Current Scholars

2017/2018 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars

2017/2018 Scholars

ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2016-2017 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
Anna Beiler - Ellie and Michael Zeigler Scholar
  • Anna received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Messiah College. 
  • After graduation she worked as a community environmental development worker in the Dominican Republic.
  • Firsthand experience of living in a community without electricity motivated Anna to pursue her research in renewable energy.
  • She is dedicated to developing innovative ways to store renewable energy.​
Ashley Boehringer - VanDenburgh Scholar
  • Ashley received a B.S. in Biology, with minors in Mathematics and Spanish from the University of Arizona.
  • Her research is on the neurodegenerative disorder Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
  • She is focusing on the functional role of a new gene Matrin 3 and is mapping out which proteins this new gene interacts within cells as well as what interactions are altered by these mutations.
Rebecca Cook - Kucera Scholar
  • Rebecca received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. 
  • She gained outside experience in high throughput genotyping technologies and working in nano-technology and brain tumor directed drug delivery.
  • Her emphasis is on activating the immune system using targeted antibody systems, specifically for the treatment of glioblastoma.
Josh Cutts - Sonntag Scholar
  • Josh received a B.A. and a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
  • He discovered his passion for research by working in the microcirculation and tissue regeneration laboratory.
  • Josh seeks to understand how human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) adopt specific neuronal fates.
  • This will significantly advance the applications of hPSCs for treating a variety of devastating neurodegenerative disorders.
Peter Firth - Louis Jugloff Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Peter received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • He is developing the first system capable of commercial-scale production of nanoparticle coatings.
  • This has applications including antibacterial fabrics, high-efficiency solar cells and ultra- high–definition displays.


Christopher Gisriel - Johnston Endowment Scholar
  • Christopher completed a tour of duty with the United States Army in Afghanistan prior to beginning his college career. 
  • He received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Arizona State University.
  • His research has allowed him to use multiple biochemical and biophysical techniques in the course of working with the membrane proteins involved in photosynthetic metabolism.
  • His research is published in the September 8th issue of SCIENCE Magazine


Kyle Householder - Erston and Dawn Carson Senger Scholar
  • Kyle received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.
  • His research is on improving the treatment of glioblastoma through the use of innovative methods for targeting nanoparticle delivery to the brain.
  • He is currently exploring how nanoparticles interact with the blood-brain barrier and their mechanism of payload delivery to the brain.
Marion Branch Kelly - Wilhoit Scholar
  • Marion received her B.S. in Engineering with a concentration in Materials Science and Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • Marion’s research focuses on electromigration and damage mechanisms in lead-free tin-rich solders.
  • Her goal is to improve the reliability of solders by understanding the microstructural features that affect the extent of electromigration damage.
Michael Machas - Burton Scholar
  • Michael earned a B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering at Arizona State University.
  • His is developing “green” technologies to produce industrially- important chemicals.
  • Synthesizing molecules such as 2-phenylethanol (a prospective next generation biofuel compound and fine chemical) and flavonoids could lead to the development of new classes of renewable, sustainable, biochemicals derived from domestic feedstocks.
Natalie Mitchell - Kucera Scholar
  • Natalie received a B.S. and a M.S. in Biomedical Science from the University of Greenwich, London, England.
  • Working for the National Health Service, she was awarded a patent for developing a novel kit for the detection of Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase producers (ESBLs) from clinical samples.
  • Her research provides a platform for the diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment of the fungus that causes Valley Fever.
Alesia Prakapenda - Spetzler Scholar
  • Alesia received dual B.S. degrees in Psychology and International Business Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Her research examines how estrogens impact cognitive function by targeting estrogen delivery to the brain to achieve enhanced cognitive effects with minimal undesired peripheral exposure in a model of menopause.
Christopher Sorini - Papadopoulos Scholar
  • Chris received his undergraduate degree from Arizona State University in Mechanical Engineering.
  • He graduated Summa Cum Laude and went directly into the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. program at ASU.
  • His research focuses on the computational modeling and analysis of braided polymer matrix composites subjected to dynamic loading conditions.
Andrew Svesko - Lawson Scholar
  • Andy received a B.S. in Mathematics and a B.S. in Physics from Oregon State University.
  • He also received a Master’s in Physics from Oregon State University before coming to Arizona State University to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics.
  • Andy is studying how classical gravity emerges from quantum gravity, opening the door to new, alternative ways of thinking about the properties of spacetime, and, consequently, the origin and (microscopic) nature of space and time.
Danh Truong - Burton Scholar
  • Danh received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington.
  • He received an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering through a joint program with the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.
  • His research is on the interaction between stromal and cancer cells to discover better inhibitors of tumor growth and spread.
Natasa Vulic - Marley Foundation Scholar in Memory of Milton "Bud" Webb
  • Natasa earned a B.S. from Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University in both Mechanical Engineering and Sustainability.
  • Her Master’s was also earned at ASU where she studied solar cells, optical modeling and nanostructures.
  • She is researching how to meet the growing energy demand with clean, renewable energy, specifically by trying to improve the efficiency of solar cells.
Eric Woolf - Spetzler Scholar
  • Eric received a B.S. in Biology from Wabash University and a M.S. in Biology from Arizona State University. He is exploring new strategies and mechanisms to sensitize malignant brain tumors to radiation therapy.
  • One approach involves using a therapeutic ketogenic diet with radiation, which enhances survival and alters a variety of malignant pathways in the brain tumor model.


Northern Arizona University
John "Henry" Grover - ARCS Scholar
  • Henry received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Utah. 
  • His research explores the potential for actively restoring fire mosses – species of moss that naturally colonize burned areas – to control erosion, preserve soil fertility, and promote ecosystem recovery after a wildfire. 
  • He pioneers methods for propagating mosses in the greenhouse and delivering them to burned sites.


Anthomy Hessel - ARCS Scholar
  • Anthony received a B.S. in Biology from Allegheny College and a M.S. in Biology from Northern Arizona University. 
  • He studies protein interactions at the molecular level, and then uses that knowledge to help develop computer muscle models.
  • With these models he has the ability to reshape the way muscle physiologists and bioengineers work together to build limb prostheses.
Suzanne Owen - ARCS Scholar
  • Suzanne received a B.S. in Botany with a minor in Chemistry and a M.S. in Biology from Northern Arizona University.
  • Her goals are to determine if ponderosa pine forests are regenerating ten years after high-severity wildfires and to understand broad- and local-scale drivers of regeneration patterns.
  • This research will provide tools and technology to improve forest conditions.
Michael Remke - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • Michael received a B.S. in Environmental Biology from Fort Lewis College.
  • His research is on plant and soil organism interactions in the face of conservation biology and global climate change.
  • Michael aims to find mechanisms that enhance plant growth as plants adapt to novel environments either through assisted migration or in situ adaptation to climate change or land use change.


Rachel Rubin - Windrow Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biology
  • Rachel received a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida. Her current research uses native plants and soil to determine the mechanisms bywhich plants and microbes interact, the environmental conditions that threaten this mutualistic symbiosis and the potential use of microbial inoculation forimproving plant survival under extreme climate events
Molly Shuman-Goodier - Lafollette Endowment and Libby Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biology
  • Molly received a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Spanish from Eckerd College. Her research addresses the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemical contaminants originating from agriculture on wildlife.  She is integrating novel techniques of endocrinology, genetics, and ecology to evaluate the impact of pesticide use on amphibians inhabiting rice agro-ecosystems.


University of Arizona
Elizabeth Bowman - Bray/Kucera Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Pathology
  • Elizabeth received a B.S. in Botany at Oregon State University and a M.S. in Plant Pathology at the University of Arizona.  Elizabeth researches the effects of climate change on the plant communities that form the foundation of human sustainability. She focuses on forests, specifically how microbial symbionts of forest trees (especially fungi) will fare under scenarios for climate change.
Andrew Flores - Might Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physiological Sciences    
  • Andrew received a B.S. in Psychology and a M.S. in Physiological Sciences from the University of Arizona. He is using stem cell technology to investigate the etiology of Parkinson’s disease (PD). His research involves a unique approach, using induced pluripotent stem cell technology to investigate the association between PD and malignant melanoma. This will result in the creation of a patient- specific model of the PD-melanoma connection.
Caroline Geisler - Burton Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Animal Sciences
  • Caroline received her B.S. in Zoology from Miami University and a M.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Arizona.  Caroline is investigating the role of hepatic lipid accumulation in altering peripheral nervous system activity to effect changes in serum insulin and insulin sensitivity. This integrative systems-level approach to understanding how the liver regulates whole body metabolic activity will offer insights into the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Cecil Gomes - Templin Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Cellular and Molecular Medicine    
  • Cecil received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. His research is focused on the development and progression of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), a sub-type of lung cancer consisting of 85% to 90% of all lung cancer cases. His work is centralized around the study of a particular protein known as 14-3-3 gamma (14-3-3y). Patients with advanced NSCLCs and elevated levels of the protein can benefit from a more aggressive therapy to combat the mechanisms  driving  poorer survival.
Brandon Hellman - Saba Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in 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.
Andrew Hofstrand - Kathryn Johnston West Scholar
  • PH.D. Candidate in Applied Mathematics
  • Andrew received a B.S. in Physics, Math, Astronomy and Music from the University of Iowa and a M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona.  His research focuses on investigating properties of intense, ultrashort electromagnetic pulses.  Understanding how light pulses propagate can improve fiber-optic data transmission which forms the backbone of the internet. 
Brian Hong - Ponce Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Mathematics
  • Brian received a B.S. in Mathematics and a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of Arizona.  He received his Masters in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona. Brian’s research is on the development of theoretical models to describe the mechanics of the beating heart and improved methods of diagnosing diseases of the heart from ultrasound imaging.
Matthew Humphries - Sandra Matteucci/Ralph Matteucci Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry    
  • Matthew received a B.A. in Chemistry from Augustana College. His research aims to explore the properties of the strongest electron donors known to man and the development of new technologies for their application in areas ranging from generation of hydrogen for large scale industrial processes to new methods for synthesis of medicine and drugs.
Hwee Hwang - Tucker Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Civil Engineering                                                      
  • Hwee received a B.S. and a M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Arizona. His thesis was “Resilience-Based Failure Mode Effects and Criticality Analysis for Regional Water Supply System,” and it was accepted for journal publication.  His current research is focused  on developing a systems framework utilizing advanced scientific, engineering and socio-economic tools to support comprehensive water resource planning and management in water-stressed areas.
Sarah Lehman - Lauber Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physiological Sciences    
  • Sarah received a B.S. in Chemical Biology from Stevens Institute of Technology. She is studying left ventricular non-compaction (LVNC) a distinct form of cardiomyopathy. Her scientific goal is to predict the primary insult to the heart and track the progression of mutations that cause LVNC in order to design therapeutic interventions to delay or prevent LVNC in patients who may have the mutation. Sarah is interested in running a lab at a top tier university in collaboration with a physical therapy clinic in which she can implement novel therapies and training programs for young athletes diagnosed with this disease.
Leila Lindeman - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Cancer Biology     
  • Leila received a B.A. in Biology from Grinnell College. She plans to develop and apply tumor acidosis measurements via acidoCEST MRI imaging as a biomarker for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and therapy response. Leila is also developing an MRI method to distinguish between indolent valley fever nodules and cancer lesions in the lung, the first non-invasive test for the differential diagnosis of those particular conditions. This assay has the potential to improve the lives of many patients in the Southwestern United States.
Phillip McFarland - The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Geophysics    
  • Phillip received a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona. His research interests include tectonic processes associated with mountain belt formation, crustal deformation mechanisms and remote sensing methods for space geodetic measurements. He is currently involved in an international collaboration to measure crustal deformation in the central Andes using high precision GPS.
Kelvin Pond - Mary Ann White Memorial Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Cellular and Molecular Medicine    
  • Kelvin received his Biochemistry degree from the University of Oregon and a M.S. in Chemistry from Northern Arizona University. His research focuses on the key pathways that regulate the cell’s ability to respond to and repair DNA damage. As cells reproduce there is a chance that something can go wrong. More specific treatment options can be pursued with regard to cancer by studying and understanding the biomarkers for DNA damage and repair.
John Ryniawec - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Cellular and Molecular Medicine    
  • John received his B.S. in Biology from Westminster College. He taught general biology and microbiology courses to nursing, pre-med and biology students at Duquesne University. He studies the regulation of the centrosome duplication cycle, which is essential for genome maintenance, tissue organization and development of a multicellular organism. By dissecting the molecular mechanism that regulates, centriole length, John hopes to discover novel targets for identifying predisposition to disease and treatment of these diseases
Lee Savoie - Ziegler Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science
  • Lee received a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas.  Lee is focusing on exploiting optimization opportunities across multiple jobs in next generation supercomputers. His work is aimed at getting good performance out of ever-larger supercomputers so we can run larger and larger simulations to advance scientific and engineering fields, including medicine, biology, and climate change.
Kate Smith - Fannin Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Physiological Sciences    
  • Kate received a B.S. in Physiology and a M.S. in Physiological Sciences from the University of Arizona. She is researching islet transplantation as a therapy for Type 1 diabetes. She is working with immunoisolation devices which can encapsulate the islets and therefore isolate them from the immune system. This technology offers not only the opportunity for normal physiological function, but also for  that  function to come without the many severe side effects of immunosuppression.
Jeffrey Watson - Crawford Endowment Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering    
  • Jeffrey received a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Northern Arizona University. He is developing novel imaging devices to improve surgical image guidance where the goal is to improve healthcare and patient outcomes. Developing a fully digital augmented stereomicroscope will allow surgeons to see superimposed visible and synthetic image features as a composite stereoscopic image, resulting in the ability to simultaneously view tissue and synthetic information.
Jacob Zbesko - The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation Scholar
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Immunobiology
  • Jacob received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Redlands. He is currently testing the hypothesis that the inflammatory response to stroke persists for months, is imperfectly segregated from adjacent tissue and causes bystander damage to healthy tissue. leading to the development of dementia.  Jacob hopes to improve neurological recovery in victims of strokes and betterunderstand the causes of post-stroke dementia.