Current Scholars 2018-2019

Orange County Chapter provides awards to exceptional PhD students at UC Irvine. The year 2018-19 the chapter has funded 20 ARCS Scholars. 

At our Awards Dinner, the ARCS Scholars showcase their contributions in the fields of science, engineering and medicine and, enlight us with their vision for a better future. This yearly event is a wonderful chance to meet the ARCS Scholars, and learn about their research during the poster session/reception. Keynote speakers are second year ARCS Scholars who speak about their research. 

1st Year Scholars

Maryam Asghari

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, UC Irvine, 2017
  • B.Sc., Mechanical Engineering, University of Tehran, 2015

Research

Science and engineering of energy conversion, Renewable energy

Advisor

Dr. Jack Brouwer

Biography

Maryam is a graduate student and National Science Foundation GRFP Fellow in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UCI.  While an undergraduate at the University of Tehran, she developed her interest in renewable energy.  Her research aims at a more sustainable, efficient power generation and clean environment.  Maryam’s recent work focuses on integration of highly efficient, zero emission Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technologies with cooling and dehumidification systems.  She is DECADE (Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience) STEM co-chair and Legislative Director for the Association of Graduate Students, where she follows her passion to make changes in minorities’ lives and advocate for graduate students’ rights.

Brianna Craver

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Biological Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Biotechnology, UC Irvine, 2016
  • B.S., Cellular & Developmental Biology, CSU Fullerton, 2011

Research

The role of inflammation in promoting the onset of rare blood cancers

Advisor

Dr. Angela Fleischman

Biography

Brianna received her B.S. in Cellular and Developmental Biology from California State University, Fullerton in 2011.  She was selected for CSU Fullerton’s first cohort of CIRM-funded Bridges to Stem Cell Researchers, which gave her the opportunity to continue in the stem cell field as a research associate at UCI for the next three years.  She received her M.S. in Biotechnology from UCI in 2016.  Brianna’s Ph.D. research is focused on the role of inflammation in promoting the onset of rare blood cancers.  This year, she was awarded the Stanley Behrens Outstanding Student Fellowship of 2018.  In her free time, Brianna enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking, and running.

Gianna Fote

Degrees

  • M.D., Ph.D., Biological Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2023 expected
  • B.S., Intensive Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, Yale University, 2014

Research

Neurodegenerative disease

Advisor

Dr. Joan Steffan, Dr. Leslie Thompson

Biography

Gianna graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in Intensive Biology in 2014, and matriculated to UC Irvine to pursue her M.D./Ph.D.  Gianna hopes to become a neurologist and basic science researcher, working towards cures for neurodegenerative diseases.  She currently researches how these devastating diseases might be caused by impaired degradation of cellular waste.  Gianna maintains her clinical skills by volunteering at free clinics, and enjoys sharing her passion for her work with scientists, patients, and the public.  When she is not in the lab or clinic, Gianna enjoys surfing and competing with the UCI club water polo team.

Daniel Gardner

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Informatics, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.A., Social Science-Medicine, Science & Technology Studies, UC Irvine, 2015
  • B.A., Anthropology, Humboldt State University, 2013

Research

How cultural values and assumptions materialize in the design of digital media and games

Advisor

Dr. Josh Tanenbaum, Dr. Bonnie Nardi

Biography

Dan has a background in Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, with a B.A. and M.A. respectively.  Broadly, he is concerned with examining the ways that cultural values and systems of authority materialize in the design of digital media and games, and how we can improve the inclusivity of games and media.  He is committed to teaching in support of long term goals of becoming a professor, and was an i3 Teaching Fellow in 2017 and research advisor in 2018, and is a UCI Pedagogical Fellow for 2018.  Dan has also served as the Informatics Diversity Ambassador for the 2017-2018 academic year, and served as a board member for the Informatics Grad Student Association (IGSA) from 2015-2018; the last year as its president.

Paul Kirth

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Computer Science, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Computer Science, CSU Northridge, 2016
  • B.S., Civil Engineering, UCLA, 2005

Research

System security and compilers

Advisor

Dr. Michael Franz

Biography

Paul's main research interests are in system security and compilers, with a focus on compiler based security.  His current work focuses on securing the boundaries between safe and unsafe programming languages.  At CSU Northridge, Paul's master's research was focused on improving the efficiency of network communications and on detecting network neutrality violations.  He studied Civil Engineering at UCLA and was a practicing engineer before pursing his academic interest in computing.  Outside of work, Paul enjoys spending time with his wife and two dogs, cooking, hiking, and Jiu-Jitsu.

Jesse Kreger

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • M.S., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2017
  • B.A., Mathematics, Occidental College, 2015

Research

 Mathematical models in evolutionary biology

Advisor

Dr. Natalia Komarova, Dr. Dominik Wodarz

Biography

Jesse is a Math Ph.D. student developing advanced mathematical models to study topics in evolutionary biology.  He has made significant progress on projects related to the evolutionary progression and drug resistant properties of viruses and cancer. Jesse has worked at positions promoting math in the community, including as a student researcher at UCLA and as a tutor at the Huntington Learning Center. At UCI, Jesse has been awarded department fellowships and earned a M.S. in math in 2017. He is active in the department and serves as the co-coordinator of the graduate student mentor program as well as the captain of many Mathlete intramural sports teams.  He also volunteers for multiple outreach programs such as UCI Math Circle, UCI Math CEO, and MathCounts.  In the spring he received the Outstanding Contributions to the Department award as just a second-year graduate student.

Annika Nelson

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Biological Sciences, UC Irvine, 2018
  • B.A., Biology, Oberlin College, 2015

Research

How climate change affects species interactions

Advisor

Dr. Kailen Mooney

Biography

Annika graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio) in 2015. During college she studied ant ecology in the Entomology Department at Texas A&M University (NSF-REU program; mentor: Micky Eubanks) and at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL; mentor: Kailen Mooney).  For her dissertation work at UC Irvine, she uses field experiments and demographic models to study how climate change and biodiversity loss affect species interactions.  Annika has also worked to represent diverse graduate student perspectives as a member of a faculty search committee at UCI and the RMBL Diversity Committee.  With the goal of promoting a public appreciation for biodiversity and the natural world, Annika has worked as a teaching assistant at UCI, contributed to K-12 education programs in Irvine, and shared her research with public citizens touring RMBL.  After completing her Ph.D., Annika hopes to work as a university researcher and educator to conduct innovative research and to encourage others, especially minority students and women, to become engaged in scientific inquiry and discovery.

Alexandra Perebikovsky

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Physics, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • B.S., Physics, UC Irvine, 2016

Research

Microfluidics, stem cells

Advisor

Dr. Marc Madou

Biography

Alexandra heads the CD microfluidics and stem cell research teams in UCI’s BioMEMS laboratory.  Alexandra’s doctoral research focuses on using MEMS techniques for diagnostics and to develop smart stem cell scaffolds for regenerative medicine.  While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Alexandra received several UROP and SURP grants, and a multi-disciplinary design fellowship to develop point-of-care systems that would replace traditional biomedical labs in remote, resource poor environments.  She is a member of Women in Physics, an Artiman Beta fellow, has been a mentor for the Gifted Student Association, and has volunteered as a judge at several science fairs, hoping to inspire participation of younger students in STEM fields.

Melissa Thone

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2016
  • B.S., Chemical Engineering, Communications, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2014

Research

Personalized medicine/therapeutics

Advisor

Dr. Young Jik Kwon

Biography

Melissa graduate summa cum laude from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2014 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering.  She joined the Bio-Therapeutics Engineering Laboratory at UC Irvine to pursue her Ph.D. in designing personalized therapeutics for cancer and was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in her first year.  She also contributes to the UCI community as a Competitive Edge and DECADE Plus mentor, and in leadership roles including DECADE Education Chair and President of the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Graduate Student Association.  In her free time, Melissa enjoys playing intramural sports, volunteering, and studying Spanish.

Rachel Waymack

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Developmental & Cellular Biology, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • B.S., Neuroscience, minor in Biochemistry, College of William and Mary, 2016

Research

Gene expression during early development, immune responses

Advisor

Dr. Zeba Wunderlich

Biography

Rachel completed her undergraduate study at the College of William and Mary, where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Neuroscience and a minor in Biochemistry.  At William and Mary, she excelled academically, qualifying for the Dean’s list every semester, receiving three merit-based scholarships, and being elected into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.  During this time, Rachel also fostered a passion for community service and tutoring, commitments she has continued in graduate school.  Her research interests focus on proper control of gene expression during early development and immune responses.  Rachel’s current project focuses on regulating gene expression during embryonic development in fruit flies.

2nd Year Scholars

Eva Morozko

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Neurobiology & Behavior, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • B.S., Biochemistry, Seton Hall University,2012

Research

Molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders

Advisor

Dr. Leslie Thompson

Biography

After conducting undergraduate research and earning her B.S. in Biochemistry, Eva worked in Genetics and Cellular Biology as a post-baccalaureate at the NIH for two years.  Her current project focuses on the molecular contributions towards Huntington’s disease pathogenesis by investigating how the delicate balance of proteins in our brains is affected by neurodegeneration.  She is currently an NSF GRFP scholar, and co-chair of the professional development committee for the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM) Ambassadors' outreach program. Eva has received numerous awards including the CNLM Renee Harwick Advanced Graduate Student Award and Outstanding Predoctoral Scholar Award from UCI MIND. When she's not in the lab, she enjoys spending time in National Parks or participating in club sports, most notably as a nationally ranked competitive archer for UCI's collegiate team.

Rachel Gurlin

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • B.S., Biomedical Engineering, UC Davis, 2014

Research

Diabetes research/treatment

Advisor

Dr. Elliot Botvinick

Biography

Rachel Gurlin is a doctoral candidate in Dr. Elliot Botvinick's laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at UCI. Rachel was awarded the T32 CARE (Cardiovascular Applied Research and Entrepreneurship) Fellowship, a Public Impact Fellowship, the Mazda Foundation Scholarship, and the 2015 Business Plan School of Medicine Award to support her research. Utilizing tissue engineering and microfabrication techniques, Rachel is developing a bioartificial pancreas device for the treatment of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Rachel has also interned at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and served as the president of the Graduate Association of Biomedical Engineering Students (GABES), connecting local industry to BME graduate students. She is dedicated to using her BME background in engineering a T1D treatment.

Alexander Eldredge

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • B.S., Chemistry and Biology, University of Minnesota, 2016

Research

Chemical biology, material science, organic chemistry

Advisor

Dr. Zhibin Guan

Biography

While an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Alex worked in the research lab of Romas Kazlauskas developing enzymes to catalyze C-C bond forming reactions.  At UCI, Alex is a graduate student in Professor Zhibin Guan's lab developing novel polymers for nucleic acid delivery and gene therapy. Alex has earned many awards while at UCI, including the Allergan Fellowship, Outstanding TA in the Chemistry department, as well as the ARCS Scholar Award. Alex has accepted a job as a Senior Research Biologist at 3M Company in Minnesota, which he will begin following graduate school.

Joseph Bell

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, UC Irvine, 2016
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2014

Research

Automotive controls

Advisor

Dr. Gregory Washington

Biography

Joseph has already received both bachelors’ and master’s degrees at UCI, which is where he developed his interest in automotive controls.  He shares a passion for racing and restoring cars with his father, but it was not until graduate school that he combined his personal hobbies with his research.  Joseph is focused in automotive controls and is currently researching alternative energy vehicles and venturing into the autonomous driving field.  In this arena he has interned with for the Ford Motor Company for the third time this year at its Research and Innovation lab in Palo Alto.

Amber Habowski

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences-Molecular Biology, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • B.S. Cellular & Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry, Seattle Pacific University, 2014

Research

RNA processing in the initiation and progression of colon cancer

Advisor

Dr. Marian Waterman

Biography

Amber graduated Summa Cum Laude from Seattle Pacific University with a double major in Cellular & Molecular Biology and Biochemistry before relocating to Southern California.  She has been awarded UCI’s Ayala Fellowship, an appointment on the Cancer Biology T32 training grant, an NSF GRFP, the SOM Stanley Behrens Fellowship, and an ELISS fellowship through AAAS.  Her thesis work is focused on understanding the role of RNA processing in the initiation and progression of colon cancer.  In her free time, Amber enjoys playing soccer for UCI’s club soccer team and going to the beach, hiking, and camping.  She volunteers with FIRST Robotics and IUSD/OC Science Fairs and is also the coordinator of the CRI Youth Science Fellowship program, and enjoys working with and teaching high school students and undergraduates.

Stephanie Hachey

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • M.S., Biomedical & Translational Science, UC Irvine, 2014
  • B.S., Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology, UC Santa Cruz, 2009

Research

Cancer biology and precision medicine

Advisor

Dr. Chris Hughes

Biography

Stephanie’s main research interests are in cancer biology and precision medicine, with a focus on facilitating the translation of basic science findings to the clinic.  Currently, she aims to develop microphysiological systems for drug screening, disease modeling, and personalized medicine applications.  She is an active member of the GPS-Biomed program on campus and has extensive experience with hands-on, cross-disciplinary training in molecular biology from her research positions.  Stephanie spearheaded collaboration with UCI physicians to launch her thesis project during her first-year rotation and the resulting translational infrastructure will support efforts to improve patient outcomes.

Leah Horgan

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Informatics, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • B.F.A., New England School of Art & Design, Suffolk University, 2007

Research

Social justice, innovation culture, new media and theory, predictive analytics, organizational and practice theory.

Advisor

Dr. Paul Dourish

Biography

Before transferring to UCI, Leah studied for two years in the Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design, conducting fieldwork around ICTs in partnership with UNICEF’s Innovation Lab in Kampala, Uganda.  Prior to graduate studies, she held a position for 3 ½ years at MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) working on design, communication, and executive administration efforts.  Currently, Leah works for the LA City Data Team to conduct an ethnographic study of data-driven governance in the era of big data.

Naomi Lomeli

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Experimental Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, UC Irvine, 2013

Research

Treatment of neurological disorders

Advisor

Dr. Daniela Bota

Biography

Naomi’s scientific life-long goal is to conduct translational research that has the potential to improve the lives of people living with currently untreatable neurological disorders.  Her current research project has given her the opportunity to conduct groundwork for novel treatments that address the downstream side effects of chemotherapy including the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine.  While an undergraduate at UCI, she conducted Alzheimer’s disease research in the lab of Dr. Andrea Tenner.  Naomi is passionate about mentoring students and encouraging the pursuit of biomedical research through outreach activities.  In the lab, she has mentored and trained seven lab members in various stages of their education ranging from high school students to clinical fellows.  Naomi has served as a graduate counselor for CampMed, a UCI-based organization that mentors local high school students.  Annually, she serves as a judge for the UCI Minority Science Program summer research symposium and graduate school seminar panelist.  In 2016, she served as a graduate student representative for the UCI School of Medicine at a national diversity in STEM conference, SACNAS.  Naomi is currently representing the Department of Experimental Pathology on the School of Medicine Student Council.

Jennifer Bryson

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
  • M.S., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2016
  • B.S., Mathematics, Texas A&M University, 2013

Research

High dimensional phenomena, randomized linear algebra, applications to data science

Advisor

Dr. Hongkai Zhao

Biography

Jennifer’s research is in high dimensional probability with applications to data science. She has always had a passion for mathematics and loves sharing it with others through being a teaching assistant, mentor, and volunteer for a variety of math outreach activities. While at UCI, she is honored to have received the Outstanding Contributions to the Department award two years in a row, and also the Outstanding Mathematics Teaching Assistant Honorable Mention. Outside of her studies, Jennifer is a co-organizer for the Physical Sciences DECADE group, promoting diversity and an inclusive environment for all graduate students.

Michelle Nuno

Degrees

  • Ph.D. Statistics, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
  • M.S., Statistics, UC Irvine, 2017
  • B.S., Applied Mathematics-Statistics, UC Riverside, 2015

Research

Statistical methodology with applications to biomarker discovery, Alzheimer’s disease

Advisor

Dr. Daniel Gillen

Biography

Michelle’s research focuses on the development of novel statistical methodology with applications to biomarker discovery in multiple disease areas, with specific interest in applications to Alzheimer’s disease. Since coming to UCI, Michelle has been named a National Science Foundation Fellow and a Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow, and also received the Robert L. Newcomb Memorial Endowed Graduate Student Award. She has a strong commitment to helping underrepresented students succeed academically, particularly in STEM disciplines.