2020-2021 ARCS Northern California Scholars

ARCS Northern California Chapter is thrilled to recognize the work of our outstanding scholars for 2020-2021

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University Jessica Agnos ARCS Foundation
Jessica Agnos

Department of Physics & Astronomy, Master’s Program

Jessica’s research focuses on the chemical composition of stars. Originally from Louisiana, Jessica completed her undergraduate degree in TV/Film Production at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She later began her Mathematics and Astronomy studies at City College of San Francisco. At SFSU, Jessica has served as the Vice President and Event Coordinator for the Women in Physics and Astronomy club. She worked as a Planetarium Presenter for the California Academy of Sciences and is also a founding member of Astronomers for Planet Earth, an international organization that uses the perspective of astronomers to fight against climate change. 

Jessica Briones San Francisco State University ARCS Foundation
Jessica Briones

Department of Biology (Cell & Molecular), Master’s Program

Jessica’s interest in biomedical research began in high school when she interned for Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford at the SFVAMC and assisted a SpaceX project investigating the effect of microgravity on T cells. This shaped Jessica’s path toward a B.S. in Biological Sciences at UC Davis, where she worked with Dr. Elva Díaz in researching protein-protein interactions of SynDIG4 during neuronal synapse plasticity. She is now pursuing her master’s at SFSU and is conducting preclinical research with the Cell Design Institute at UCSF to further characterize a novel T cell therapy that can precisely target and effectively clear solid glioblastoma tumors. Jessica intends to pursue a PhD following her master’s and aspires to broaden the application of synthetic biology and cell immunotherapies for other solid tumor cancers.

Jan Mikhale Cajulao ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Jan Mikhale Cajulao

Department of Biology (Cell & Molecular), Master’s Program

Jan’s project aims to study the viral G Protein Coupled Receptor of the cancer-causing Human Herpesvirus 8 and its murine homolog, Gamma Herpesvirus 68. Specifically, he is interested in how these receptors traffic and localize within the cell in response to various stimulating molecules (agonists). Jan is determined to become a cancer researcher in the future and aims to enter a top biomedical PhD program after completing his master’s. In addition to his research interests, Jan is interested in community outreach as a member of the SFSU Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter, and coding, as a student in this year’s Summer Coding Immersion Program (SCIP).

Anjum Gujral ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Anjum Gujral

Department of Biology (Ecology & Conservation), Master’s Program

Anjum began her research career as an undergraduate at San Jose State University, where she set up and maintained a large greenhouse study that tested the effects of drought on flowering time and water relations in California native plants. After graduating from SJSU she worked as a field biologist at Portola Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, initiating a long-term restoration study that is investigating the threats to persistence in a rare plant. Realizing her ability to uncover ecological and evolutionary processes through scientific research empowered her to pursue a graduate degree at SFSU, where she is researching the impacts of climate change on native plant communities through studying plant physiological function and evolution in plant traits. Her long-term career goal is to conduct ecological research that will inform sustainable land management practices and the conservation of native plant communities.

Pooneh Kalhori ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Pooneh Kalhori

Department of Biology (Ecology & Conservation), Master’s Program

Pooneh attended UCLA as an undergraduate, where her research focused on the conservation genetics of sea otters, which underwent severe population declines during the maritime fur trade. She also completed a research project in French Polynesia studying the interspecific interactions of damselfish and sea urchins in coral reef ecosystems. For her graduate studies, Pooneh is interested in studying the population dynamics of endangered species in response to anthropogenic environmental stressors. Pooneh also gained a passion for outdoor education and outreach during her time as a volunteer at UCLA’s Botanical Garden. Her interests include swimming, learning about different languages, and baking.

Rebekah Lane ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Rebekah Lane

Department of Biology (Marine and Estuarine), Master’s Program

In partnership with the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Rebekah is interested primarily in anthropogenic impacts to large whales, such as vessel strike and entanglement. Her master’s thesis investigates the risk of ship strike to humpback whales in San Francisco Bay. Rebekah is originally from Wichita, Kansas and, before moving to California to pursue her master’s degree, she participated in a variety of research programs, studying dissolved oxygen using autonomous underwater vehicles at Rutgers University, pallid sturgeon with the United States Geological Survey, and humpback whales with Whale and Dolphin Conservation. She also holds a master’s in Education from Fort Hays University in Hays, Kansas, and taught high school field ecology and science for English language learners.

Cesar Meza ARCS Foundation Northern California SFSU
Cesar Meza

Department of Mathematics, Master’s Program

A native of Southern California, Cesar is doing research at the interface of combinatorics and high-dimensional geometry and has earned several competitive scholarships. Cesar also holds a strong interest and experience in mathematics education and is especially passionate about and committed to supporting low-income, first-generation, and ethnic minority students. He first found his interest in mathematics through the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) for high school students from underrepresented groups, and he has spent great time and energy giving back to such initiatives, designing and participating in numerous programs that seek to build a truly inclusive and equitable mathematical community.

Luis Perez ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Luis Perez

Department of Mathematics, Master’s Program

Luis is interested in mathematical coding theory, specifically in researching the mathematics behind error-correcting codes, which includes topics in algebra and combinatorics. He has previously spent time learning about bounds on the goodness of codes through a computer science capstone during his undergraduate studies, and he aims to gain a better understanding of the algebra used in mathematical coding theory while at SFSU. Luis has been awarded a fellowship through the Student Enrichment Opportunities Office and will be a member of the first cohort of the BAMM! program. In summer 2020, Luis conducted research with a faculty member at his undergraduate institution through a McNair Research Fellowship, working in linear algebra, exploring the relation between Least-Squares and Trend Analysis solutions, a problem of interest that came up when studying Orthogonality and Least-Squares.

Stephannie Seng ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Stephannie Seng

Department of Biology (Cell and Molecular), Master’s Program

Stephannie uses the tools of a cell/molecular biologist to answer questions about the evolution of plant-insect interactions. In an effort to understand how insects induce plant tumors, Stephannie is examining the expression levels of genes in the tRNA-ipt cytokinin biosynthesis pathway in the salivary glands and body wall of Eurosta solidaginis, a tumor inducing insect. She brings a very integrative perspective to ecological and evolutionary questions concerning how one organism manipulates another. She has been an NIH-MBRS Rise Fellow and a Genentech Foundation Scholar. She served for several years as a tutor for young kids via the SFSU math Circle program. Stephannie loves live music and theater, travel, and good chocolate!

Aye Thwin ARCS Foundation San Francisco State University
Aye Thwin

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Master’s Program

Aye is passionate about caring for the well-being of others through her volunteer activities and has developed a keen interest in biomedical research. Her main interests are in understanding cellular repair mechanisms. Aye’s research focuses on understanding the effect of tau phosphorylation on formation of amyloid fibrils implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases. Another aspect of this research explores the regulation of tau phosphorylation by essential protein regulators in the protein quality control system. At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) she studied the biochemistry of human DNA repair proteins and at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she focused on the structural and biochemical mechanism of protein aggregation pathways in neurodegenerative diseases. Aye’s research interests and volunteer experiences – most recently to Myanmar in January 2019 with the Myanmar American Medical Education Society (MAMES) – converge in her plan to pursue a MD/PhD after completing her master’s degree. Outside of the laboratory and volunteer work, she enjoys cooking different cuisines, travelling, and watching movies.

Stanford University

Margaret Coad
Margaret Coad

Department of Mechanical Engineering, PhD Program

Margaret’s research focuses on design, modeling, and control of robot systems that improve human health, safety, and productivity. Her PhD research is on the development of “vine robots” for exploration of environments too small or dangerous for humans to enter, and she has also worked on improving training of surgeons for robot-assisted surgery. She has completed internships in robotics at Toyota Research Institute and Facebook Reality Labs, and she was a selected participant for the 2018 NextProf Nexus Future Faculty Workshop. Outside of academics, Margaret plays on the Stanford women’s ultimate frisbee team and is an active member of the Catholic community at Stanford.

William DeRocco ARCS Foundation Stanford
William DeRocco

Department of Physics, PhD Program

Will’s research is devoted to understanding one of the greatest mysteries in our universe: the nature of dark matter. His work seeks to understand how astrophysical bodies can be used as laboratories to aid in this hunt. As a result, many of his current projects revolve around the potential observable consequences of dark matter production in supernovae. He has worked previously on experimental programs at both CERN and Fermilab and has since transitioned to theoretical work at the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics. Outside of physics, Will enjoys distance running and works on a nationally ranked competitive cybersecurity team.

Alexander Gabourie ARCS Foundation Stanford
Alexander Gabourie

Department of Electrical Engineering, PhD Program

Alex’s research focuses on understanding the thermal properties of ultrathin, two-dimensional (2D) materials using nanoscale simulations. He specializes in characterizing 2D materials that are interacting with common insulators found in integrated circuits, a configuration difficult to simulate or measure. A portion of his time is dedicated to developing open-source, GPU-accelerated algorithms to advance his own research as well as those in the 2D material community. Alex previously completed his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University, respectively. After an internship at HRL Laboratories in the artificial intelligence (AI) team, he aims to tailor the predictive power of AI to model 2D material properties.

Richard Grewelle ARCS Foundation Stanford
Richard Grewelle

Department of Biology, PhD Program

Richard began his work at Stanford after earning degrees in biology, chemistry, and mathematics in his home state of Kentucky. His diverse projects have led him to Senegal to investigate how genetics play a role in the transmission of schistosomiasis and how we may wield new CRISPRR technology to fight this disease. For over two years, he has been the first to investigate the epidemiology of a phylum of parasites called acanthocephalans, which kill up to 25% of threatened sea otters in CA. Meanwhile he develops new methods to improve global fisheries management as well as new techniques to predict viral emergence and estimate the global death rate of COVID-19. He has previously been named a Stanford Graduate Fellow and awarded the department’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He works with local non-profit organizations and schools to further the conservation of sea otters, and spends his remaining free time sharing baked goods with the lab.

Emma “Mickey” MacKie ARCS Foundation Stanford
Emma “Mickey” MacKie

Department of Geophysics, PhD Program

Mickey became fascinated by glacial geology as an undergraduate at Harvard University, where she studied the geological remnants of prehistoric ice ages. For her graduate research at Stanford, Mickey is combining her interests in geology, geophysics, and geostatistics to stochastically model the conditions beneath ice sheets, including the topography, hydrology, and geology, in order to better inform ice sheet models. She has conducted fieldwork in Greenland and the Norwegian Arctic and has received awards for conference presentations.

Neeraja Ravi ARCS Foundation Stanford
Neeraja Ravi

Department of Bioengineering , PhD Program

Neeraja’s research in Dr. Shan Wang’s laboratory uses magnetic biosensors as diagnostic devices for infectious disease detection: she is currently working on projects to measure influenza vaccine efficacy and to distinguish cases of COVID-19 from influenza. Prior to joining Stanford, Neeraja earned her B.S. in Bioengineering: Biotechnology at UC San Diego. During her first three years at Stanford, she was a recipient of the Stanford Graduate Fellowship, and during her fourth year, she was a member of the Accel Innovation Scholars Program. Outside lab, she enjoys running and snacking on avocado toast

Ilan Rosen ARCS Foundation Stanford
Ilan Rosen

Department of Applied Physics, PhD Program

Ilan’s experimental physics research centers around topological insulators, materials that are insulating except for on their surface, where they conduct electricity through exotic electronic states. Most recently, he is exploring superconducting states that can be created in these systems by fabricating very clean interfaces between topological insulators and conventional superconductors. Ilan completed his B.S. in Physics at UC Santa Barbara. Outside of lab, Ilan is a member of Stanford Club Tennis and is a cellist with a particular passion for chamber music.

John “Jack” Ruth ARCS Foundation Stanford
John “Jack” Ruth

Department of Chemical Engineering, PhD Program

Jack completed his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with a minor in Biology, and his M.S. from Stanford University. While at UMBC, Jack worked at Novavax, on flu vaccine manufacturing, and at GripBoost, optimizing polymer synthesis. His current research focuses on the interface of chemical engineering and biology, studying the enzyme-electrode interface in hydrogen and formate enzymatic electrosynthesis. Through this, Jack aims to design biological technologies to address energy challenges. Outside of his research, he is a mentor to PhD students earlier in their careers, along with high school students. Jack likes to ski, hike, and cook.

Nathan Stacey
Nathan Stacey

Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics, PhD Program

Originally from Idaho, Nathan received his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University where he was named the university Scholar of the Year. At USU, he was the Engineers Without Borders chapter president and led fellow engineering students in implementing clean water projects in Mexico. While in Utah, he also worked for Northrop Grumman and Space Dynamics Laboratory. At Stanford, Nathan works with Dr. Simone D’Amico in the Stanford Space Rendezvous Laboratory. Nathan’s research focuses on developing algorithms for autonomous asteroid characterization using multiple small spacecraft.

Gabrielle Vukasin ARCS Foundation Stanford
Gabrielle Vukasin

Department of Mechanical Engineering, PhD Program

Gabrielle is a fifth-year PhD student studying the underlying physics of resonant microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for application in sensors and timing references. Her current project is to characterize a specific energy loss mechanism of resonant MEMS due to the geometry of the attachment point of a resonator that is not well understood in the field. She currently has 14 conference and nine journal publications. She also leads the current nanofabrication run for her lab and several outside academic and industrial collaborators. In the future, Gabrielle is interested in pursuing biomedical sensor design.

Kevin Yang ARCS Foundation Stanford
Kevin Yang

Department of Mathematics, PhD Program

Kevin’s research lies in probability theory and primarily concerns the Kardar-Parisi-Zhang equation. This equation is conjectured to describe the fluctuating behavior of many random interfaces, such as those arising from bacterial growth colonies and burning fronts. In recent work, Kevin proved this conjecture for some interface fluctuations associated to interacting particle systems with long-range interactions, generalizing a seminal work for particle systems with nearest neighbor interactions. Currently, Kevin is extending this project to similar models with additional long-range boundary interactions and also those in disordered environments. Beyond research, Kevin is an active teacher, participating in the Directed Reading Program at Stanford. Outside math, Kevin enjoys running in almost any environment.

University of California, Berkeley

Madeline Arnold

Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, PhD Program

Madeline is interested in research at the intersection of engineering, molecular biology, and neuroscience. As an undergraduate at Carleton College, she wrote her senior thesis on protein degradation pathways in Alzheimer’s disease, which sparked her interest in neurobiology. While working as a Post-Baccalaureate Researcher at the National Human Genome Research Institute, she got a taste for translational research. She characterized mouse and zebrafish models of a rare genetic disorder and developed a successful gene therapy. Her PhD work is focused on figuring out what molecular pathways and cell types can contribute to the sex bias that exists in many diseases of the brain, such as depression and autism. She loves teaching and mentoring students, and looks forward to participating in teaching and community outreach activities. In her free time Madeline enjoys swing dancing, playing the piano, and making pottery.

Vera Belaia

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, PhD Program

Vera’s research interests include hydrology, numerical modeling, and climate change. Her PhD work seeks to achieve a deeper understanding of the flood risks and water management concerns associated with climate change by modeling how precipitation, groundwater, and coastal processes affect the open channel stormwater system in Alameda County. Vera is a member of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honors society, and over the course of her undergraduate career she spent five semesters on the executive board of the Maryland Shakespeare Players, which included directing two full plays: Romeo & Juliet and Henry V.

Alanna Cooney

Department of Mechanical Engineering, PhD Program

After obtaining her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Alanna spent four years working as a project manager and HVAC designer specializing in mission critical facilities and high-tech workplaces. She then completed her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Her research project in Berkeley’s Energy and Multiphase Transport Laboratory involves performing experiments to characterize the performance of thermal energy storage devices or "thermal batteries.” These devices capitalize on the energy stored and released during solid-liquid phase change processes. By better understanding the performance characteristics of these devices, we can create models to predict how they would function in building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in order to utilize them to offset peak demand loads and run buildings more efficiently using model predictive controls. Outside of research, Alanna teaches a weekly ESL citizenship class for refugees, takes every opportunity to travel, and enjoys the friendly competition of her playing card league. Motivated by a passion for both research and teaching, Alanna plans to pursue a career in academia.

Cynthia “Abby” Harris ARCS Foundation UC Berkeley
Cynthia “Abby” Harris

Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, PhD Program

As an undergraduate, Cynthia (or “Abby” to most acquaintances) conducted research on translesion DNA synthesis, an important DNA damage tolerance process in eukaryotes, and its relationship to chemo-resistance in cancer. Abby additionally pursued another side of cancer research as an intern at Genentech, where she worked on identifying novel drug targets. Her research interests are not limited to cancer, however; her academic work has inspired her to pursue neurobiology, developmental biology, basic cell biology, and all the points where they intersect during her PhD. Prior to arriving at Berkeley, she earned her S.B. in Biology from MIT, where she also studied media production and theory as part of the Comparative Media Studies undergraduate program. She spent her free time at MIT blogging for MIT Admissions and DJing at WMBR, the campus radio station. Abby loves claymation, carnivorous plants, and anyone with a good sense of humor.


Logan Horowitz

Department of Electrical Engineering, PhD Program

Logan graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Cornell University. He has previously done research in analog IC design for The Molnar Group, and in robotics for the Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab. He has also worked at a software startup in Tel Aviv; as an electrical engineering intern for Lutron Electronics; and, was heavily involved with a team of students building electric vehicles while at Cornell. Logan is interested in working on novel power converter design, focusing on applications in renewables integration and implementation. Outside of work, he loves wrestling, climbing, running, ping pong, camping, biking, and reading.

Nicholas Karavolias

Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, PhD Program

Nicholas recently completed research investigating aluminum stress tolerance in the tropical japonica subpopulation of rice (Oryza sativa). In his pursuit of a PhD, he is looking at drought tolerance in cereal crops with the goal of finding discrete gene targets for genetic engineering of monocotyledonous crop for improved water use efficiency. Nicholas is passionate about addressing societal inequities. Previously he completed a range of research projects in this vein, facilitated the opening of a grocery store present in a food desert, and founded a library that offers free loans of textbooks to students. His background as a first-generation American and college student has inspired his dedication to improving the quality of life for all global citizens.

Molly Nicholas

Department of Computer Science, PhD Program

Bangladesh to Berkeley, Clown Conservatory to Qualcomm, these have been some of the stops on Molly’s journey so far. In Eric Paulos’s Hybrid Ecologies Lab, she incorporates her experience as a puppeteer into her work with robots, textiles, and novel user interfaces. Her recent research has been with Taction, a Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) device that enables a new design vocabulary of haptic sensations. This novel technology can be leveraged for designers and integrated into wearable applications.

Jared O'Leary

Department of Chemical Engineering, PhD Program

Jared’s current research project is titled "Stochastic Optimal Control of Self-Assembly Systems." Self-assembly is the process by which discrete components spontaneously organize into an ordered state, but is inherently stochastic, prone to kinetic arrest and variability in materials manufacturing. The goal of this project is to fuse concepts from stochastic optimal control theory and directed self-assembly to reproducibly manufacture advanced, defect-free materials with unique properties (e.g., semiconducting materials from quantum dots for biological imaging or photovoltaic cell applications). Jared wants to devote his career to solving these intellectually stimulating, and likely high-risk projects.

Reese Pathak
Reese Pathak

Department of Computer Science, PhD Program

Reese’s current areas of interest include distributed and non-convex optimization problems as well as the estimation problems with deep ties to applied probability, such as matrix completion and community detection. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in Computer Science, he spent a summer working as a Research Associate at the Center for Computational Mathematics at the Flatiron Institute of the Simons Foundation.

Robin Peter ARCS Foundation UC Berkeley
Robin Peter

Department of Nuclear Engineering, PhD Program

Robin is a first-year PhD student pursuing research at the intersection of particle physics, quantitative biology, and humanitarian application. She is currently involved in projects in medical imaging, radiation detection, and radiation therapy. Her multidisciplinary interests stem from an eclectic mix of past research endeavors: memory device simulation with IBM Research, construction of a spark chamber, and studies in cuttlefish camouflage. During her undergraduate career at the University of Chicago, she was distinguished as both an Enrico Fermi Scholar in the Physical Sciences and as the Mary Jean Mulvaney Scholar-Athlete for the Class of 2020.

Alexander Reinking

Department of Computer Science, PhD Program

Alex's main research area is programming languages, specifically in program synthesis. His paper "A Type-Directed Approach to Program Repair'', which described a graph-based system for synthesizing Java expressions either from scratch or from a broken expression, won 2nd place at PLDI 2015. Since then he has worked to extend this system with deep reinforcement learning techniques to generate more accurate repairs, and drawn on text generation techniques from NLP to generate larger snippets of code. His current research aims to extend the domain-specific programming language Halide in a principled way to enable expressing and optimizing bounded recurrent networks without compromising on other language features.

Sophie Ruehr ARCS Foundation UC Berkeley
Sophie Ruehr

Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, PhD Program

Sophie received a B.S. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale University and joins Trevor Keenan’s lab at U.C. Berkeley to study the ecosystem-scale dynamics of water cycling. In 2017, she researched hurricane paleoclimatology as a Summer Student Fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In 2018, Sophie received the Parker Huang Fellowship from Yale University to undertake an independent research project in Vanuatu, where she collected oral histories regarding cyclones and climate change. Sophie has also reported on environmental science for local newspapers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In her free time, Sophie enjoys playing jazz guitar, running, and learning Italian.

University of California, Davis

 Anna Adhikari ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Anna Adhikari

Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology Graduate Group, PhD Program

Anna’s research interest is in translational science – exploring the connection between science and the people it is for. She seeks to study and understand the intricacies of the central nervous system and ultimately develop novel therapeutics to reduce the burden of neurological diseases of known genetic origin. She is key personnel on large ongoing collaborative projects between the Silverman Laboratory and the Institute for Regenerative Cures to treat Angelman Syndrome. These laboratories are advancing a novel approach in which blood stem cells are transduced ex vivo with a lentiviral vector expressing UBE3A, which after transplantation would engraft, secrete, and deliver therapeutic UBE3A into deficient neurons via cross-correction. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, Anna worked on producing an artificially engineered epigenetic therapeutic for addressing Angelman Syndrome. Outside of lab, she is an avid gardener and enjoys hiking.

Charles Alex ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Charles Alex

Department of Integrative Pathobiology, PhD Program

Charles Alex is a veterinarian and specialist in veterinary anatomic pathology whose residency training included a special emphasis on diseases of zoo and wildlife species. He was awarded the Cordy Prize in Veterinary Pathology from the UC Davis Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology in 2018, and achieved board certification from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists the same year. His professional interests center broadly around understanding the impact of diseases in zoo and wildlife species, with a particular focus on Amdoparvoviruses, a diverse group of poorly understood viruses that infect a broad range of small mammals. His research focuses on understanding how these viruses cause disease and the factors that contribute to cross-species transmission, with emphasis on viral impacts on populations of endangered species (red pandas) and common wildlife species (striped skunks).

Peter Andrew ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Peter Andrew

Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, PhD Program

Peter’s research interest is to better understand the processes that drive epilepsy. His current project is focused on understanding the role of neuroinflammation in acquired epilepsy following acute intoxication with organophosphate pesticides. He was recently awarded the 2020 Graduate Student Achievement Award by the Northern California Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology. Prior to UC Davis, Peter worked as a research technician at the AstraZeneca-Tufts Laboratory. When not in the lab, Peter enjoys biking and cooking.

Savannah Conlon ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Savannah Conlon

Department of Chemistry, PhD Program

Savannah currently works in Dr. Sheila David’s laboratory elucidating fundamental features of the NEIL family of DNA repair enzymes. She has been able to spearhead several new approaches for studying these enzymes, including cellular repair assays and detailed kinetic analysis to reveal insight into the enzyme’s unique ability to repair various oxidative modified (damaged) bases from different DNA contexts. She recently received the Harriet M. Scholarship Fund from UC Davis and the local Sacramento Chapter ACS Travel Award for her outstanding contribution to her field. In addition, she plays an active role in supporting her graduate student community, serving as the Events Director of the Chemistry Graduate Student Association, as well as contributing to STEM outreach activities at local high schools.

Katherine Corn
Katherine Corn

Population Biology Graduate Group, PhD Program

Katherine’s research integrates phylogenetic comparative methods, biomechanics, and her love of fishes to explore the macroevolutionary consequences of major ecological transitions. Suction feeding is the dominant mode of prey capture in aquatic vertebrates, but some of the 35,000 species of fishes rely on biting feeding modes, where the jaws make contact with the substrate during prey capture. Katherine’s research measures the implications of transitions to biting on cranial mobility of fishes and uses the largest vertebrate body shape dataset ever produced to explore how changes in feeding mode affect the evolution of body shape. Outside the lab, Katherine enjoys hiking, swimming, reading, and drawing fishes.

Kalyn Diederich ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Kalyn Diederich

Department of Soils & Biogeochemistry, PhD Program

Kalyn’s dissertation work seeks to generate productivity data for perennial grain cropping systems in the Mediterranean climate of California. Furthermore, her work strives to advance our understanding of how soil microbes drive soil C sequestration and provide data regarding the mechanisms behind soil ecosystem services. You can typically find her tending to annual wheat and Kernza® plants at her long-term field experiment, teaching soil microbiology labs, or preparing a presentation for an extension workshop or conference. When she is not in the field or lab, you can find her walking her 17-year-old pug, reading historical fiction or autobiographies on the beach, or hiking in the mountains.

Emmet Francis

Department of Biomedical Engineering, PhD Program

Emmet's research in the Heinrich Lab at UC Davis focuses on understanding the importance of bursts in intracellular calcium when white blood cells consume pathogens. He is a fourth-year PhD student and third-year ARCS Scholar. In graduate school, he has published a perspective article, presented at 12 different conferences, and taken on leadership roles in the BME graduate student group, organizing outreach events and chairing the annual BME graduate group symposium. His most recent work on the mechanics of phagocytic spreading will be published soon, and he is currently working to bridge between his work on cell mechanics and calcium signaling during neutrophil phagocytosis.

Hilary Green
Hilary Green

Agricultural & Environmental Chemistry Graduate Group, PhD Program

Hilary’s research interests stem from her passions for food and the environment through the lens of analytical chemistry. Hilary’s dissertation focuses on ensuring the authenticity and quality of edible oils. She has published a faster and less wasteful method to detect olive oil adulteration. She also published a work evaluating the chemical composition of avocado oils on the US market. She is now working to develop a method to detect adulteration in avocado oil, quantify toxins, and support standard development for avocado oil. Hilary’s research is closely connected to the food industry and consumers; thus, she is broadly interested in improving the communication of scientific research to the public. Outside of lab, Hilary enjoys using her chemistry background for baking projects. She also loves to sing, play piano, and go on road trips.

Michael Huh

Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, PhD Program

Michael’s research interests include understanding the delivery of water and other gases during the accretion of the Earth, and the formation and composition of the Earth’s earliest atmosphere. The record of this accretion and the history of magmatic degassing is preserved deep inside the Earth. Minute amounts of gases trapped in volcanic rocks erupted at the bottom of the ocean provide a window into the deep Earth. By developing new methods to efficiently extract these rare gases, combined with the latest generation of mass spectrometers, Michael is reading the record of the assembly of our planet and its early atmosphere. Michael has previously worked in the oil and gas industry and as a laboratory manager at the Arizona State University where he helped build a new experimental petrology laboratory. Outside of the lab, Michael enjoys helping his young son explore and discover the world.

Zoe Kanavas

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Zoe's research interests include groundwater contamination, machine learning implementations, and figuring out a novel way to combine the two. Her current research project discerns how a pore network's structure and topology influences flow heterogeneity. Combining ideas from shortest path analysis, metaheuristic computational approaches, and graph theory, the project aims to develop an efficient model to predict regions of fast flow in a porous medium. When away from the computer, Zoe participates in outreach and mentoring events through the Society of Women Engineers and the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement program. She also works to improve her program's graduate student community by founding, and currently serving as the president of, the Society of Water & Environmental Graduate Students.

Kelsey Lyberger
Kelsey Lyberger

Population Biology Graduate Group, PhD Program

Kelsey’s interests lie the intersection of evolution and ecology. Her dissertation research integrates field and lab experiments with theoretical predictions to understand how humans are driving evolutionary change in freshwater ecosystems. Her current research projects test the ways in which introduced predators lead to evolution in prey life history and whether the evolutionary effects of predation can be reversed. Prior to starting her PhD, Kelsey received degrees in Integrative Biology and Environmental Sciences from UC Berkeley, where she also worked as the assistant curator at the natural history museum. Outside of research, Kelsey is looking forward to continuing her participation in educational outreach programs and mentoring students.

Alexandra McInturf

Animal Behavior Graduate Group, PhD Program

Alex’s research examines the link between physiology, behavior, and the environment in marine ecosystems. She explores this topic in sharks and salmon in order to improve conservation efforts for such threatened organisms. Through her work, she has built a network of collaborators within UC Davis, at local government agencies, and internationally. Alex is a visiting researcher at Queen’s University, Belfast (Northern Ireland), with whom she conducts her fieldwork on basking sharks in Ireland. Additionally, she represents UC Davis on the SeaMonitor Project (an international effort to monitor and improve conservation efforts for endangered marine species in the northeastern Atlantic). Locally, she works with California Sea Grant and NOAA to assess how temperature affects predation risk of juvenile salmon. Prior to her graduate school career, Alex graduated from Williams College with degrees in Biology and English. Thanks to this interdisciplinary background, Alex has become an avid science communicator. She maintains her own research blog (Move.Eat.Meet.Repeat) and is in her third year as editor-in-chief of The Ethogram (official blog of ABGG).

Conary Meyer ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Conary Meyer

Department of Biomedical Engineering, PhD Program

Conary began pursuing bioengineering research in high school and has since engaged in numerous research projects including solar energy harvesting, exosomal drug delivery and automated DNA cloning. These efforts resulted in numerous research related awards, several papers, and a patent. Conary’s current research efforts are focused on the ex vivo synthesis of membrane proteins for structural determination, drug screening, and volatile small molecule sensing. He leverages high throughput microfluidic reaction generation and machine learning to rapidly test and model the performance of cell-free protein synthesis reactions to establish methods for predictive synthesis. Outside of lab, he mentors local high schoolers, practices woodcraft, paints, and backpacks.

Amelia Munson ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Amelia Munson

Animal Behavior Graduate Group, PhD Program

Amelia has forged numerous collaborations to extend the reach of her research, which focuses on the effect of developmental experience on later responses to environmental change. She is currently working with a variety of species, including three-spined stickleback, Western mosquitofish and the intertidal snail Nucella lamellosa, to address this question from different angles. Her research has received support from the Jastro Shields Research award and an NSF EAPSI. Amelia is also dedicated to growing as a teacher and exploring creative means of scientific communication. She worked on a Course Redesign and Teaching Effectiveness (CREATE) Fellowship to create “flipped” small-group discussion activities for a large-format introductory biology class. Additionally, she creates illustrated animal facts for the official blog of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group and is currently creating videos which will be featured on SciAll, a vlogging platform for scientists.

Deborah Park ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Deborah Park

Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, PhD Program

Deborah’s research interests include studying the molecular mechanisms of memory formation and development of drug therapy for brain disorders. Her thesis work focuses on the signaling pathways that underlie neuronal changes important for learning and memory. Specifically, she studies the role of NMDA receptor signaling in both growth and shrinkage of dendritic spines present on neuronal branches. She is also studying how aberrant NMDA receptor signaling could potentially be the cause of dendritic spine loss that is associated with schizophrenia. Outside of academic research, Deborah’s interests include art and music.

Tyler Schlieder
Tyler Schlieder

Geology Graduate Group, PhD Program

Tyler’s current research integrates a variety of geochemical and petrological techniques to probe the pre-eruptive thermal and physical evolution of active silicic volcanic systems including Mount St. Helens, USA and the Taupo Volcanic Center, NZ. Prior to beginning his PhD work, he studied the generation of basaltic magma during his B.S. and M.S. at Oregon State University and Northern Arizona University, respectively. Recently Tyler was awarded the Geological Society of America’s Student Lipman Research Award for his proposed work on the Taupo Volcanic Center. Outside of academia he is passionate about running, mountain biking, and music.

Robert “RJ” Tombari ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Robert “RJ” Tombari

Department of Chemistry, PhD Program

Robert is currently conducting research with Professor David Olson in the field of chemical biology. Robert carved out his own niche in the Olson lab centered on photopharmacology where he uses light to interact with self-engineered small molecules to enhance drug discovery. He has published four peer-reviewed manuscripts and earned numerous awards including a competitive NIH T32 training grant through the chemical biology program at UC Davis. Robert aspires to enter the field of drug discovery upon earning his PhD, specifically targeting neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Max Vargas ARCS Foundation UC Davis
Max Vargas

Neuroscience Graduate Group, PhD Program

Max has a passion for neuropharmacology and the development of next-generation medicines. Psychedelic science really piqued his interest due to the potential these unique molecules have shown for treating mental illness. Since joining the Olson Lab, Max’s research has focused on understanding the role of the serotonin 2A receptor in mediating the neural plasticity-promoting and therapeutic effects of psychedelics. He has been the recipient of several awards including an NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Development fellowship and an NIH T32 fellowship. Outside of lab, Max enjoys hiking and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is an active curator of vintage watches.

University of California, San Francisco

Hersh K. Bhargava ARCS Foundation UC SF
Hersh K. Bhargava

Department of Biophysics, PhD Program

Hersh graduated with a B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley, where he conducted research on the molecular and biophysical basis of human autophagy. He also led a collaborative project to apply artificial intelligence and computer vision to study the pathogenesis of prostate cancer and developed algorithms that predict disease prognosis from images of the tumor. At UCSF, Hersh is working jointly with the groups of Wendell A. Lim and Hana El-Samad to apply computational and synthetic biology methods to develop the next generation of engineered cells for treating disease and understand biological design principles. In his spare time, Hersh enjoys rock climbing, playing the violin, and drinking coffee.

Jake Bieber ARCS Foundation UC SF
Jake Bieber

Department of Bioengineering, PhD Program

Jake’s thesis work focuses on the investigation of drug-induced gastrointestinal toxicity. To profile drug-induced damage to the intestinal epithelium, Jake has co-developed an intestinal organoid monolayer system amenable to high-throughput imaging. Additionally, Jake has gained a comprehensive understanding of the drug development process through interning at the pharmaceutical company Pharmacyclics where he worked in drug metabolism. After obtaining his PhD, Jake wants to use his diverse skillset to help develop safer therapeutics.

Christopher Carlson ARCS Foundation UCSF
Christopher "Chris" Carlson

Department of Physiology, PhD Program

Chris received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego. As a PhD student in the Morgan lab at UCSF, Chris was drawn to a large macromolecular machine at the heart of mitosis: the Anaphase-Promoting Complex, which is responsible for triggering chromosome segregation. Chris’s thesis project aims to understand mechanistically how the Anaphase-Promoting Complex is activated by protein chaperones. He is generally curious about the inner workings of the cell and will stop at almost nothing to answer questions that interest him. Outside of lab, Chris enjoys running, hiking, and reading.

Jean Digitale ARCS Foundation UCSF
Jean Digitale

Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, PhD Program

Jean is interested in improving the quality of care in hospitals for pediatric patients. Her research project aims to create machine learning models using a large electronic health record dataset to predict when to extubate pediatric patients and to estimate how many ventilator days could be saved if such models were used in practice. She has a decade of experience working at the bedside as a pediatric nurse (primarily in the pediatric intensive care unit) and has also worked as a data analyst and research manager for cluster randomized controlled trials in Zambia. She has worked on a wide range of projects—from evaluating adverse effects of phototherapy to assessing the effects of immunogenetics on clinical malaria outcomes. Jean’s outside interests include theatre, photography, and travel.


Nicholas Elder ARCS Foundation UCSF
Nicholas "Nick" Elder

Department of Developmental & Stem Cell Biology, PhD Program

Nick attended Davidson College for his undergraduate studies, where he completed an Honors Biology Thesis optimizing an optogenetic tool for expression in the C. elegans nervous system. At UCSF, he has found a home in the lab of Dr. Todd McDevitt at the Gladstone Institutes. Nick’s current research is focused on using human pluripotent stem cells and organoid models to better understand early human development and patterning, with a focus on the hindbrain and spinal cord.

Ramin Farhad ARCS Foundation UCSF
Ramin Farhad

Department of Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, PhD Program

Ramin’s research interests include understanding the basic mechanisms by which normal cells are reprogrammed into cancer cells in squamous cell carcinoma. A graduate of CSU Fullerton, he has won a number of awards including an HHMI research scholarship, the CSUF Jewel Plummer Cobb Scholarship, and the Moritz-Heyman Discovery Fellowship at UCSF. Also, as an accomplished classical pianist, he performs professionally and teaches many students. Ramin is compelled to devote his career to using cutting-edge technologies to improve human health.

Laura Gunsalus ARCS Foundation UCSF
Laura Gunsalus

Department of Biomedical & Medical Informatics, PhD Program

Laura develops and applies tools from deep learning to learn meaningful representations of the genome and better understand gene regulatory mechanisms. She is currently building computational tools to interrogate the influence of three-dimensional chromatin conformation on transcription. Before beginning her graduate study at UCSF, Laura graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Neuroscience and spent a year in Boston with the computational biology team at Syros Pharmaceuticals.

Sarah Heater ARCS Foundation UCSF
Sarah Heater

Department of Microbiology & Immunology, PhD Program

Sarah has a long-standing interest in microbial genetics and molecular biology, especially with relevance to human infectious disease. She is intrigued by how fungal pathogens sense the temperature of their mammalian host and will explore some of these understudied pathogens of humans during her PhD. Specifically, she is investigating mechanisms of temperature response in the fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum with the goal of uncovering a molecular thermometer that triggers cell shape changes and virulence pathways. Additionally, on the host side, she is characterizing the pulmonary immune response associated with Coccidioides immitis infection, which is a major health problem in California. She has always valued teaching, and has been an instructor in a variety of fields, including botany, math, philosophy, and environmental education. Outside the lab, Sarah enjoys hiking, baking, reading, traveling, and volunteering.

Katerina Rademacher ARCS Foundation UCSF
Katerina Rademacher

Department of Neuroscience, PhD Program

Katerina graduated magna cum laude in Neuroscience at Brown University, where she completed an honors thesis characterizing neuromuscular denervation in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She continued working on this project in the Jaworski lab as a full-time research assistant after graduation. Her current research interests at UCSF include the neurobiology of neurodegenerative disease and neurodevelopment. Outside of the laboratory, Katerina plays both the violin and viola, and hopes to continue playing in orchestras and chamber groups throughout graduate school.


Daphne Superville ARCS Foundation UCSF
Daphne Superville

Department of Biomedical Sciences, PhD Program

Daphne has had a long-standing interest in cancer and spent her undergraduate years at MIT at the Whitehead Institute, where she worked on an anti-metastatic drug screen and was the first undergraduate to be awarded the Koch Institute Image Award. After graduating, Daphne spent a year doing research in the labs of Dr. Lih Feng Cheow at the National University of Singapore and Dr. Simone Schürle at ETH Zürich. Now at UCSF in Dr. Melissa Reeves’ lab, she is interested in understanding how intratumoral heterogeneity, or the genetic diversity seen within individual tumors, facilitates metastasis. Specifically, she is investigating how this diversity may give rise to cooperative interactions between genetically distinct populations of tumor cells, which allow them to acquire malignant phenotypes that lead to their dissemination and metastatic outgrowth. Outside of lab, Daphne enjoys traveling, photography, and hiking.

Bianca Vora ARCS Foundation UCSF
Bianca Vora

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences & Pharmacogenomics, PhD Program

Bianca is committed to a research career in clinical and translational sciences with an emphasis on the pharmacological sciences. Her thesis work is focused on understanding drug-vitamin interactions, which may have severe effects on human health. Using high throughput assays coupled with real world data, she discovered many prescription drugs that may cause vitamin deficiencies, particularly in vulnerable populations. Bianca has received several honors including the Dean’s Apple Award for Teaching as well as awards from the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Jiaxi (Jessica) Wang ARCS foundation UCSF
Jiaxi (Jessica) Wang

Department of Biomedical Sciences, PhD Program

Jessica has a longstanding interest in immunology, studying NK cell biology as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley where she received departmental awards in immunology and wrote an honors thesis, and doing post-graduate work with Lawrence Fong at UCSF in tumor immunity. She has coauthored publications eLife and the JCI. Her graduate work in the Gardner lab is focused on defining the transcriptional and functional roles of Autoimmune Regulator in extrathymic Aire-expressing cells, and its contribution to immune tolerance. Jessica has a passion for advocating for women and underrepresented populations in science, working for the Science and Health Education Partnership on community outreach, and volunteering in the UCSF ImmunoXX symposium. Her other interests include hiking, yoga, and dance.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Isabella Backman ARCS Foundation UCSC
Isabella Backman

Department of Science Communication, Master’s Program

Isabella is an aspiring science journalist with a lifelong interest in environmental issues. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Saint Michael’s College, where she studied the effects of climate change on intertidal organisms at Northeastern University Marine Science Center, the impact of rising temperatures on juvenile Atlantic cod diet at Research Centre of the Westfjords, and the effects of invasive crayfish on native populations at the Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station. After graduation, she became a writer for OCEAN, an environmental education newsletter, and realized her love for science journalism. Outside of work, Isabella enjoys hiking and fostering litters of kittens for nearby animal shelters.

Oscar Cazares ARCS Foundation UCSC
Oscar Cazares

Department of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology, PhD Program

A first-generation college student, Oscar received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCSC. After graduating, Oscar worked for two years in Dr. Lindsay Hinck’s lab, before joining the PhD program in 2015. In 2017, Oscar was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue his thesis studies. He is investigating the molecular pathways that regulate the fate of alveolar progenitor cells over multiple pregnancies. Oscar hopes his research will offer a therapeutic solution for milk insufficiency syndrome, which impacts the health of many women/children worldwide. In addition to research, Oscar actively volunteers at UCSC and in neighboring rural communities to increase equity and inclusion in STEM. He aspires to be a professor at a R1 institution and continue to bridge educational gaps affecting underrepresented students in higher education.

Xian Chang ARCS Foundation UCSC
Xian Chang

Department of Biomolecular Engineering, PhD Program

Xian is working on developing algorithms used to conduct genomics research. Her work aims to add genetic diversity to representations of the human genome in order to make a reference genome that is more representative of the human population. This will make the human reference genome unbiased and more useful as a reference for studying samples from diverse genetic backgrounds. Xian’s work combines fundamental biology and computer science. Her recent paper on estimating distances within genome graphs (aka pangenomes) has been accepted for platform presentation at ISMB2020, a premier conference in computational biology. Outside of research, Xian enjoys climbing, taekwondo, and baking.

David Coulter ARCS Foundation UCSC
David Coulter

Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, PhD Program

David’s research centers on finding and understanding the electromagnetic radiation associated with gravitational wave events and was the first to locate such a source: a flash of light produced by the merger of two neutron stars. This discovery earned the distinction of “Breakthrough of the Year, 2017” from the journal Science. Currently, Dave is analyzing data from several other gravitational wave events and plans to use gravitational waves to measure the expansion history of the Universe. Beyond research, Dave runs the Santa Cruz Chapter of Astronomy on Tap, and is an avid sailor who regularly races in keelboat regattas in the Monterey Bay.

Graham Edwards ARCS Foundation UCSC
Graham Edwards

Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, PhD Program

Graham is a geochemist specializing in radioisotopic dating. He approaches problems in Earth, planetary and climate science by constructing timelines of past events. Graham’s research strikes a balance between presenting innovative measurements and quantitative interpretation of the data. In a recent manuscript, Graham utilizes the timescales of cooling of early forming planetary bodies to constrain their size and timescales of formation. In another manuscript, Graham uses the accumulation of radiogenic nuclides beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet to determine the history of ice loss or stability. He is applying similar principles to investigate the unstable collapse of the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered northern North America during the last ice age.

Aviv Elor ARCS Foundation UCSC
Aviv Elor

Department of Computational Media, PhD Program

Aviv is a PhD student in computational media that explores virtual reality through immersive environments, wearable robotics, and biofeedback. He aims to augment healthcare by gamifying physical therapy to create interactive experiences that are both physically and emotionally intelligent in assisting users. Currently, Aviv has the opportunity to become a published ACM and IEEE first author in this research area, as well as learn from organizations like the National Institutes of Health, Walt Disney Imagineering, Warner Bros Entertainment, and Google Daydream. His interests are in human-computer interaction, immersive media, robotics, affective computing, user experience, and emerging technologies.

Spencer Everett ARCS Foundation UCSC
Spencer Everett

Department of Physics, PhD Program

Spencer is studying how dark matter and dark energy influence the expansion of the universe and the growth of large-scale structures of galaxies with the Dark Energy Survey (DES). His research focuses on leveraging the enormous amounts of imaging data from cosmological surveys to allow novel techniques in non-generative modeling, and he is currently co-leading the effort to characterize the photometric performance of DES with image simulations. Spencer also advocates for inclusivity in science through mentoring undergraduate students, engaging in public outreach, and chairing the DES Early Career Scientist Committee.

Hope Ianiri ARCS Foundation UCSC
Hope Ianiri

Department of Ocean Sciences, PhD Program

Hope is a marine biogeochemist whose dissertation work investigates how the deep ocean stores organic carbon, modulating climate change. Organic carbon accumulates in the ocean and persists for thousands of years, but scientists have an extremely limited understanding of the mechanisms which control this process and how it will respond to the changing climate. Hope’s work employs a wide range of cutting-edge chemical approaches including novel spectroscopy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She is an NSF GRFP Fellow and has won multiple smaller successful proposals. Hope is highly involved in outreach, leadership and diversity activities, including serving as president of the UCSC Ocean Sciences graduate student group, volunteering at UCSC STEM workshops, and presenting at local events in her community.

Ryan Johnson ARCS Foundation UCSC
Ryan Johnson

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, PhD Program

Ryan has four years of work experience at Moog Aircraft Group and two years of internship experience at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His research interests are parameter estimation and system identification for hybrid dynamical systems with applications to aerospace, robotics, and power systems. His current research project proposes an estimation scheme that determines the input voltage and load resistance applied to a DC-to-DC boost converter circuit, a common component in the battery systems of electric vehicles.

Giordan Kitts ARCS Foundation UCSC
Giordan Kitts

Department of Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology, PhD Program

Giordan has built a strong scientific skillset through multiple academic research experiences, and applies this to answer important scientific questions as well as help peers in the lab. He has been a teaching assistant for microbiology courses and has taught molecular biology, bacterial genetics and imaging and image analysis skills to new lab members. With regard to research, Giordan is interested in understanding mechanisms of signal transduction networks used by pathogenic bacteria to sense, respond, and adapt to diverse environmental signals experienced during infection and transmission, and how these processes enhance the pathogens’ fitness. His current research project focuses on charactering a two-component regulatory system, RvvAB. This phosphorelay-based signal transduction system regulates biofilm gene expression and virulence in Vibrio cholerae through mechanisms he intends to determine.

Stephanie Melchor ARCS Foundation UCSC
Stephanie Melchor

Department of Science Communication, Master’s Program

Stephanie received her B.S. in Microbiology from Brigham Young University in 2012 and her PhD in Experimental Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2020. During her doctoral dissertation work, Stephanie discovered how aspects of chronic inflammation lead to chronic muscle wasting and tissue scarring during Toxoplasma gondii infection, leading to unnecessary sickness. She received an NSF-GRFP Honorable Mention 2016. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys singing, baking, writing, and hiking with her dog Persephone.

Lena Meyer ARCS Foundation UCSC
Lena Meyer

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, PhD Program

In the laboratory of Dr. Rebecca DuBois, Lena studies antibodies targeting the human astrovirus using structural biology, biochemistry, and protein engineering techniques. These efforts lay a foundation for the development of a vaccine to prevent human astrovirus infection. Her work on a novel antibody sequencing method has been published in PLoS ONE, and a second manuscript is in preparation. She also appreciates opportunities to mentor undergraduate and first-year PhD students. Outside of science, Lena enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking.

Anna Nisi ARCS Foundation UCSC
Anna Nisi

Department of Environmental Studies, PhD Program

Anna studies the puma population in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a focus on how habitat fragmentation impacts puma movement ecology and population dynamics. Her work also considers how urban planning and land use policy impact habitat quality and connectivity in neighboring exurban and wildland areas. Through this research, Anna hopes to inform and improve large carnivore conservation in human-dominated landscapes and shed light on how large carnivores and people can coexist in these places. In addition to her research, Anna is active in several outreach projects, including serving as one of two Co-Presidents for the Santa Cruz Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology and running the Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in Forests internship program, an undergrad-focused small mammal monitoring project that allows students to build animal capture and handling research skills.

Megan Sabal ARCS Foundation UCSC
Megan Sabal

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, PhD Program

Megan is interested in the effects of predators on migrating prey. Migration research has focused on the consumptive effects of predators – death by being eaten. Megan’s work examines the non-consumptive effects of predators on migrating prey. Specifically, migrating prey engage in antipredator behaviors (hiding, fleeing) that can reduce predation risk but come at a cost in terms of energy use and the timing of arrival at the destination. Megan applies a combination of experimental and modeling approaches to understand these non-consumptive effects. She integrates theoretical frameworks and approaches from behavioral ecology, movement ecology, evolutionary ecology, and fisheries biology to ask new questions and to shed new light on classic questions about the causes and consequences of animal migration.

Maggie Thompson ARCS Foundation UCSC
Maggie Thompson

Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, PhD Program

Maggie’s dissertation research objective is to constrain the initial atmospheric ingredients from planetary growth and melting via meteorite outgassing experiments, thermodynamic modeling, and geochemical analyses. Her work will significantly improve our understanding of the factors that control planetary atmospheres, which is a key constraint for modeling exoplanet atmospheres. With a background in astronomy and geochemistry, Thompson is the ideal person to successfully carry out this interdisciplinary work. Thompson excels in all of her coursework, she is an effective public speaker and a meticulous researcher. Her honors for this work include the LPI Career Development Travel Award (2020) and an Honorable Mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2019).

Pavlo Vlastos ARCS Foundation UCSC
Pavlo Vlastos

Department of Computer Science & Engineering, PhD Program

Pavlo’s research interests include designing control systems for autonomous surface vehicles, attitude and heading reference systems, path planning, trajectory generation, and system identification. His skills include embedded programming, advanced linear algebra, and a knack for problem solving. His current project is an autonomous boat designed to help oceanographers study transient phenomena at less expense. His honors include being a recipient of the 2020 Technology for Social Good Fund sponsored by the CITIRS Foundation. He has worked as an electrical engineer for Inboard Technologies, designing test rigs for electric skateboards. Pavlo is a member of the Autonomous Systems Laboratory (ASL) at UCSC. He is also the new media director for the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) organization. In the past, he helped advise the UCSC Formula 1/10th autonomous race car team, and helped teach programming to high school students as part of the COSMOS summer program at UCSC. His outside interests include designing rail accelerators for alternative satellite launching, laser cutting, and skiing in Tahoe.