Current Scholars 2019-2020

Orange County Chapter provides awards to exceptional PhD students at UC Irvine. The year 2019-20 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

Olivia Bernstein
Amanda Cullen
Morgan Dragan
Chloe Groome
Amanda McQuade
Rebecca Riley
Nicole Stivers
Alexander Sutherland
Barbara Waring
Bryce Wilson

2nd 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.