Scholar Alums

ARCS Foundation Scholar Alums, We’d Like to Hear from You!

You are a vital part of our mission. Your stories encourage current scholars and help us attract new funding for future scholars.

Stay involved with ARCS Foundation members and other scholars if you have moved to the Bay Area or want to give back in any way, including speaking about your research at an ARCS Foundation event.

Let us know how you would like to participate in carrying ARCS® Foundation, Inc. work into the future:

To notify the Northern California Chapter that you are in the area, please email or write to us at the above address. To update your information, use the Member & Scholar Login to access your account. To learn more about speaking at or hosting an event, click here.

See ARCS Scholars From Past Years

Keeping Up With ARCS Scholars


Dr. David McCollum , ARCS Scholar Alum
Distinguished Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The world needs to reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 for the global temperature to stop increasing. According to the World Resources Institute, the UN found that current climate policies will raise the temperature by 2.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. However, UC Davis ARCS Scholar Alum David McCollum is working to prevent this reality from happening.

As a Distinguished Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, McCollum is involved in a number of U.S. and international efforts exploring the science of transitioning to a net zero emissions society. One effort is the Net Zero World Initiative, which McCollum has been part of since its inception in 2022. According to the best available science, achieving net zero emissions globally around 2050 is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. “The idea is if we can get to a point where the sources of carbon emissions are balanced by sinks, making it net zero, then temperatures will finally plateau and eventually start to come down,” he explains.

McCollum helped build several net zero-focused programs since starting his role at Oak Ridge National Laboratory two years ago. “I have primarily been involved in scenario modeling aspects because that’s where my expertise lies,” McCollum explains. “In the Net Zero World Initiative specifically, we are working with other countries to help them develop decarbonization pathways that fit their unique situations and needs.”

While his work is essential for reducing climate change’s impact, it’s also important because of the potential risks of overhauling centuries and decades-old systems. This transition raises many unanswered questions McCollum hopes to answer with his research. “The research I do is called integrated assessment as it combines technological, social-economics, and environmental systems,” he says.
His research helps influence decision-makers and policymakers. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Conference of Parties (COP) cited his and his colleagues’ integrated assessment modeling work through the authoritative assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

McCollum shares people can make their own personal difference to assist net zero efforts by focusing on reducing and reusing as part of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. “Reducing and reusing can have a massive impact when added up across society,” he states, “It’s about being more efficient with our energy and resource consumption. Every small decision translates to a much greater effect on the supply side, given energy and material losses throughout the extraction and conversion chain.”

McCollum says receiving the ARCS Scholar Award while working on his PhD in Transportation, Technology, and Policy at UC Davis was formative. The funding allowed him to go to Vienna, Austria, for a summer research fellowship with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He transferred his work there to his PhD thesis, which had ripple effects for his entire career. “The unrestrictive nature allowed me to dream big and it opened doors for me that I never even knew were there” he says.


Dr. Christine Isborn, ARCS Scholar Alum
Professor of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, UC Merced

Christine Isborn, an ARCS alum from the University of Washington and now a Professor of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry at UC Merced, spoke at a recent General Membership Meeting. Christine‘s research focuses on modeling how molecules interact with light and simulating electronic properties of molecules and materials.  A fourth-generation Californian, she has spent all of her academic life on the west coast, attending University of San Francisco for her B.S. and University of Washington for her Ph.D., and doing her post-doctoral research at Stanford.  When not working, she is kept busy with two very energetic young boys, William and Joe, both of whom are named after academic mentors.

In discussing what being an ARCS Scholar has meant to her, Christine emphasized the advantage the ARCS award gave her when she was a PhD candidate, enabling her to start her research early and to maintain focus on her areas of research.
UC Merced, the Northern California Chapter’s most recent academic partner, has a high percentage of students from underrepresented groups and first-in-the-family college attendees. Christine noted that one of the advantages of working at UC Merced is that she not only helps her students achieve social mobility, but their entire families are also advanced in the process. She is passionate about helping graduate scholars to finish their PhDs.

The membership was delighted to meet such an outstanding alum and to learn that she is carrying on the ARCS tradition of mentoring future young scientists!


Dr. Ahmed Kilani, ARCS Scholar Alum
President and Laboratory Director, Clongen Laboratories, LLC

Dr. Kilani holds a Bachelor's degree in Medical Technology from the Jordan University of Science and Technology, a Masters in Clinical Science from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in Infectious Diseases and Immunity from University of California at Berkeley, where he was an ARCS scholar from 1994 to 1999. He founded Clongen Laboratories  ( ) in 1999 in Mountain View, California and has served as its President since 2004. 

Dr. Kilani’s love for biology and nature became clear at a very young age and he found his happiness particularly in studying microbiology and virology with the goal of helping to diagnose infectious diseases and improve health.  Since its founding, his laboratory has developed close to 300 different molecular-based diagnostic assays for infectious agents and is now known on the world stage as one of the top laboratories particularly when it comes to esoteric tests such as Mycoplasma detection. 

His Ph.D. work in Dr. Fenyong Liu’s laboratory at UC Berkeley focused on creating variants of RNase P ribozyme using random mutagenesis to cleave specific substrates.  By attaching a guide sequence to RNase P, they were able to create RNase P variants that can cleave specific substrates with high efficiency.  One of the areas his work revealed is the unique enzyme-substrate binding sites through the use of UV crosslinking and structural biochemistry technique. 

Of his ARCS Foundation award, Dr. Kilani notes that “It was an honor to have been selected and it gave me a deep sense of responsibility and determination to excel in science.  The lasting impact I felt motivated me to continue working on areas directly related to what I learned during my graduate studies.  I have been using my DNA cloning skills and plasmid construction at my laboratory all along.  This would have not been possible without the knowledge I acquired in graduate school.” 


Ami Bhatt

Ami Bhatt, ARCS Scholar Alum
Associate Professor of Medicine and of Genetics at Stanford University

Ami Bhatt, MD, PhD is an Associate Professor of Medicine and of Genetics at Stanford University. Her research focus is on microbial genomics, metagenomics, and global health, and she has won multiple awards for her academic scholarship, including being an Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine Scholar at the National Academy of Medicine. Her lab develops molecular and computational methods to investigate the intestinal microbiome, with a strong focus on: (a) developing methods to detect and follow microbes at the strain level through time and space, (b) detecting and understanding the contribution of mobile genetic elements to bacterial evolution and phenotypes, and (c) understanding how microbes use small proteins to communicate with one another and with the host. Outside of work, she enjoys being in the great outdoors, cooking and baking, and exploring new cultures through fiction, food and travel. 

Dr. Bhatt was a biochemistry graduate student at UCSF from 2000-2005 and was an ARCS Scholar for one of those years. About her ARCS award, Dr. Bhatt says, “The ARCS scholar award was the very first academic grant I received in my training. It gave me the confidence that there was a place in science for me, and encouraged me to continue to pursue my research interests. I'm very grateful for this grant which helped paved the way for my career.” 

Outside of her work at Stanford, Dr. Bhatt is very proud of the nonprofit organization that she co-founded, Global Oncology, Inc. This organization brings together professionals and students from all walks of life to improve cancer research, education, and care in under-resourced areas. As a group, they have helped cancer patients in countries like Botswana access life-saving cancer therapies that were previously too expensive to obtain and have also educated thousands of patients and families to help them understand their disease and its treatment effects. Most recently Global Oncology has focused on cervical cancer. This deadly and totally preventable disease disproportionately affects women in low- and middle-income countries such as Nigeria -- in fact, in Nigeria, one woman dies every hour of cervical cancer. To solve this problem, they have built an exciting grassroots campaign to educate the public about cervical cancer and its prevention by the HPV vaccine, while simultaneously working with governments, industry leaders, and community leaders to help make the HPV vaccine accessible in the countries like Nigeria where it is desperately needed. (


Barbara JacaPhoto of Barbara Jacakk, ARCS Scholar Alum
Nuclear Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Fittingly for a self-confessed “nerd from an early age,” Dr. Barbara Jacak is now a senior scientist in the Nuclear Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) after serving as director of the division for six years. Also a physics professor at University of California Berkeley, Jacak says, “The most interesting questions in science are how do things work? How does the universe work? Why is it expanding?”
Her research has focused on quark gluon plasma, a so-called subatomic mix that contains the building blocks of visible matter and mimics conditions believed to exist in the early universe. The plasma can be formed in particle collider experiments in ultra-high temperatures (trillions of degrees). Jacak says in graduate school she “was interested in the forces inside the nucleus, but what got me really excited was nuclear matter.” The types of experiments done at colliders and accelerators take two or three years to design, then additional years to build, she adds.
Working at national labs, or doing research at their unique, sophisticated facilities, have been constants for the nuclear physicist. She is now designing experiments for a new collider planned for Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York. The Electron-Ion Collider, expected to be finished by 2030, would provide new capabilities for exploring the behaviors of the fundamental particles and forces that bind atomic nuclei together. Despite the long process to build a flagship nuclear facility, Jacak says eventually scientists will have massive data – petabytes (which equals one million gigabytes) of information -- that will lead to hundreds of scientific papers.
Jacak’s work was recognized by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2019 when she was honored with the Distinguished Scientist Fellow Award. She was one of five scientists from DOE national labs who were inaugural recipients of the award.
An ARCS 2015 Hall of Fame honoree, Jacak was a Northern California Chapter ARCS scholar at University of California, Berkeley in 1975. “I want to thank ARCS. When I was getting started there weren’t many women in science,” she says. The ARCS recognition “told me I could do it.”

She earned her PhD at Michigan State University. Jacak went to Los Alamos National Laboratory for her post-doctoral work, with the lure of an Oppenheimer Fellowship, and stayed there for twelve years in the Physics Division. When a professor position at State University of New York at Stony Brook opened up, Jacak jumped at the opportunity. The campus was in close proximity to Brookhaven, where she was involved with the PHENIX detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. “Nature was kind and provided surprises for us,” she says, referring to the quark gluon plasma discovery. The RHIC collider will be partly integrated with the new collider at Brookhaven.
She describes national laboratories as “incubators for scientific teams. The labs are often called the crown jewels in the US research enterprise, and they really are.”

ARCS Scholar Alum David Manosalvaas-Kjono StanfordDavid Manosalvas-Kjono, ARCS Scholar Alum
Co-Founder and CEO, Aeromutable Corp.

David is an engineer, scientist, and entrepreneur who received his PhD in Aeronautics & Astronautics from Stanford University in 2018. His passion for deep tech and the development of energy-saving technologies to help the environment and the economy led him to his current position as co-founder and CEO of Aeromutable Corp., a trucking tech company bringing aerodynamic solutions for semi-trucks. Aeromutable has received multiple awards, including the Technology Transfer grant from the Stanford TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Chain Reaction Innovations US Department of Energy lab embedded entrepreneurship fellowship, first place at the 2020 Cleantech Open Regional pitch competition, and second place in the 2020 Cleantech Open National pitch competition, as well as a National Science Foundation SBIR grant.

David feels fortunate to be working towards developing technology that contributes to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the profitability of the trucking industry. He is grateful for the team of amazing people that have contributed to this endeavor:  an amazing co-founder, smart and hard-working contractors, and interns, and an incredible group of advisors. Outside of work and research David enjoys spending time with his family, visiting the San Diego Zoo, and exploring other pet and kid-friendly amenities in the San Diego area.

Of his ARCS Scholar Award, David says: “The support from ARCS afforded me the freedom to explore the use of computational tools to better understand the aerodynamic structures and overall behavior of ground vehicles. This unique opportunity allowed me to identify a technological gap in heavy-duty transportation and increased my interest in the industry. ARCS support during my PhD contributed towards my desire to start Aeromutable and helped me increase the impact my PhD research has had.”


David McCollum UC Davis ARCS Northern California Scholar

David McCollum, ARCS Scholar Alum
Principal Technical Leader, Electric Power Institute (EPRI)

David graduated in 2011 from UC Davis’s Department of Transportation Technology & Policy. His Ph.D. research explored pathways for deep decarbonization of the California, US, and global energy systems with particular emphasis on the synergies and trade-offs of transitioning these systems from fossil fuels to lower-carbon sources -- for example, on the dimensions of energy security, air quality and health, energy poverty, and system costs. His current role is Principal Technical Leader in the Energy Systems and Climate Analysis Group at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto , where his research attempts to inform national, regional, and global energy and environmental policies on matters related to, among others, electrification, low-carbon transport, sustainable development goals, and financing needs for the energy system transformation. Before joining EPRI in 2019, he was a Senior Research Scholar with the Energy Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

Having lived and worked outside the US for much of his post-Ph.D. career, David is happy to have built up an international network of collaborators and friends, and notes that “it is now gratifying to be able to impart a sense of internationalism to my young children, who are already far more worldly than I ever was as a kid.”

Reflecting back on his ARCS award, David says “The ARCS Fellowship provided an important boost to my academic career at a critical time. It allowed me to focus solely on research during the final year of my Ph.D. dissertation, particularly my collaboration with IIASA in Austria. That then led to a full-time research scholar position at IIASA after graduating, a role that was formative for my international research career.”


ARCS Foundation NCC Scholar Helen FoxDr. Helen E. Fox, ARCS Scholar Alum
Conservation Science Director, Coral Reef Alliance 

Dr. Fox, a UC Berkeley ARCS alum, has more than 20 years of experience working at the boundary of science and conservation, with geographic expertise in Indonesia and the Coral Triangle. Her work includes investigating links between marine protected area (MPA) management and governance, ecological impacts, and human well-being. She has received numerous grants and awards, authored more than 40 scientific publications, logged more than 1,000 dives, and once lived underwater for 10 days in the Aquarius habitat.

Dr. Fox did her PhD investigating coral reef recovery and rehabilitation from destructive fishing in Indonesia. She did most of her fieldwork in Komodo National Park, collaborating with the Park authorities and The Nature Conservancy. Blast fishing (homemade bombs that when detonated would kill fish and shatter coral skeletons) was illegal but had been common until stopped with better management, including patrols. Chronic, large-scale blasting had transformed beautiful, complex reefs into flat, mostly lifeless rubble fields. Her research showed how natural coral recovery was prevented by the shifting rubble in the water currents burying or abrading new coral recruits. She also developed low-tech, locally available coral reef rehabilitation options, scaling up the most successful approach.

Of her ARCS experience, Dr. Fox says, “I am so grateful for the ARCS Foundation award: it was my first research grant, and as such was a tremendous help in getting my research in Indonesia started. It allowed me to take my first field trip, develop my hypotheses, set up initial research plots, try out survey methods, and collect pilot data. I am convinced that it was being able to make this initial trip that led to my future funding success, as I received several grants after the ARCS fellowship.”


Nsikan Akpan Nsikan Akpan, ARCS Scholar Alum
Health & Science Editor for New York Public Radio

A 2013 ARCS Scholar and alum of the Science Communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Nsikan is the health and science editor for New York Public Radio. Before joining WNYC, he was a science editor at National Geographic, where he led the science desk's coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, he worked as the digital science producer for PBS NewsHour, where he co-created the YouTube series ScienceScope. He has also worked for Science Magazine, Science News Magazine, and NPR. His reporting has garnered an AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, a George Foster Peabody Award, and an Emmy Award for News & Documentary. Before journalism, he earned a doctorate in pathobiology from Columbia University, where he studied neurological conditions like stroke and Alzheimer's disease. His research pursuits also touched on infectious disease.

Nsikan says, “The ARCS award laid the foundation for all of my professional success. When I applied to the Science Communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I had recently finished my doctorate--in other words, I was fairly broke. I wouldn't have been able to afford the program without ARCS support and my program director Rob Irion, who pushed me to apply. Besides the financial assistance, I enjoyed meeting the other ARCS scholars at the annual banquet and hearing about their amazing science journeys.”

Asked to describe one life accomplishment he’d like to share with young ARCS scholars and the ARCS Foundation, Nsikan replied that while working as a science producer for the PBS NewsHour, he traveled about 1,000 feet underwater off Bermuda's coast for a story about climate change and coral migration, adding that “It was the coolest experience of my life.”



Allison Luengen, ARCS Scholar Alumna
Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Stony Brook University, NY

"If you’ve been to San Francisco Bay recently, you’ve probably noticed the posted fish consumption advisories.  One of the reasons that people are warned to limit their consumption of fish from the San Francisco Bay is the high concentrations of mercury that can be found in some fish, particularly large fish at the top of the food chain.  

Despite the high concentrations of mercury in the fish, little is known about how mercury enters the food chain.  The first, and most critical step, is the transfer of mercury from water to phytoplankton, which are the microscopic algae at the base of the marine food chain. My current research focuses on this first step, where phytoplankton can concentrate mercury by up to 100,000 times the levels found in the water.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to study mercury pollution as a postdoctoral researcher.  I am currently collaborating with two different research groups, one at Stony Brook University in New York and the other at the United States Geological Survey in Sacramento.  Upon completion of my postdoc, I am planning to apply for academic jobs with a combination of teaching and research.

Getting my current position would not have been possible without the support I received along the way.  ARCS Foundation supported me as I finished my M.S. in Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).  After completing my M.S., I went on to earn a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology, also from UCSC.  Those were some challenging years for me, and every bit of support that I received helped me finish graduate school.

Now, as a woman in a male-dominated field, I hope that during my career, I can both make important scientific discoveries and also make the field more accessible to women and other underrepresented groups.  By funding scientists as they struggle through graduate school, ARCS Foundation has taken a vital step in this direction. I thank ARCS Foundation for the support that I have received and for making it possible for more people to become scientists."