Current Scholars

2023/2024 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars


ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2023-2024 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
Austin Blackmon - Larkin-Austerman Family Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular & Cellular Biology
  • BS in Biomedical Sciences and minor in Chemistry at Northern Arizona University
  • At NAU he studied the fungal pathogen Coccidioides and the disease it causes, Valley Fever. As a PhD student, he is focusing on cancer research, specifically studying the enzyme known as QSOX1, which is upregulated in several cancer types and is correlated with increased invasion and metastasis of tumors.
Emily Briese - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Environmental Engineering
  • Emily received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Toledo
  • Emily began her PhD in the Fall of 2020, working in ASU’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) center, as well as the MEMCARE Superfund Research Project. Within these research centers, she has been studying the selective removal of toxic oxo-anions in water through the use of novel nano-adsorbents.
Samantha Brozak - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Applied Mathematics  
  • Samantha receivedd a BS in Mathematics from ASU
  • Samantha works on an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop new tools to monitor disease transmission on the community level.
    While at-home and clinical tests for diseases like COVID-19 can help an individual determine their disease status,
    these tests may result in false negatives or have reporting delays. Her work relies on estimating the true number of cases via wastewater-based surveillance and mathematical modelling. This allows for a more accurate, real-time picture of transmission in a community and can help public officials make informed decisions in controlling the spread of a disease.


Nicole Haikalis - Sonntag Family Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
  • Nicole received a BS in Neuroscience Biomedical Engineering from ASU
  • Her research explores new ways in which non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) can enhance motor learning during clinical neurorehabilitation. Her previous study found evidence of a placebo effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on motor learning, driven by participants’ expectations about the efficacy of tDCS, and belief of whether they received active stimulation. Her current study builds upon this evidence and determines the extent to which reading positive or negative information about the effects of tDCS influences the placebo effect.


Lillian Hensleigh - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Biochemistry
  • Lillian received BS degrees in Biology and Chemistry  from University of Redlands
  • Lillian investigates how renewable energy sources could power the planet. Her research aims to convert carbon dioxide into non-fossil based fuels and other value-added chemical products. In one approach she is pioneering, carbon dioxide is captured from the air by polymer-coated electrodes. Like the protein environments of biological enzymes (natures catalysts), the polymeric coatings provide low-energy pathways to achieving the overall chemical transformations. Lillian aims to improve understandings of the structure-activity relationships governing these hybrid materials and enable a more sustainable energy future.
Xaimarie Hernandez Cruz - Louis Jugloff Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Industrial Engineering 
  • Xaimarie received a BS in Industrial Engineering from Unversity of Puerto Rico and an MS from ASU 
  • Her research interest lies in the field of machine learning for sequential data with applications to agriculture. Her focus is on the development of data-driven tools that aid decision-making in the fresh produce supply chain. She is developing an intelligent system that gathers market information, monitors it to identify disruptive events, and forecasts future market conditions in terms of prices. Furthermore, to expand the applicability of her research to any region in the US, she is developing a forecasting method capable of predicting for locations without data.
Danielle Jacobs - Mary Ann White Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Computer Science
  • Danielle received a B.S in Biomedical Engineering from ASU.
  • After working in industry and becoming an experienced professional in the field of cybersecurity, she returned to ASU to work as an NSF National Research Traineeship for Citizen Centered Smart Cities and Smart Living. Danielle's work investigates how to create a cyber-harm composite indicator that will allow users to evaluate if behaviors are leading to an increase in cyber risk. A cyber-harm indicator will be an opportunity to address the challenges users face in determining their risks. This research aims to address gaps researchers face in understanding how users' cyber risks change over time.
Gregory Jensen - Kunkel Scholar


  • PhD Candidate in Chemical Engineering 
  • Greg received a BS in Biological Engineeering from Utah State University                
  • Greg’s research focuses on solutions to limit post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) after traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI occurs when an impact to the head damages the brain, causing a disruption in normal brain function. One long-term complication of TBI is the occurrence of, which is a seizure disorder caused by trauma to the brain. Often, PTE can be attributed to an imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory signals in the brain after an injury has been sustained. Greg is designing an injectable drug delivery system that will deliver therapeutics with the potential to restore balance to neural signaling and limit PTE after TBI.
Keilen Kelly - Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Microbiology
  • Keilen received a B.S in Microbiology from Brigham Young University
  • Her current research focuses on the genetics and physiology of stress responses in E. coli. Her work is on a mutation that makes cells more resistant to antibiotics, oxidative chemicals, high salt concentrations, high temperatures, and other conditions that are damaging to living organisms. She investigates how this mutation changes the internal workings of the cell and how we can work around similar mutations as they arise in pathogens. This work increases our understanding of "superbugs" and how we can fight them to eliminate infection and disease.
Jason Klemm - Wilhoit Foundation Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Molecular Biology
  • Jacob received a BS in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 
  • Necrotic tissue death presents a significant clinical burden that affects almost any tissue type and can arise from several types of injury and inherited conditions. To study the tissue response to necrosis, Jake makes use of the model fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Following this type of death, tissues respond by generating large populations of necrosis-induced apoptotic (NiA) cells. While NiA cells appear to be dying, they are required for regeneration. Jake’s current efforts are focused on understanding the precise mechanism by which NiA cells promote necrosis-induced tissue regeneration.
Marina Mancuso - Sandra Matteucci/Ralph Matteucci Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Applied Mathematics
  • Marina received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton,
  • Marina Mancuso is a returning ARCS Scholar, and her research focuses on mathematically modeling West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Marina is a year-round Graduate Student Intern in the Information Systems and Modeling Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she works with a team of highly interdisciplinary researchers to incorporate data fusion techniques for studying the impact of climate change on mosquito-borne disease transmission.
Rodrigo Martinez - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Microbiology School of Life Sciences
  • Rodrigo received a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Texas at El Paso
  • He works at the intersection of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology to address issues related to the generation of fuels and chemicals in bacteria. He is applying genetic engineering and synthetic biology tools to manipulate the metabolism of the bacterium E. coli to increase its bioproduction of succinate, a chemical compound with high industrial value. He is developing novel genetic engineering tools based on the well-known system CRISPR-Cas9 aiming to reduce society's dependence on fossil fuels.
Tyler McCarthy - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Electrical Engineering
  • Tyler received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • His research is focused on the operation of molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) chamber, an ultra-high vacuum technique that allows for precision at the atomic layer. Tyler utilizes MBE to grow semiconductor materials for optical communication and autonomous vehicle sensors, gas and bio sensing for medical diagnostics of carbon monoxide (CO), water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), as well as for the development into higher efficiency solar cells.
Brianah McCoy - Horejsi Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Molecular Biology
  • Brianah received a BS in Biological Sciences from ASU
  • She is working to understand the epigenetic changes (DNA methylation) in the immune system that occur during aging in companion dogs, and how socio-economic, built, and natural environmental factors can influence age-related disease accumulation and help us better understand how to increase both dog and human health. Understanding the fundamental molecular mechanism of biological aging can help us develop and create more effective therapeutics for age-related disease (Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease).
Allison McMinn - Burton Family Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Electrical Engineering
  • Allison received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
  • She is studying Electrical Engineering with a focus in Physical Electronics and Photonics. Her research focuses on the growth and characterization of Type-II Super Lattice structures for infrared photodetector applications using Molecular Beam Epitaxy. Allison’s research hopes to push the limits of innovation for fields such as non-invasive glucose monitoring, thermal sensing, gas monitoring, autonomous automobiles, and space-based telescopes.
Melanie Engstrom Newell - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biological Sciences
  • Melanie received a B.S. in Conservation Biology with a minor in Business from ASU, Masters degree in Secondary Education from University of Phoenix, and teaches in the Physical Science Department at Estrella Mountain Community College.
  • Her research is in the Biological Design program with an interest in monitoring chemical and biological determinants of public health. Her lab utilizes wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) to determine population susceptibility to disease. Her research focuses on applying WBE to biomarkers of non-infectious and chronic diseases (i.e., neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) and gastric and urinary cancers). She strives to associate NDD prevalence with environmental occurrence of organic chemicals such as β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), Glyphosate, and Paraquat, as well as heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.
Sydney Parrish - Sandra and Ralph Matteucci Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Chemical Engineering
  • Sydney received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with an Emphasis in Nanotechnology from the University of Southern California.
  • Her research aims to enhance inorganic carbon capture and utilization in cyanobacteria through applied protein engineering. Cyanobacteria naturally synthesize many valuable chemicals directly from sunlight and carbon dioxide, making them promising platforms for large-scale biochemical production. Her goal is to improve overall bioproduction efficiency by creating robust genetic mutants with superior growth capabilities. Ultimately, this study will benefit humankind by advancing the development of renewable, economically competitive alternatives to conventional petroleum-based methods.
Kirsten Pfeffer - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Molecular and Cellular Biology     
  • Kirsten received a B.S. in Microbiology from Arizona State University.
  • Her interests are in cancer biology and immunology, with a focus on the development and improvement of cancer therapies. Her current research explores therapies for targeting solid tumors and characterizing mechanisms of immune suppression by regulatory T cells. The goal of immunotherapies is to harness the power of the immune system to effectively destroy tumors in ways that minimize damage to normal cells, decrease tumor recurrence and improve patient prognosis.
David Quispe - Alison Hunter Johnston Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Materials Science & Engineering
  • David received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics from Lamar University.
  • His research focuses on applying highly transparent metal oxides as carrier-selective contacts for solar cells. The optical and electrical properties of the metal oxides, along with their potential to be made with a low-cost and scalable deposition technique, make them ideal candidates for boosting the performance and lowering the cost of solar cells.
Nora Shapiro - Lauber Endowment Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering 
  • Nora received a BS in Aerospace Engineering, Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Michigan 
  • Her research focuses on the prevention of biofilm formation in water tanks, which causes about 4 trilllion dollars per year of economic loss in the United States and nearly 80% of all microbial infections. She is using biocidal UV-C light delivered by UV-CLEDs paired with Side Emitting Optical Fibers. The small, flexible nature of optical fibers makes them candidates for use in water treatment systems and medical fields and indicates applications in photocatalytic, photolysis, and optical science fields. 
Justin Skinner - ARCS Scholar


  • PhD Candidate in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering  
  • Justin received a BS in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston 
  • He studies microbial bioremediation to treat groundwater pollution. Microbial bioremediation employs bacterial strains which can degrade human health degrading and environmentally damaging chemicals at the atomic scale. Many sites across the United States exist with the groundwater contaminants trichloroethene (TCE) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One facet of Justin's research seeks to enhance bioremediation outcomes in treating large dilute TCE groundwater contamination plumes.


Kelvin Tan - Wilhoit Foundation Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering
  • Kelvin received a BS in Electrical Engineering from ASU
  • His research aims to create a new photovoltaic control system that can extract the maximum available power out of photovoltaic arrays without any power converters, their associated cost, and power loss. These systems have applications in solar-powered hydrogen production, direct solar charging of electric vehicles, and stand-alone solar photovoltaic systems, with improved scalability, reliability, and efficiency over conventional solar photovoltaic systems. The completion of this research offers a unique cost-effective solution that could prepare solar energy for wide-scale adoption.


Northern Arizona University
Eva Baransky - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in the School of Earth and Sustainability
  • Eva did her undergraduate studies at Bernard College with a Biochemistry major.
  • Her research focuses on the major controls on the marine concentration of nickel, a bio essential trace mineral.
    The concentration of nickel in seawater has changed gradually overtime, particularly in the pivotal moments in life’s history,
    and these changes governed ecology at the time. Learning the causes and significance of the fluctuations would help determine
    what conditions resulted in the multi-cellular oxygen-dependent life we have on Earth today.


Beatrice Bock - Windrow Endowment and Templin Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate  - Biological Sciences
  • Beatrice attended Vanderbilt where she achieved her undergraduate degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences.
  • Her research focuses on below ground fungi that could be critical to plants growing in stressful conditions as in the Arizona deserts and forests. These fungi create below ground networks that facilitate the transfer of energy, nutrients and chemical signals between plants (nicknamed the wood wide web)
Sara Gabrielson - Lawson Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Biological Sciences
  • Sara attended Vassar College receiving her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies before coming to NAU.
  • Sara is conducting research into biological invasions and their ecological consequences.
    Her work will fill critical gaps in our understanding of the roles that introduced species play in seed dispersal in a disrupted ecosystem.
Elizabeth Gideon - Krepper Family Trust Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biology
  • Elizabeth received her BS from University of Buffalo in Exercise Science; MS from NAU in Biology
  • Her research is in integrative human physiology, trying to understand how manipulating the respiratory system can positively impact brain blood flow redistribution in simulated microgravity, with application to long duration space flight
Alejandro Grajal-Puche - Haga Family Memorial/ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • Alejandro received a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and an M.S. in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University.
  • He is focused on understanding how various farming practices (conventional vs. organic) affect fungal communities, how arthropod communities differ between each farming practice, and elucidating how amphibian and reptile community patterns differ.  His goal is to identify farming strategies that conserve wildlife that inhabit rice field ecosystems, while also improving natural ecosystem services thus improving farming sustainability.
Christopher Hancock - Kucera Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in the School of Earth and Sustainability
  • Christopher received his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from George Washington University and a Masters in Geology from the University of Denver.
  • As a paleoclimatologist he researches climate variability over the past 12,000 years. He hopes to improve predictions how warming will impact drought and precipitation intensity.
    Chris enjoys that his research allows him to study Earth’s geological past while helping to solve important questions about the impacts of climate change on water resources in the future.
Audrey Harvey - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • Audrey received two B.S. degrees, one in Environmental Studies-Policy and the other in Biology, from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Her M.S. degree is from Montana State University in Land Resources and Environmental Science. 
  • Her current focus is on improving native seed quality and quantity of five wildflower plants by utilizing the concept of maternal effects in a seed production system for large-scale restoration efforts.
Colin Hubbard - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Biological Sciences
  • Colin completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Sciences at NAU
  • His research investigates how respiratory muscles are impacted by a task designed to fatigue the inspiratory muscles.
    This is believed the key to why respiratory muscle fatigue rarely influences function during subsequent exercise.
Allison Kelley - Lafollette Endowment and Libby Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biology
  • Allison received a BS, summa cum laude from Framingham State University in Environmental Science and Policy with minors in both Biology and English
  • Her PhD research focuses on utilizing radiocarbon as a tool in order to carbon date the soil particles transported in Arctic groundwater and rivers through Arctic permafrost thaw, ground ice melt and increased precipitation to better understand carbon cycling in the Arctic as it relates to climate change
Emma Lathrop - Horejsi Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in Biological Sciences
  • Emma received a BS degree in Environmental Biology from Montana State University. She worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory after graduating. 
  • Her research involves trying to understand the effects of permafrost thaw. The carbon stored in these soils is twice what is currently
    stored in the atmosphere and as it warms,
    it has the potential to disrupt the global carbon cycle.
Joseph Phillips - ARCS Scholar
  • PhD Candidate in the School of Earth and Sustainability
  • Joseph received a BS in Earth Science with an emphasis in Geology from New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology.
  • His current research is in geophysics where he applies seismic imaging techniques to infer the structure of Earth’s crust and
    upper mantle in the central Pacific basin. Additionally, Joseph is an intern at Sandia National Laboratory applying his skills to research
    he geologic properties that help constrain the difference between explosions and earthquakes for national nuclear security.
University of Arizona
Kelsey Bernard - Nancy and Robert Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Physiological Sciences
  • BS and an MS in Biological Sciences from Southern Illinois University 
  • Kelsey’s current research involves the evaluation of novel glycosylated peptide therapeutics in animal models of Parkinson’s Disease.


Emilie Bowman - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Geology
  • BS in Geosciences from University of Texas and an MS in Geology from MIT
  • Emilie is examining the interplay between crustal thickening, magmatism, and lithospheric removal during the evolution of Cordilleran arcs. Emilie is currently conducting partial melting experiments to constrain the composition of melts derived from these types of thickness and surface elevation varied through time in the central to southern Andes. 
Romi Castillo - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
  • Romi received a BS in Bioengineeering at the University of Washington
  • She first became interested in muscle biology and cardiac disease pathogenesis.  Her current research investigates the molecular basis for cardiac relaxation and how disease-causing mutations impact that structure-function relationship.   She has mastered complex techniques such as time-resolved Forster's resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) which she is using to investigate the structural basis for cardiac relaxation
Kimberly Doty - Haga Family Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biomedical Engineering
  • BS and MS in Biochemistry and Mathematics from University of Arizona
  • Kimberly currently is pursuing a Ph.D. and simultaneously earning a M.S. in Optical Sciences.  She is working to simulate camera designs for a dedicated human brain SPECT system and is creating the reconstruction algorithms for this system.  By helping scientists produce improved images of the movement of molecules through the brain, this system will facilitate drug discovery in neurodegenerative diseases.
Alessandra Fistrovich - Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Organic Chemistry
  • Alessandra attended Ball State University earning a B.S. In Chemistry and Pre-Medicine.
  • Her research focuses on  the design and synthesis of small molecule kinase inhibitors for the treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC) and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a very aggressive stage IV cancer that can occur in the brain and spinal cord. She is investigating compounds that present a novel approach in targeting GBM and have displayed efficacy in multiple GBM cell lines and with no observed toxicity to noncanerous cell lines.
John He - Papadopoulos Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Geosciences
  • MS - Geoscience and Earth and Environmental Science at University of Arizona and the University of Minnesota
  • John’s research centers on how the planet’s surface responds to climate and cryosphere changes during times of drastic transformation in the geologic past as well as how it responds to gravitational instabilities deep beneath continents.


Christopher Kane - Margaret “Peg” Moseley Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
  • Christopher received a BS in Bioprocess Engineering from State University of New York
  • ​​​​​​​Christopher uses some of the world's fastest supercomputers to study the strong force, which describes how quarks and gluons interact with each other. He is also working with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National lab on how quantum computers can be used to study fundamental particles and their interactions. Christopher's research lays the groundwork needed to study particle physics using quantum computing. 
Maggie Kautz - Ponce Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Optical Sciences
  • Maggie received her B.S. In Optical Sciences and Engineering from the University of Arizona.
  • Her research under Dr. Laird Close and Dr. Jared Males (a former ARCS Scholar) in the Extreme Wavefront Control Lab (XWCL) focuses on the development of a cutting-edge extreme adaptive optics instrument that will be a first light instrument for the up-and-coming Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).  This technology will enable the GMT to be one of the highest performance telescopes with resolution over 3X that of many existing ground-based observatories
Thomas Knapp - Katherine Johnston West Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
  • Thomas received his Bachelor's in Physiology and Medical Science from the University of Arizona in 2017.​​​​​​​
  • Following, he spent a couple of years working in a variety of medical settings as a scribe and then as a research technician.  With this experience, he determined his contribution towards medicine would be best suited as an engineer and returned to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering.  Thomas's research focuses on imaging and developing computational models of digestive cancers for improvement in non-invasive detection and classification of these diseases.
Patrick Lohr - Crawford Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Chemical Engineering
  • Patrick received a BS in Chemical Engineeering from the University of Arizona
  • Patrick's goal has been the exploration of novel materials for energy storage and conversion. His research investigates an exciting family of solution-processable semiconductors known as metal-halide pervoskites with a set of powerful computational tools, including Kohn-Sham density functional theory (DFT) and molecular dynamics. His work characterizes atom-scale interactions  between organic molecules and metal-halide pervoskite semiconductors.  He aims to reveal key insights into nucleation, defect passivation and quasi-2D heterostructure formation in pervoskite films.
Pierce Longmire - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar

Ph.D. Candidate in Molecular Medicine 
Pierce received a BS and an MS in Mooecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona
Pierce is currently a 4th year  PhD candidate studying virus-host interactions pertaining to the enigma of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) latency,  an incredibly complex virus and member of the herpes virus family with significant health impact in the immunocompromised transplant and cancer patients. His current studies investigate how HCMV hijacks host DNA replication and repair machinery for viral objectives during replicative and latent infection cycles.

Julia Morris - Helen Jacobsen Pierson Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - College of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine
  • BS in Biology and Bioethics from Villanova University
  • Julia's research seeks to understand the mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance in colorectal cancer using patient derived organoids as a model.
Christian Pluchar - Nancy Berge Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Optical Sciences
  • Christian received a BS in Geology from Amherst College
  • Christian’s current research focuses on experimental quantum physics and exploring the limits that quantum mechanics places on making precision measurements with light, how one can surpass these limits, and incorporating these findings to advance scientific pursuits, for example, improving gravitational wave detectors or designing detectors to search for dark matter.


Colin Potter - Plenge Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Optical Sciences
  • Colin received BS degrees in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science as well as Molecular and Cellular Biology and an MS in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona  
  • His undergraduate Honors Thesis studying the interaction of Toxoplasma gondii (an obligate intracellular parasite) with the central nervous systems of mice sparked his curiosity for engineering and optics.  This led him to pursue his PhD in Optical Sciences. His research is on the development of novel optical biosensors using lens-free imaging technology, nanophotonics, and deep learning methods for rapid diagnosis of diseases like COVID-19 and gastric cancer.
Sarah Pungitore - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Mathematics
  • Sarah received a BS in Biology from Lafayette College and and MS in Applies Mathematics from the University of Arizona
  • She is interested in exploring mathematics as a tool for understanding and representing biological problems. Her earlier research involved projects related to infectious disease epidemiology, including general population modeling of infectious disease spread and modeling of excess death factors of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ecuador. Her continued work on COVID-19 pandemic issues led her to participate in a national, federally-sponsored Long COVID Challenge where she is developing a novel methodology that will be used for her research on prediction of acute respiratory distress in COVID-19 patients.
Danielle Sawyer - Marley Foundation Scholar in Memory of Milton "Bud" Webb
  • PhD Program - Cancer Biology
  • BS in Cellular Biology from UC Davis
  • Danielle’s specific work is in the field of precision medicine, looking at how genetic mutations in proteins that repair DNA damage can lead to cancer development and even drug resistance.
Brooke Sykes - Horejsi Charitable Foundation Scholar
  • PhD Program: Plant Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Brooke received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University and an M.S. in Biology from University of Mississippi
  • Her research examines the diversity of fungi in natural ecosystems, with a special focus on the fungi that live inside of the healthy leaves of plants (endophytes). She searches for patterns in how endophytes are distributed with insights from climate, coevolution, and host rarity across the world’s biomes, with the goal of understanding how fungi assemble and contribute to the health and success of their plant hosts
Arianna Tariqi - Culley Carlson Foundation Scholar in Honor of Founding Member Elizabeth Culley and Peter Culley
  • ​​​​​Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Engineering
  • Arianna earned her B.S. in Environmental Engineering from UC- Merced.
  • She was drawn to University of AZ after having won a one-year prestigious fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Indigenous Food, Water, Security, and Sovereignty Traineeship program where she worked on water quality testing of water sources and water treatment technologies within the Navajo Nation.   She is currently working on low-energy desalination technology to produce high-quality and cost-effective potable water.  This technology is aimed specifically for the drought-stricken arid Southwest and focuses on economical, widely accessible, and low environmental impact solutions.  
Savanna Weninger - Spychala Family Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physiological Sciences
  • Savannah received a BS in Nutrition, a BHS and MS in Physiology from The University of Arizona
  • Her research focuses on how diet impacts the crosstalk between the gut microbiota and overall host health.  Her master's thesis explored how prebiotic fibers in the diet can alter the small intestinal microbiota to restore small intestinal nutrient sensing and improve energy and glucose homeostasis, which is impaired with high fat diet feeding.  Her goal is to uncover novel therapeutics that target or are derived from the gut microbiota or from different dietary sources like specific plant-based flours to treat metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.


Fiona Wong - Burton Family Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physiological Sciences
  • Fiona receiving her B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UC Sand Diego
  • She then worked for a biotechnology startup company where she was inspired by their innovative and meaningful cardiovascular research and decided to pursue her PhD at U of A.  Now in her 4th year, she focuses on the development and application of biophysical approaches for understanding structure, dynamics, and function of cardiac muscle proteins at the molecular level, with particular emphasis on investigating genetic mutations causing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and identifying small-molecule drugs for new therapeutic treatments.