Current Scholars

2018/2019 ARCS Foundation Phoenix Scholars


ARCS® Foundation Phoenix is honored to present the 2018-2019 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
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.
Joshua 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.
Joshua Daymude-Johnston Endowment Scholar
  • Joshua received a B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Arizona State University.
  • He is investigating the theoretical and algorithmic foundations of programmable matter systems.
  • His research interests include distributed computing, randomized algorithms, collective and emergent behavior, bio- inspired robotics, and machine learning.
Adrienne Henderson-Smith - Ponce Scholar
  • Adrienne received a B.S. from Arizona State University.
  • She is currently studying the genetics and epigenetics of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Her work addresses the challenges of low diagnostic accuracy and late stage diagnosis.
  • She is attempting to narrow in on early stage biomarkers in order to impact the development of preventative therapies.
Mariana Lanzarine-Lopes - Louis Jugloff Ph.D. Endowment Scholar
  • Mariana received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Sustainability Energy and the Environment from the University of Dayton and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • Her current research focuses on photochemical and electrochemical water treatment processes in point-of-use applications as part of the Nano-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) center at Arizona State University.
Jennapher Lingo VanGilder- Spetzler Scholar
  • 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.
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.
Kimberly Olney - Spetzler Scholar
  • Kimberly received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University.
  • She is developing bioinformatics tools that accurately infer genetic variation and is applying these tools to characterize patterns of gene expression across human tissue types, which is crucial to understanding sex-bias in human development and sex-bias in diseases.
Stephen Schaefer - Douglas Scholar
  • Stephen received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona.
  • The goal of his research is to develop materials which function effectively as light emitters and detectors.
  • This has applications in numerous fields including telecommunications, national defense, medical devices, pollution detection, thermal photovoltaics and applied sciences.
Victoria Smith - Might Scholar
  • Victoria received a B.S. and an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Arizona State University.
  • She is examining various algorithms for calculating dynamic stability measures as well as examining data structure/characteristics tooptimize our understanding of individuals’ susceptibility to falls.
  • This willcreate an indispensable tool that can predict risk of falling and help customize intervention plans for those at risk.
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.
Kirstie Swingle - VanDenburgh Scholar
  • Kirstie received a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico.
  • She is currently working on the design of complex genetic circuits responsive to protein signals for paper-based diagnostics.
  • With the incorporation of protein communication, a more dynamic and complex system can be created for monitoring the immune system.
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.
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.


Megan Poling - The Ethel and Kemper Marley Foundation Scholar
  • Megan received a B.S. in Biology from Wittenberg University with a minor in Women’s Studies.
  • Following graduation she entered wildland firefighting with the US Forest Service and served on several crews.
  • She received her Master’s degree in Forestry from Northern Arizona University.
  • Her current work examines drivers of ponderosa pine regeneration following high severity fire using Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
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
Daniel Sanchez- Lauber Endowment and Templin Endowment Scholar
  • Daniel received a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry from Northern Arizona University.
  • His research investigates the baseline ecology of a federally endangered species threatened by extinction.
  • His findings will help managers recover habitat by planting or protecting more food plants in areas where the species thrive.
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.


Jesse Young- ARCS Scholar
  • Jesse received a B.S. in Economics with a minor in Climate Change Studies from the University of Montana.
  • His research into the short- and long-term economics of alternative managed wildfire regimes will advance scientific insight into ecological processes that will focus on the development of regeneration models for tree species in the Southwest.
University of Arizona
Rachel Braun - The Ethel and Kemper Marley Foundation Scholar
  • Rachel received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics from the University of Arizona.
  • Her research focuses on how aerosols impact the atmosphere.
  • Rachel uses data from aircraft and surface measurements, model simulations, and remote sensing platforms to determine their effect on the atmosphere.
  • Results have implications regarding public health, climate change, and the water cycle.
Julia Cheng - Erston and Dawn Carson Senger Scholar
  • Julia received a B.S. in Microbiology from Arizona State University.
  • Her work focuses on understanding the spread of metastatic breast cancer to bone with the goal of identifying treatments to block this incurable process which occurs in a majority of women with Stage IV breast cancer.
  • Her research is on the bone-specific signaling pathways that drive estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer to metastasize.
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.
Travis Harty - Sandra Matteucci/Ralph Matteucci Memorial Endowment Scholar
  • Travis received a B.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona.
  • His research is on improving the forecasting of renewable energy sources so that they may be able to offset fossil-based energy.
  • Travis is working to improve solar irradiance estimation and forecasting by combining satellite data, numerical weather models, and ground sensor data within a unique data simulation framework.
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.
Daniel Hill - Burton Scholar
  • Daniel received a B.S. in Psychology and an M.S. in Neurophysiology from the University of Arizona.
  • He is interested in the mechanisms that drive dopamine release in “reward areas” of the brain.
  • He studies the effects of dopaminergic signaling during learning, reward valuation, and memory and how they can be disrupted in pathological states such as addiction and chronic pain.
Erik Lehmkuhl - Van Denburgh Scholar
  • Erik received a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Northern Arizona University.
  • He studies the mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • His research focuses on key pathways altered during ALS progression, using the fruit fly Drosophila (a simple model that allows for sophisticated genetic manipulations) in combination with dietary intervention and drug treatments.
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.
Lindsay Rasmussen - ARCS Scholar
  • Lindsay received her B.S. in Veterinary Science and an M.S. in Animal Science from the University of Arizona.
  • She is researching the effect of endocrine- disrupting chemicals on cellular and molecular processes that determine fertility in females.
  • Specifically, Lindsay would like to determine how exposure to plasticizers could directly affect female fertility.
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.
Lauren Schatz - Theresa F. Jennings Memorial Scholar
  • Lauren received a B.A. in Physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • Her research focuses on pyramid wavefront sensing for high contrast imaging of exoplanets.
  • She is currently the pyramid wavefront sensor lead scientist for MagAO-X, the extreme adaptive optics system for the 6.5 meter Magellan Clay Telescope.
Staci Smith - Crawford Scholar
  • Staci received a B.S. and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Arizona.
  • Her research aims at improving the performance of the increasingly large and complex supercomputing systems.
  • She is solving problems that arise from shared use of the computing system interconnect so that the scientific simulations run on the system can be completed faster, speeding up discoveries in important areas such as climate change and cancer research.
Kristen Watts - Wilhoit Scholar
  • Kristin received a B.S. in Chemistry from Furman University and an M.S. in Chemistry from Villanova University.
  • Her current research is focused on the degradation of organic semiconductors due to exposure to sunlight, atmospheric gases, and electric fields while operating next-generation solar cell devices.
  • This will allow manufacturers to build more stable, efficient and inexpensive devices.
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.