Current Scholars

2021/2022 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars


ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2021-2022 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
Reza Ahmed - Burton Family Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Mechanical Engineering
  • Reza received a B.S. from Brigham Young University – Idaho.
  • His research is on magnetic control of micro-robots, both solid and fluid, towards surgical, healthcare, and micro-assembly applications. This includes working to improving control strategies for ferrofluid droplets.


Jeffrey Blanzy - Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D.Program -  Biomedical Engineering
  • Jeffrey received a B.S. in Material Science Engineering with a minor in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.
  • He is performing his Ph.D. research at the Barrow Neurovascular Institute where he is conducting pre-clinical studies to assess aneurysms filled with temperature sensitive co-polymers and is focusing on developing biomaterials to create innovative medical products.
Mark Blei - Wilhoit Foundation
  • Ph.D. Program - Material Science and Engineering 
  • Mark's research focuses on synthesis and defect engineering of quantum 2D materials, including excitonic semiconductors and van der Waals magnets. The applications of his work include quantum emitters, quantum computers, quantum cryptology, and quantum optics.
  • Tongay Laboratory - Advanced Materials in the Quantum Age
Jordan Glass - Wilhoit Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biology
  • Jordan received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University and an M.S. in Biology from the University of the Pacific.
  • His research focuses on climate change and the resulting global biodiversity crisis. Specifically, he is investigating how exposure to agrochemicals and heat affect honey bees (Apis mellifera), testing the possible role of each of these in causing the alarming losses of this vital insect pollinator.
Sara Knowles - VanDenburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Neuroscience
  • Sara received a B.S in Biology from Creighton University with a minor with Neuropsychology. 
  • Her research focuses on the role of genetic mutations in brain development and childhood disease.  Specifically, she is working to understand how mutations in the MAP Kinase pathway cause disease in order to apply this information to clinical therapeutic research.
Wendy Lin - The Ellie and Michael Ziegler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Chemical Engineering
  • Wendy received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering  from National Taiwan University and an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • Her research focuses on development of a next-generation integrated seismic system for space explorations. Through development and optimization of the materials and the seismometer, the seismic system shows promises to operate under extreme temperatures for seismic investigations on Europa, the Moon, and Venus.
Rodrigo Martinez - Sonntag Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Microbiology School of Life Sciences
  • Rodrigo received a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Texas at El Paso
  • His research focuses on engineering the metabolism of the bacterium Escherichia coli with the goal of developing strains capable of overproducing industrially-valuable short-chain mono- and dicarboxylic acids from lignocellulose-derived sugars. The development of these strains will provide a renewable route for production of these chemicals and contribute to global efforts that seek to reduce our unsustainable dependency on fossil fuels.
Tyler McCarthy - Krepper Family Trust Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Electrical Engineering
  • Tyler received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • His research is based on molecular beam epitaxial growth of semiconductor quantum structures and devices. His research focuses on two main areas: low-cost and large-area solar cells for terrestrial application and novel materials and quantum structures for high-performance low-cost infrared sensors that can be used for both biochemical sensing and night vision.
Mark Namba - J. Kenneth Seward Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Neuroscience
  • Mark received a B.S. in  Psychology  from the University of Florida and an M.A. in Psychology from Arizona State University.
  • His 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
  • Ph.D. Program - Evolutionary Biology
  • Angela received a B.S. in Biology and Anthropology from Stony Brooke University.
  • Her research focuses on developing computational pipelines useful in cancer genetics research, understanding the contribution of archaic ancestry in liver cancer, and characterizing the genetic diversity within and among human populations in Africa. Through her research, she hopes to contribute a better understanding of the processes and events that shape human population genetic variation and its implications for health and disease.
Sydney Parrish - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation 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.
  • She is investigating methods to improve biochemical production in cyanobacteria by engineering key proteins for enhanced inorganic carbon uptake. This work will ultimately lead to the identification and characterization of genetic modifications that give rise to superior growth phenotypes in cyanobacteria, thereby advancing the development of these microbes into robust, cost effective photosynthetic bioproduction factories.
Kirsten Pfeffer - Ivy Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Molecular and Cellular Biology     
  • Kirsten received a B.S. in Microbiology from Arizona State University.
  • She is specifically interested in cancer biology and immunology, with a focus on the development of novel cancer therapies. Her current research involves the development of novel cellular immunotherapies and characterization of a T regulatory like cell line with suppressive activity. Her research can lead to the development of new and enhance existing immunotherapies to improve the prognosis for cancer patients.
Erik Poppleton - Papadopoulos Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biological Design
  • Erik received a B.S. in Biology and Geology from Tufts University.
  • His research focuses on develop software tools to design and evaluate complex DNA and RNA nanotechnology systems. His main software, the molecular visualizer OxView and a simulation analysis toolkit for the nanotechnology-specific  simulation tool oxDNA/RNA have decreased the time required to run  simulations and lowered the barrier of entry to the molecular simulation of DNA/RNA nanotechnology systems.
Tyler Sypherd - Krepper Family Trust Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Electrical Engineering
  • Tyler received a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • His research is at the nexus of information theory and machine learning. His main research aim is to improve the robustness and fairness of machine learning models for a wide range of classification problems with realizable practical utility. His ultimate goal is that data scientists will use the tools I am developing to improve their predictive models.
Elisabeth Thomas - Louis Jugloff Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Chemical Engineering
  • Elisabeth received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Mexico.
  • Her research focuses on developing methods to remediate highly contaminated wastewaters and provide high-purity water with minimal waste. Her  current line of research focuses on spaceflight applications, and finding new and innovative ways to reclaim precious resources which has applications both on the frontiers of niche fields such as spaceflight, and in broader scenarios globally.
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.
Jaimeson Veldhuizen - Marie McSpadden Sands Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biomedical Engineering
  • Jaimeson received a B.S in Biomedical Engineering with minors in Spanish, Biochemistry an Mathematics from the University of Arizona.
  • She is working in the areas of microscale modeling technologies, stem cell biology, and cardiovascular research. Jaimeson has developed a novel Heart-on-Chip microfluidic microengineered platform to model the complex environment of the myocardium for physiologically relevant cardiac disease modeling.


Northern Arizona University
Lydia Bailey - Ponce Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biology
  • Lydia received a B.S in Environmental Science-Biology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
  • Her research focuses on the use of soil organisms to improve restoration outcomes on highly disturbed areas of the Mojave Desert.  This area of work in applied biocrust restoration is looking at rare plant conservation in reclaimed gypsum mining soils, preventing erosion in large scale solar facilities, and weed removal techniques while preserving biocrust.
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
  • Ph.D. Program - Forestry
  • Ryan received a B.S. in Environmental Science and M.S. in Biological Sciences from Northern Illinois University
  • His research focuses on developing methodologies for assessing forest structure and composition using remote sensing technologies to assist in forest management by monitoring and predicting outcomes from drivers of forest change (e.g., wildfires, climate change).
Connor Crouch - Krepper Family Trust Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Forestry
  • Connor received a B.A. in Journalism with a Minor in Business and M.S. in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Forestry from the University of Missouri - Columbia. 
  • His work involves applying forest ecology and management to study the sustainability of aspen regeneration in Arizona.  He is focused on identifying which factors are limiting successful aspen regeneration with a particular focus on quantifying the extent and impacts of an emerging invasive insect, oystershell scale, which poses a serious threat to conservation of aspen in Arizona.


Alejandro Grajal-Puche - Lauber Endowment 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 within rice agroecosytems affect amphibian biodiversity patterns.  His goal is to identify farming strategies that improve agroecosystem biodiversity, lower operating costs to farmers, while improving farming sustainability.
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 Colorado.
  • Her research focuses on forest arthropod communities and their contributions to vegetation recovery and forest restoration and management in the aftermath of high-intensity fires in the ponderosa pine ecosystem.
Heidi Rodenhizer - Lafollette Endowment & Libby Endowment Scholar Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program  - Biology
  • Heidi received a B.S. in Biology from Western Washington University.
  • Her research is focused on the thaw of permafrost (the frozen soils found in the Arctic), and the resulting ground collapse, which alters ecosystems and damages infrastructure.  In particular, she is developing new methods utilizing observations from satellites and airplanes to track the extent of permafrost thaw and collapse to understand the impact thaw is having on the extensive carbon stocks stores in these soils.
Jennifer Zahratka - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Forestry
  • Jennifer received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of St. Thomas and holds an M.S. degree in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. 
  • She is studying the federally endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse – a species that is likely to go extinct in the next 10 years without intervention.  Her work focuses on the habitat ecology and endocrinology of the mouse in order to understand the fundamental hibernation (8-9 months of the year) and the short breeding period in order to make informed decisions and implement appropriate conservation measures for the species.
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. 


Michael Anderson - Windrow Endowment and Templin Endowment Scholar Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Materials Science and Engineering
  • Michael received a B.S. in Physics and Applied Mathematics from Washington State University. 
  • He is researching structure-property relationships, degradation mechanisms and building-integration of organic photovoltaic materials.  His work focusses on how the properties of organic semiconductors changed with accelerated aging, which provides critical insight into understanding color changes for applications to semi-transparent windows and incorporation into greenhouses.
Stephanie Bruggink - Elaine Karcher Family Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Physiological Science
  • Stephanie received a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science and a minor in Nutrition from Colorado State University. 
  • She is researching the underlying mechanism linking obesity-induced liver fat accumulation with hypertension and asthma.  The research will be applied to improve patient health.
Alex Burton - Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biomedical Engineering
  • Alex received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arizona with a minor in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering. 
  • He is currently working on miniaturized wireless implantable neural interfaces that utilize photometric and optogenetic approaches to investigate cell specific neuronal activity.  He is also working on wireless and implantable peripheral nervous system interfaces to enable fast recovery of spinal injuries.


Carly Cabel - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biological Sciences
  • Carly received a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Arizona. 
  • Her current research involves drug discovery and novel characterization of the protein kinase CLK3 and how it regulates the growth and advancement of colon cancer. She is the recipient of John and Betty Anderson Memorial Fellowship.
Jacob Cecil - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Jacob received a B.S in Biochemistry/Molecular/Cellular Biology from the University of Tennessee. 
  • He is studying cell growth regulation and the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) pathway.  By researching the fundamental components of the TOR pathway, solutions can be found for major public health issues including cancer, diabetes and even the physiological effects of aging.  
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.
Duan Copeland - Kucera Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Microbiology
  • Duan received a B.S. in Microbiology, Veterinary Science with a minor in Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Arizona.  He also received a PSM in Applied Biosciences from the University of Arizona.
  • He is researching the honey bee microbiome. A dwindling bee population would have an unprecedented economic impact which would ripple  throughout agriculture, employment, and food security around the world.


Christopher Coplen - Burton Family Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Immunobiology
  • Christopher received a B.S. in Biology from Indiana University.
  • He is researching age-related immune function, within the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. His research into the mechanisms underlying the breakdown of immune responses in older adults could be leveraged into targeted therapies to improve human health.
Kathryn Gray - Mary Ann White Memorial Scholar
  • ​​​Ph.D. Program -  Computer Science
  • Kathryn received a B.S. in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
  • She is passionate about creating widely applicable methods that allow people to better understand data.
Julie Huynh - The Carson Senger Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Julie received a 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
  • M.D./ Ph.D. Program - Medicine/Neuroscience GIDP 
  • Hannah received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University.
  • Her research studies Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular protozoan parasite affecting the brain.  This research will help understand the drivers of neuroinflammation in white matter versus gray matter, a distinction that is important to the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis vs. Alzheimer’s Disease.  
Matthew Klass - Kimberlee Allen Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Physiological Sciences
  • Matthew received a B.S. in Health Sciences in Physiology and two B.A. degrees in French and Italian at the University of Arizona. 
  • He is investigating the biophysical causes of various genetic cardiomyopathies in the hopes of generating and eventually implementing novel, effective therapeutics. 


Hannah Kravitz - The West Family Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Applied Mathematics
  • Hannah received a B.S. in Food Agricultural Biological Engineering at Ohio State University
  • Her research is in the field of Computational Mathematics and Numerical Analysis with applications to diverse fields such as public health and optical science and is being used to model the spread of epidemics and lasing and light propagation in a nanofiber network. 
Kendra Marr - Libby Worsley Crouch Scholar
  • M.D. / 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. Kendra is the recipient of an NIH award to continue the study of prostate cancer spread.
Allison Mason - Alison Hunter Johnston Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Theoretical and Computational Chemistry
  • Allison received a B.S. in Chemistry from Linfield College.
  • Her research focuses on using molecular dynamics simulations of an all-atomistic model of the cardiac thin filament to determine the underlying disease mechanisms of genetic cardiomyopathy.
Sawyer Miller - Kunkel Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Optical Sciences
  • Sawyer received his B.S. in Physics and a minor in Mathematics from Fort Lewis College. 
  • He is researching different materials and fabrication techniques to allow for complete characterization of optical polarization with a scene; and also researching natural polarization phenomena, allowing for material classification and detection in a natural scene. 
Garrett Richards - Might Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Optical Science
  • Robert received a B.S. in Optical Sciences and Engineering and a B.S. in General Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona. 
  • His research work is with the Center for Gamma-Ray Imaging where he has developed the mechanical design and front-end electronics for a clinical SPECT brain imager. The objective for this imager is to facilitate drug discovery and research into neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Joseph Schlosser - ARCS Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Chemical Engineering
  • Joseph received undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering with minors in Math and Chemistry
  • His current research is focused on improving remote sensing retrievals aerosol particles using a suite of aircraft measurements taken in the course of multiple science missions.  This work analyzes the impacts that different methodologies can have on the retrieved microphysical and optical aerosol particle properties.
Lauren Schultz - Sandra Matteucci / Ralph Matteucci Memorial Endowment 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.
Samantha Scibelli - Lawson Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Samantha received a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from Stony Brook University. 
  • She has worked on various projects including studying bullet-like jets from a dying star and probing the parameters of mysterious dark matter.  Samantha studies dense nurseries of gas and dust prior to the formation of stars in order to understand their evolution.