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

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Statistics, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • M.S., Statistics, UC Irvine, 2019
  • B.S., Applied Math and Chemistry, Biola University, 2017

Research

Estimating prediction error under biased sampling, Alzheimer’s Disease

Advisor

Dr. Daniel L. Gillen

Biography

Olivia received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for her work on prediction assessment in biased samples. She was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award from the Department of Statistics in 2018. Her research is focused on prediction assessment under biased sampling with a focus on improving public health predictions and interventions, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s Disease. She is a member in the lab of Dr. Daniel Gillen and Dr. Joshua Grill where her work focuses on improved efficiency, validity, and ethics in Alzheimer’s Disease clinical trials. She is the Co-Chair of the Outcomes Committee for the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Ambassador program.

Amanda Cullen

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Informatics, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • M.P.S., Public Service, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, 2016
  • M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of West Florida, 2014
  • B.A., Anthropology, University of West Florida, 2011

Research

Live streaming platforms, Video game culture

Advisors

Dr. Aaron Trammell and Dr. Bonnie Ruberg

Biography

Amanda is a PhD candidate in the CATS (Critical Approaches to Technology and the Social) Lab in the Department of Informatics at UCI. While an undergraduate at the University of West Florida, she developed an interest in online and digital culture. Her research aims to demonstrate the importance of interventions which support diversity in media like video games. Amanda’s recent work focuses on opportunities and barriers for women in live streaming as a form of work and a place for social interaction. She continues to follow her passion for public service as a dedicated member of IGSA (Informatics Graduate Student Association) and as a peer mentor in the Competitive Edge program. Outside of the lab, Amanda enjoys spending time with her partner and their cat, playing video games, and reading.

Morgan Dragan

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • B.S., Molecular Biology, UC San Diego, 2016

Research

Inflammation and barrier maintenance in skin

Advisor

Dr. Xing Dai

Biography

Morgan received her B.S. in Molecular Biology from University of California, San Diego in 2016 where she studied the regulation of glucose uptake in brown adipose tissue. Her current Ph.D. thesis work at UC Irvine is focused on the molecular mechanisms that govern cross-talk between skin epithelial cells and the surrounding tissue environment. This year, she was awarded one of the CMCF center predoctoral fellow positions and a position on the Institute of Immunology’s Training Grant for 2020.  In the future she aims to become a principal investigator of skin immunology. In her free time, Morgan enjoys the outdoors, playing intramural sports and crafting.

Chloe Groome

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • M.S., Materials Science and Engineering, UC Irvine, 2018
  • B.S., Physics, UCLA, 2015

Research

Computational quantum chemistry, nanocatalysis

Advisor

Dr. Regina Ragan

Biography

Chloe graduated early with a B.S. in Physics from UCLA in 2015. Her path led her to both Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Intel where she was inspired to pursue graduate studies and apply for the National Science Foundation fellowship, which she won. Now, her Ph.D. research investigates single atom catalysis with quantum chemistry computer simulations. Single-atom catalyst systems maximize catalytic performance while minimizing or completely replacing the use of expensive metals such as platinum in hydrogen fuel cells. Her other obsessions include city planning, house plants, and convincing people that science is cool.

Amanda McQuade

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Neurobiology and Behavior, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • M.S., Neurobiology and Behavior, UC Irvine, 2018
  • B.A., Neuroscience, Scripps College, 2016

Research

Neuroimmunology, Alzheimer’s disease

Advisor

Dr. Mathew Blurton-Jones

Biography

Amanda was recruited to UCI with the Graduate Deans Recruitment and the Francisco J. Ayala fellowships and is currently seeking a PhD studying neuroimmunology in Alzheimer’s disease. She is particularly interested in using stem cell models to study human immune cells and model genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of this research is to discover new targets for future Alzheimer’s therapeutics. Amanda is also passionate about teaching neuroscience to both kids and adults alike and has become co-chair of REMIND (Research and Education in Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders) to continue this outreach. Outside of work, Amanda enjoys growing herbs and vegetables in her garden and dancing every style of dance!

Bryce Wilson

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • M.S., Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, UC Irvine, 2019
  • B.S., Chemical Engineering, UC San Diego, 2015

Research

Development of Optical Platforms for Mechano-biology

Advisor

Dr. Vasan Venugopalan and Dr. Elliot Botvinick

Biography

Bryce Wilson received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. As a 3rd year PhD student working under the mentorship of both Vasan Venugopalan and Elliot Botvinick at UCI he is focused on the development of an optical platform capable of exploring mechanotransduction in 3D microenvironments. Bryce is passionate about science communication and began writing for nationally syndicated public radio show, The Loh Down on Science, through UCI’s science communication network. Bryce is a NSF-GRFP fellow recognized for his passion for bringing science to general audiences.

Alexander Sutherland

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • M.Sc., Mathematics, UC Irvine, 2017
  • B.A., Mathematics & Economics, Oberlin College, 2016

Research

Solving generic polynomials and the theory of resolvent degree

Advisor

Dr. Jesse Wolfson

Biography

Alex graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics in 2016. During the summer of 2015, Alex conducted research in commutative algebra at Willamette University as part of an NSF REU (mentor: Courtney Gibbons, Hamilton College). Alex is currently at UC Irvine, where he earned his M.Sc. in Mathematics in 2017. Alex’s dissertation research uses tools from algebraic geometry and topology to solve generic polynomials within the modern framework of resolvent degree. Around UC Irvine, Alex is interested in teaching and serves as a Pedagogical Fellow (2019), is a co-organizer for the Mathematics Graduate Student Colloquium, is a math department peer mentor, and does outreach with the Math Circle program. For the past 2 summers, Alex has worked with the non-profit organization BEAM as a summer faculty member to teach advanced math to under-served middle schoolers from NYC.

Barbara Waring

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Developmental and Cellular Biology, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • B.Sc., Microbiology, UC Davis, 2015

Research

Host-pathogen interactions during Chlamydia trachomatis infection

Advisor

Dr. Christine Suetterlin and Dr. Ming Tan

Biography

Barbara started her academic adventures at Los Medanos College, a small community college in Pittsburg, California. She then transferred to UC Davis where she studied Agrobacterium rhizogenes pathogenesis in tomato plants. Shortly after graduating with her bachelor’s in microbiology, she began studying at the University of Minnesota where she developed a novel vaccine platform for influenza A virus. After spending two years at UMN, Barbara matriculated to UC Irvine to pursue a PhD in developmental and cellular biology. Her thesis work focuses on identifying and characterizing host-pathogen interactions during Chlamydia trachomatis infection. Outside of the lab, Barbara is an avid yogi and enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and dog. 

Nicole Stivers

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Environmental Health Sciences, UC Irvine, 2021 expected
  • B.Sc., Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2012

Research

Sex-specific mechanisms of paclitaxel-induced normal tissue toxicity

Advisor

Prof. Charles Limoli

Biography

After graduating with a major in Chemistry and minor in Women’s Studies at UC Irvine, Nicole joined the lab of Charles Limoli, where she started investigating the long-term neurocognitive dysfunction caused by cancer therapies in rodents as a Staff Research Associate and later as a graduate student. Her research led her to novel findings of a sex-specific mechanism of toxicity for the commonly used chemotherapeutic, paclitaxel, for which she received the UC Irvine pre-doctoral Institute for Clinical and Translational Science TL-1 trainee award. Nicole’s passion for her research extends outside the lab, where she engages in academic and community discussions about the importance of studying sex-differences in basic and clinical research as a Dissertation Fellow for UC Irvine’s Newkirk Center for Science and Society.

Rebecca Riley

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Theoretical Particle Physics, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
  • M.S., Theoretical Particle Physics, UC Irvine, 2019
  • B.Eng., Computer Engineering, Vanderbilt University, 2016
  • B.A., Mathematics, Vanderbilt University, 2016

Research

Beyond the Standard Model physics, dark matter, fundamental forces and elementary particles

Advisor 

Dr. Arvind Rajaraman

Biography

Rebecca is a NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a UC Irvine Chancellor’s Scholar in theoretical particle physics, where she studies dark matter, exotic species such as leptoquarks, and early universe cosmology. She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee as a Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar, where she studied computer engineering and mathematics before eventually finding her calling in physics and graduating early to join the theory group at UC Irvine. Rebecca believes her training as an engineer and a stint in the defense industry allow her to bring a unique and valuable perspective to tackling the foundational questions of the universe. She is a member of Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor societies and was the lead electronics engineer on NASA’s Student Launch National Championship rocket team in 2016. In her spare time, Rebecca works toward her dream of becoming an astronaut by flying prop planes, practicing Russian, and staying fit through Latin dance and acroyoga.

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.