Current Scholars

2022/2023 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars


ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2022-2023 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
Edward Andert - Burton Family Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D Program - Computer Engineering
  • BS and MS Computer Engineering from ASU
  • He spent a number of years working in the autonomous vehicle industry at companies like Intel and Mobileye before returning to get his PhD. His research is in the field of cooperative verification of autonomous vehicles, which focuses on creating, theoretically proving, and enforcement of driving standards for autonomous vehicles.


Alexis Basciano - Kunkel Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Auditory Language Neuroscience
  • BS in Biological Sciences and Health from Pennsylvania State University
  • Afterwards, she began her graduate career at Arizona State University as a Speech and Hearing Sciences PhD student mentored by Dr. Corianne Rogalsky. Currently, she studies auditory-motor integration and music production in stroke and aphasia.
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.
Jeffrey Blanzy - ARCS 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.
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. Within NEWT, she has been studying the selective removal of toxic oxo-anions in water through the use of novel nano-adsorbents.
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.
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. The implication of her research is broad, contributing to the understanding of cyber systems, the security of international borders, and the protection of personal information in the face of ever-growing security encroachment.
Keilen Kelly - Nancy and Robert Spetzler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Microbiology
  • Keilen received a B.S in Microbiology from Brigham Young University
  • Her current research focuses on E. coli strains with mutations that make them highly resistant to a variety of stresses. There is an urgent need to study these mutations, considering the looming "superbug" crisis, where bacterial infections become increasingly resistant to antibiotics and other stresses, making them difficult to eradicate.
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.
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,
  • Her research focuses on how land use change impacts malaria incidence in Eastern Africa; qualitatively assessing the role of temperature and precipitation on mosquito populations in Phoenix, Arizona, investigating the impact of variant transmission for the COVID-19 pandemic, and elucidating the influence of temperature and mosquito infectivity on West Nile Virus transmission.
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.
Allison McMinn - Carol and Malcom Craig Scholar in Memory of Elizabeth Culley
  • Ph.D. Program - Electrical Engineering
  • Allison received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
  • Her current research focus is on the characterization of molecular-beam epitaxy grown CdTe solar cells. CdTe solar cells have a wide range of applications from terrestrial renewable energy generation to powering satellites in outer space. An ongoing study that Allison is participating in investigates the radiation effects on the performance of CdTe solar cells used in spacecraft.
Melanie Newell - Turley Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Biological Sciences
  • 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 in the Biological Design program under the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering focuses on a novel way to tackle disease diagnosis through the tangential growing field of wastewater-based epidemiology.
William Parquette - Wilhoit Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Electrical Engineering
  • B.S. in Physics with a minor in Mathematics from California Lutheran University
  • While there, he participated in research that focused on testing the performance of a subatomic particle detector and travelled to CERN in Geneva, Switzerland where he tested the performance of the detector in a particle accelerator. His PhD research is focusing in power systems and power electronics, using a load matching algorithm to show that large scale photovoltaic (PV) hydrogen production can be efficient and cost effective.
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.
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 developing and characterizing novel contact materials for silicon heterojunction and silicon/perovskite tandem solar cells. He is also a co-founder of Beyond Silicon, a start-up focused on commercializing solar cells surpassing the efficiency limit of commercial solar cells.
Aide Robles - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Environmental Engineering
  • B.S. in Civil Engineering and Modern Languages from Northern Arizona University
  • Her research is in the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Aide is an active student member in the Engineering Research Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG) at ASU where she performs user-inspired research on bioremediation of chlorinated contaminants.
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.
Northern Arizona University
Connor Crouch - Ponce 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.


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 - 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 (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.
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.
Allison Kelley - Kucera 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
LInda Sue Lassiter - Marley Foundation
  • Ph.D. Program  - Biology
  • Linda received a M.S. in Computer Science from Boston University and has had multiple careers in the Navy and software engineering field. She went back to school as a dual major in Biology and Geology (with a Paleontology emphasis) receiving her B.S. and ultimately receiving her M.S. in Biology from Northern Arizona University in 2019.
  • Her current PhD work focuses on how paleontological evidence may inform how interspecific interactions influence community organization, as well as signatures for coevolution and foundation species status within the fossil record.  Her work has practical importance for understanding and predicting patterns of abundance for invasive mollusk species within Arizona reservoirs.
University of Arizona
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.
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 - Kucera 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. 
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.  
Kimberly Doty - Haga Family Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program -  Biomedical Engineering
  • BS and MS in Biochemistry and Mathematics from University of Arizona
  • Kimberly is working to simulate camera designs for a dedicated human brain SPECT system and is creating the reconstruction algorithms for this system.  Ultimately, by helping scientists produce improved images of the movement of molecules through the brain, this system will facilitate drug discovery in neurodegenerative diseases. 
Catherine Hanagan - Anne Spychala Family Charitable Foundation
  • PhD Program - Geosciences
  • BS in Geosciences from Pennsylvania State University
  • Catherine is studying to understand the structure of fault zones and how fluids affect their slip behavior so we can model observed surface deformation in more detail through time. The goal is to increase understanding of earthquakes for hazard-preparedness in at-risk communities. 
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.


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.
Chandler Noyes - The Culley Family Scholar in Memory of Elizabeth Culley
  • PhD Program Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences​​​
  • BS in Geology from University of Vermont
  • Chandler’s current research is developing the use of argon-39, a relatively new groundwater age tracer, combined with more traditional age tracers to better constrain a full spectrum of ground water residence time.  The new information on recharge will provide water resources managers with a better understanding of our groundwater resources and help them make more informed decisions on current and future drinking water supplies. 
Henry Quach - Burton Family Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Optical Sciences
  • Henry received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University
  • Henry’s research focuses on and advances the measurement of large, rough, and “freeform” optical surfaces.  This is motivated by how the metrology of such extremely shaped surfaces is difficult and has been a persistent limiter to the ubiquity of high-performance components for optical systems.  Using illumination design, polarization science and optomechanical design, Henry’s research confers new abilities to a metrology approach called deflectometry which can measure surfaces down to microns and even tens of nanometers.
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.


Tyler Ripperger - Stevie and Karl Eller Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program - Molecular Medicine
  • Tyler received his BS in Biology from Midland University
  • Tyler’s research has been focused on understanding the underlying transcriptional machinery that results in long-term vaccine induced immunity, as well as antibody responses to the novel human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and has been highly involved in SARS-CoV-2 research efforts at the University of Arizona since the onset of the pandemic.
Danielle Sawyer - Eller Scholar in Memory of Elizabeth Culley
  • 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.
Matthew Schmit - Kathryn Johnston West Scholar
  • PhD Program - Neuroscience
  • BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of Arizona
  • Matthew currently studies how the brain controls food intake.  Matthew’s work focuses on understanding how the part of the brain that processes motivation and emotion works to control feeding behavior, and how it might go wrong in diseases and disorders like anorexia, bulimia, Prader-Willis syndrome, and obesity. 
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.
Kyle Smith - Might Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program in Physiological Sciences
  • BS in Dietetics from University of Georgia
  • Kyke's current research studies how stressors (psychological or physical) influence immune cell function against cancer, improving immunotherapies for the treatment of pediatric cancers, and how acute exercise affects immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, Kyle is engaged in NASA-funded research to apply exercise to mitigate chronic stress and prevent cancer development in astronauts during long-duration exploration missions. 
Julia Townsend - Plenge Endowment Scholar
  • PhD Program in Biochemistry
  • BS in Biochemistry from Binghamton University
  • Julia has done research on membrane proteins and their lipid interactions using native mass spectrometry.  Julia’s research has specifically centered around characterizing viral on channels, viroporins, and better understanding how they are influenced by their local chemical environment.  
Sarah Tyler - Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Program in Analytical Chemistry
  • BS in Chemistry at Purdue University
  • Sara currently studies the photodegradation of active layer materials used in organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices via spectroscopic methods.  Additionally, Sarah utilizes 2D generalized correlation spectroscopy to further analyze the collected data to gain better insight into the degradation mechanisms of these OPV materials. 
Kevin Figueroa - Windrow Endowment and Templin Endowment Scholar
  • PhD Program in Physics
  • BS in Computer Engineering at California State Polytechnic University Pomona 
  • MS in Computer Science at University of Southern California
  • Kevin's research interests orbit around the intersection of Deep Learning, Photonics, Optical Physics, Optical Engineering, and Image Science to not only accelerate/parellelize the scientific discovery process but also serve as a potential coupled architecture for whole new cross discplinary/hybrid systems. By following this research path of marrying the two fields, he believes that much like the Eyes and Brain coevolve, Optical Sciences and Machine Learning may evolve together as well.