
  • BS - Chemical Engineering - National Taiwan University; MS - Chemical Engineering - ASU
  • Research focuses on development of molecular electronic transducer (MET) seismometers for the moon, Europa, and Venus. Via understanding and design of intermolecular interactions, we can obtain tailored properties of the materials that are suitable for operations under harsh environmental conditions.
Rodrigo Martinez - Sonntag Scholar
  • PhD - Microbiology School of Life Sciences
  • Research focuses on engineering and “re-wiring” the metabolism of the bacterium Escherichia coli with the goal of developing strains capable of overproducing renewable short-chain dicarboxylic acids from lignocellulose-derived sugars. Development of these strains will contribute to global efforts that seek to reduce our unsustainable dependency on fossil fuels.
Logan Mathesen - Mary Ann White Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Industrial Engineering
  • Logan received a B.S. in Industrial engineering from Arizona State University.
  • He aims to develop predictive models capable of adjusting to real-time data to quickly estimate system performance for the immediate future and the development of computationally efficient algorithms for effective and robust optimization of such predictive models. 
Mark Namba - J. Kenneth Seward Scholar
  • PhD - Neuroscience
  • BS - Psychology - University of Florida; MA - Psychology - ASU
  • Research focuses on understanding whether immune signaling mechanisms within the brain’s reward circuits regulate cocaine-seeking behavior, and if HIV proteins exacerbate drug-seeking behavior and cognitive deficits through these mechanisms; additionally exploring whether the dopamine D3 receptor, which can promote neuroinflammation, is an effective therapeutic target for co-morbid HIV and cocaine use disorders. 
Angela Oill - Helen Jacobsen Pierson Scholar
  • PhD - Evolutionary Biology
  • BS - Biology and Anthropology - Stony Brooke University
  • My research broadly aims to understand how genetic variation influences human health and disease, by studying ancient human populations in Kenya. Through my research, I hope to improve human health by contributing knowledge about genetic variation in underrepresented populations, and by enhancing our understanding of how ancestry may impact cancer susceptibility.
Kimberly Olney - Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -Evolutionary Biology
  • Kimberly received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University.
  • She is developing bioinformatics tools that accurately infer genetic variation and is applying these tools to characterize patterns of gene expression across human tissue types, which is crucial to understanding sex-bias in human development and sex-bias in diseases.
Sydney Parrish - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • PhD program - Chemistry
  • BS - Chemical Engineering with an Emphasis in Nanotechnology - University of Southern California
  • Research is aimed at increasing the rate at which cyanobacteria can import bicarbonate. By introducing various genetic modifications, the goal is to identify and isolate mutants that exhibit enhanced growth phenotypes and improved carbon capture and utilization. Ultimately, this project will further the development of robust cyanobacterial photosynthetic bioproduction platforms.
Julie Bethany Rakes - Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sands Scholar
  • PhD program - Biological Sciences
  • BS  Biology - Indiana University; BA English - Indiana University
  • Research on the characteristics of organisms - cyonobacteria - of the Biological Soil Crusts of arid lands in the Garcia-Pichel"s Lab
Stephen Schaefer - Douglas Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Electrical Engineering
  • Stephen received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona and a M.S. in Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering from Arizona State University. 
  • The goal of his research is to develop materials which function effectively as light emitters and detectors.
  • This has applications in numerous fields including telecommunications, national defense, medical devices, pollution detection, thermal photovoltaics and applied sciences.
Kirstie Swingle - VanDenburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Chemistry
  • Kirstie received a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico.
  • She is currently working on the design of complex genetic circuits responsive to protein signals for paper-based diagnostics, especially useful in diagnosing COVID-19
  • With the incorporation of protein communication, a more dynamic and complex system can be created for monitoring the immune system.
Jennapher Lingo VanGilder - Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biomedical Engineering
  • Jennapher received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • Her work at Phoenix Children’s Hospital as a motion analysis engineer sparked her interest in neurorehabilitation research.
  • She is using neuroimaging (MRI) techniques to investigate how visual and motor learning processes are integrated within the brain.
Jon Weller - Wilhoit Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Materials Science and Engineering
  • Jon received a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and Applied Mathematics with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Washington.
  • His research focuses on developing new materials and technologies to categorically improve electrochemical energy storage and battery technology, specifically relating to solid-state lithium-ion batteries.  
  • Such technologies will lower the cost of energy storage and increase energy production. 
Northern Arizona University
Molly Bechtel - Marley Foundation Scholar in Memory of Milton "Bud" Webb
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • Molly received a B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science from the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Her research focuses on ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Mojave Desert Tortoises and how desert tortoises could possibly help mitigate the spread of zoonotic infectious disease across the landscape, thus improving public health.
Ryan Blackburn - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • PhD program - Forestry
  • BS - Environmental Science; MS - Biological Sciences - Northern Illinois University
  • Research focuses on the use of remote sensing technologies to enhance forest management efforts in creating more resilient ecosystems, thus providing efficient and accurate estimates of forest conditions especially as they relate to climate change and forest fires
Haley Dunleavy - ARCS Scholar
  • PhD program - Biology with the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society
  • BS - Environmental Science - Alaska Pacific University - research on Arctic ecology and plant-fungal interactions, completed with the aid of two National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates fellowships 
  • Research continues to focus on the Arctic and fungal ecology as she studies the role of plant-fungal mutualists in global change.
Renee Jordan - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • B.A. - Chemistry - Macalester College 
  • Research work in Dr. Frank von Hippel's Lab examines the health effects of environmental pollution on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Her research includes studies on heavy metals, stable isotopes, genetics, and tissue morphologies to assess health risks for wildlife, and by extension, risks to the Yupik residents of St. Lawrence Island
Lisa Markovchick - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • PhD program - Biology
  • BA - Victoria University New Zealand; MS - Biology - San Diego State University
  • Civilian Scientist for Department of Defense for 10 years
  • Research involves understanding the roles of underground fungal highways in crucial riparian areas of the arid Southwest to identify which native soil fungi access water, and how certain species boost plant resiliency which can provide a foundation for future uses of native fungi in sustainable ecosystems and infrastructure.


Heather Mead - Lawson Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biology
  • Heather received a B.S. in Microbiology from Northern Arizona University.
  • She studies a fungal pathogen called Coccidiodes, the causitive agent of the disease commonly referred to as, "Valley Fever." 
  • Her research is important to the health of the community because Arizona has the highest case rates in the nation. 
  • New research involves a mouse model, ACE-2 receptors and how COVID-19 affects different parts of the body ie respiratory sytem, brain, GI tract, skin, etc
Christine Mott - Kucera Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Forestry
  • Christine received a B.S. in Biology from the United States Air Force Academy and entered the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer.
  • During her Active Duty years, she received a M.S. Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona.
  • Her research focuses on forest arthropod communities and their contributions to vegetation recovery and forest restoration. 
Daniel Sanchez- Lauber Endowment and Templin Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Forestry
  • Daniel received a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry from Northern Arizona University.
  • His research investigates the baseline ecology of federally endangered species threatened by extinction: an anthropogenic mass extinction marked by centuries of habitat destruction.
  • His findings will help managers recover habitat by planting or protecting more food plants in areas where the species thrive.
Julia Stuart - Windrow Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • Julia received a B.A. in History of Art from Bryn Mawr College and M.S. in Biology from Villanova University.
  • Her master's research investigated nitrogen cycling in wetlands, with a focus on the effects of wildfire and oil sands development in Alberta.
  • Her current research centers on nitrogen fixation associated with mosses in Alaska, and the connection between nitrogen cycling, plant communites , and permafrost carbon.
University of Arizona
Eze Ahanonu - Crawford Endowment
  • Ph.D. Program - Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Eze received a B.S in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Math, Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona. 
  • His research is on the use of artificial intelligence and neural networks to improve image compression of current imaging modalities. 
  • Reducing the size of these datasets will lesssen the strain on storage and transmission resources of medical networks. 


Alexander Alvarez - Kimberlee Allen Scholar
  • PhD program - MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering
  • BS - Biomedical Engineering 
  • Research work involves acousticoelectric cardiac imaging in order to noninvasively map the 4D (3D space over time) electric activity of the heart (ie atrial fibrillation)
  • Utilization in underserved population for low resource areas
Carly Cabel - La Follette Endowment/Libby Endowment
  • PhD program - Biological Sciences
  • BS - Molecular and Cell Biology - UA
  • Research involves colon cancer and novel Kinase signaling networks that can lead to new treatment modalities
  • Recipient of John and Betty Anderson Memorial Fellowship
Austin Conklin - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular Medicine
  • Austin received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Wyoming.
  • His work in molecular medicine involves endothelial cells and understanding the transcriptional programs that are implemented within them.
  • Understanding these genetic and regulatory mechanisms could provide a foundation for future therapies to prevent heart attacks and atherosclerosis related mortality.
Christopher Coplen - Burton Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Immunobiology
  • Christopher received a B.S. in Biology from Indiana University.
  • Within the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, Christopher is researching age-related immune function.
  • His research into the mechanisms underlying the breakdown of immune responses in older adults could be leveraged into targeted therapies to improve human health.
Brandon Hellman - Saba Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Optical Sciences
  • Brandon received a B.S. in Optical Sciences and Engineering from the University of Arizona. Brandon’s project is developing a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system for self-driving vehicles with potential to significantly and positively impact everyday transportation. While LIDAR systems exist today, Brandon’s research will decrease the package system size and cost, making LIDAR systems more readily available and autonomous vehicles safer.
Julie Huynh - The Carson Senger Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Julie received her B.S. and M.S. in Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona.
  • Her resarch surrounds the mechanisms of resistance that cancer cells develop to targeted therapies. 
  • She will be specifically studying targeted therapies for epidermal growth fact receptor (EGFR), a receptor that is altered in many cancers. 
  • By defining the molecular basis for this resistance, more effective treatment strategies for cancer can be developed.
Hannah Johnson - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Md/PhD program - Medicine/Neuroscience GIDP 
  • BS - Biological Sciences ASU
  • My research focuses on the host-parasite interface by examining the affects of Toxoplasma gondii infection on different subregions of the neuron, with the goal of understanding and treating cysts in the central nervous system
David Knoff - Templin Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biomedical Engineering
  • David received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Material Science Engineering from the University of Connecticut.
  • He is developing novel protein-based biomaterials for advanced drug delivery and tissue engineering application specifically for cardiovascular disease.
  • Findings could help to reduce the side effects of current therapeutics and reduce the number of cardiovascular-related deaths.
Kendra Marr - Libby Worsley Crouch Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Cancer Biology
  • Kendra received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Kansas.
  • Her research into the mechanisms of prostate cancer progression is looking to identify predictors of aggressive disease.
  • Currently, there is a lack of understanding of the mechanisms by which prostate cancer spreads, and there are no reliable methods for predicting its course. 
  • More reliabe assessment of these cancers could decrease the need for unnecessary invasive procedures.
  • Recipient of an NIH award to continue the study of prostate cancer spread
Travis Sawyer - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Optical Sciences
  • Travis received his B.S. in Optical Sciences and Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from the Univerity of Arizona and a M.S. in Physics from the university of Cambridge.
  • His research interests focus on biomedical optics in the scope of non-invasive disease detection.
  • Travis is researching new imaging technology in biomedical optics and is developing technology for non-invasive screening of esophageal cancer.
Lauren Schultz - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Cellular and Molecular Medicine
  • Lauren received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • She is researching the underlying basic cellular mechanisms that result in disease.
  • Her work focuses on striated muscle proteins and how their dysregulation leads to cardiovascular disease. The goal is to determine how actin thin filament lengths are regulated in normal striated muscle and understand how this is perturbed in the human patient population.
Patrick Essay - Mary Ann White Memorial Scholar
  • PhD - Engineering
  • BS - Metallurgical and Materials Engineering; MS - Engineering Management - UA
  • Research focuses on machine learning applications in critical care investigating computational solutions for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions
Hannah Kravitz - The West Family Scholar
  • PhD program - Applied Math
  • BS - Food Agricultural Biological Engineering - Ohio State University
  • Research involves work on numerical partial differential equations on metric graphs. This research combines many fields include numerical analysis, computational math, and network science, and my work has several applications to public health and optical science.
Spencer Scott - Dr. and Mrs. Francisco Ponce
  • PhD program - Astronomy
  • BA - Astrophysics and Physics - Harvard University
  • Research focuses on Galaxy formation and Galaxy evolution
Andrew Tubbs - Might Scholar
  • PhD - Biological Sciences
  • BSc - Biological Sciences - University of California, Davis
  • Research takes a translational neuroscience approach to address the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in mental health. One current project focuses on the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in patients with psychotic disorders.
  • I am helping to provide cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia to patients with and without psychosis.
  • My second project focuses on the role of sleep timing and suicidal behavior. Using national and community datasets, I am investigating whether wakefulness at night increases the likelihood of suicidal ideation and suicide completion.
Joshua Uhlorn - Kucera Scholar
  • PhD - Physiological Sciences
  • BS - Bioengineering - University of Arizona
  • Research concerns the involvement of the immune system, specifically T cells, in the pathogenesis of hypertension with an emphasis on how sex hormones influence the activity of T cells during hypertension development
  • Entrepreneurship for Biomedicine - Online training program designed to immerse graduate students, professional students, faculty and medical doctors in the process of identifying innovative health care solutions and building a successful biomedical company