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Keeping Up With ARCS Scholars
Dr. 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, 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.”
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."
Heather Shaddox, University of California, Santa Cruz
“I am thrilled, honored and very appreciative to be selected as a recipient of this generous ARCS Award. I am a first-generation college student without familial support to pursue higher education. I am interested in slow offshore earthquakes and in using seismology to detect and study oceanic internal gravity waves. The former is important for seismic hazard and the latter is very new research and key for climate models.”
Vera Belaia, University of California, Berkeley
“As an undergraduate, I researched climate-change-related shifts of precipitation patterns to help update the Maryland State Highway Administration’s requirements for roadway designs. This experience … opened my eyes to the kind of large scale, real world problems that environmental engineering research can solve. I am excited to continue my involvement in the field of environmental engineering, and more specifically environmental fluid mechanics and hydrology, as I work towards my PhD at Berkeley by using numerical methods to research sea level rise. Your support has made this step in my research career and my move to California possible.”
Van Le, San Francisco State University
“Please know that your financial support really made a difference in my study as it allowed me to afford the necessary upgrade to my computer system to transition to the online platform and continue my educational research in collaboration with my instructors to completion … I successfully defended my thesis and completed my Masters program on 7/27/2020. I am looking forward to continuing my research in the biomedical field and working to help in the fight against infectious diseases.”
Peter Sariano, University of California, Davis
“I just wanted to reach out during these difficult times to let you know how impactful the ARCS [award] has been for the productivity of my research. Before the lab was put on lockdown due to the shelter in place, I was able to perform one final experiment that supports my hypothesis that breast cancer may be able to prevent monocytes from killing the tumor. This experiment would not have been possible without your support, and when I am able to get back into the lab once the Covid-19 situation becomes contained, I will continue working hard to expand on these results. The outcome of this study may reveal new therapeutic targets for treating breast cancer.”
Lauren Lahey, Stanford University
“As an ARCS scholar, I have been given gifts that are precious to all scientists: financial means, intellectual flexibility, and, of course, time. These resources are what have allowed me to investigate the scientific matters that I am passionate about investigating. Without the ARCS award, I would have spent a minimum of two months preparing fellowship applications to procure my own funding. Instead, I was able to perform the experiments that were crucial to solving the many puzzling aspects of my research questions.”
Manuela Richter, University of California, San Francisco
“It is an honor to receive this ARCS recognition, to meet others equally passionate about STEM, and most of all to be able to continue contributing to science in the field I love. With this award, I am able to cover basic expenses during my time as a graduate student, allowing me to dedicate myself fully to my research. Additionally, ARCS is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other scholars and donors who share my excitement for science and education. Thank you, again, for your generosity.”