2021 ARCS Scholar Awards

Welcome to our virtual off-line event.  The board, our University friends, and I had hoped to share an October luncheon with you.   This pandemic has taught us flexibility and patience and we look forward to a luncheon sometime later this academic year when the risk of Covid transmission is acceptable. 

We are so proud of our scholars and did not want to wait to introduce you to our new scholars and allow our current scholars to give an update on their important work.  We also want to thank you again for your generous support.  Thank you and I hope this virtual event finds you well.

Janene Muller
Utah Chapter President
ARCS Foundation, Inc.

We are pleased to present research updates from two of our three 2020-2021 ARCS Scholars.   We have video presentations from Jake Immonen and Lydia Sauer.  We will hear from Ethan Griswold at a future time. 

As Vice President for Scholar Outreach, ARCS Utah Chapter, it is my distinct honor to introduce our 2021-2022 Outstanding Scholar Award Recipients. This year we are very proud to be able to make awards to six amazing ARCS Scholars, four from the College of Engineering and two from the Moran Eye Center.  After meeting with each of them recently, I am convinced the departments have selected unusually talented, dedicated and committed men and women who will join our team of Utah ARCS Scholars.

Please join me in welcoming each of them as they share some of their backgrounds, achievements and ambitions.  We have from the Moran Eye Center, Department of Ophthalmology: Dr. Nnana Amakiri and Dr. Ashley Polski and from the College of Engineering: Noelle Brown, School of Computing; Henry Crandall, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Samuel Westgard, Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Mathew R. T. Willams, Department of Chemical  Engineering.

Anne Erickson
VP Scholar Outreach
Utah Chapter
ARCS Foundation, Inc.

Noelle Brown is pursuing a PhD in Computing specializing in Human-Centered Computing with research interests in Data Science education and ethics in AI. She received her MS in Data Science from Southern Methodist University and BS in Mathematics from Colorado State University and has experience working as both a mathematics and Data Science instructor. At the University of Utah, she is working with Dr. Eliane Wiese to research ways to integrate ethics into AI courses with the hopes of teaching future technology leaders to be mindful of the potential consequences of their code. Noelle is passionate about fair and ethical machine learning and believes that she can have the most impact in the field by educating others. She considers herself a lifelong learner and views education as one of the most important gifts in life. In her free time, Noelle enjoys hiking, gardening, and spending time with her loved ones. Noelle received the Diane and Tom Might Award.
Henry Crandall graduated suma-cum-laude from the University of Utah with a BS in electrical engineering and a minor in Russian. As an undergraduate he revived the dormant branch of the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers) student chapter and was elected to serve as the director of networking, helped launch the IPCEF student chapter and served on the Student Advisory Committee. Henry has received multiple scholarships including the Honors at Entrance University scholarship, Micron Undergraduate Scholarship, IPA Undergraduate Scholarship, Ivory Sophomore RISE scholarship, and IPCEF student scholarship. He has completed several internships gaining experience in the electronics and microelectronics industries, working with Sanmina Corporation and Micron Technologies. At the University of Utah Henry is pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering in the Sanchez Research Lab with a focus on developing new BioImpedance technologies to be used in the next generation of wearable health monitors. Henry received the Dr. Cecelia H. Foxley Award in honor of Dr. Rich Brown.
Samuel Westgard received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University and graduated with great distinction. He is interested in the design and control of wearable robotic devices and will be responsible for developing a novel robotic knee and ankle prosthesis in the University of Utah’s Bionic Engineering Lab under Dr. Tomasso Lenzi. Previously, Sam worked as an R&D co-op engineer and as an engineering intern for Parker Hannifin’s Human Motion and Control business unit. At Parker, he was responsible for the R&D of wearable robotic devices and gained valuable industry experience and exposure to devices such as the Indego Exoskeleton, a powered exoskeleton used for stroke and spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Sam also developed various cycle testing fixtures that replicate human gait and has a pending patent for a fixture that he co-invented. In his free time, Sam enjoys biking, rock climbing, and exploring the outdoors. Sam received the Karen and Paul Ross Award.
Matthew R.T. Williams is a proud Hoosier, entrepreneur, and passionate problem solver. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, R.T. came to the University of Utah as an undergraduate student for all the opportunities it presented. In his undergraduate career, R.T. started multiple organizations, was one of the first graduates to complete the Engineering Entrepreneurship Certificate, and was the first student at the University of Utah to complete the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Outside the classroom, R.T. has worked with consulting firms in the energy, intellectual property, and food processing industries. R.T. is excited about pursuing a doctorate as he seeks to expand his knowledge and add value to the energy and consulting industry. The University of Utah was the perfect match for R.T. to continue his education, and the ARCS Scholar support will only enhance R.T.’s abilities to accomplish his goals. R.T. received the Dr. Cecelia H. Foxley Award in honor of Dr. Rich Brown.
Nnana Amakiri, MD, earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Cornell University in 2017 with a concentration in Neurobiology. He completed his medical degree at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in 2021, where he was elected president of his medical school’s Gold Humanism Honor Society and president of the Dean’s Ambassadors group. Dr. Amakiri is one of four siblings whose Nigerian parents immigrated to the United States several years before his birth. This strong international connection and experience seeing Nigeria’s health system first-hand spurred his interest in global health. At Texas Tech, Dr. Amakiri also spent time researching the effects of amyloid beta cell components and their interaction with MicroRNA in the genetic makeup of Alzheimer’s disease. As a resident at the John A. Moran Eye Center, Dr. Amakiri will focus on extending sustainable, high-quality eye care to resource-poor areas worldwide. Like the role models who shaped his career growth, Dr. Amakiri plans to make a special effort to mentor students from underserved backgrounds—especially at the high school, undergraduate, and medical student levels. Nnana received the Kathie and Mark Miller Award in honor of Dr. Alan S. Crandall.
Ashley Polski, MD, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Andrews University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Chemistry minor. She earned her medical degree in 2021 from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where she graduated with Highest Honors and Distinction in Research. In medical school, Dr. Polski worked with ocular oncologist Jesse L. Berry, MD. As a third-year medical student, she received the USC Dean’s Research Scholarship and Wright Foundation Research Award to spend a dedicated research year at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The Retina Research Foundation and Knights Templar Eye Foundation awarded Dr. Polski grants to present her work at national conferences. She has contributed to over 13 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous book chapters related to retinoblastoma genetics and biopsy techniques, healthcare disparities, and prognostication in ocular oncology. In her free time, Dr. Polski creates miniature oil paintings and developed an art business. She has raised thousands of dollars through her business to support CoachArt, a non-profit organization that provides free arts and athletics programs to children with chronic illnesses. Dr. Polski plans to participate in glaucoma research and continue pursuing her interests in translational medicine and community outreach as a resident at the Moran Eye Center. Ashley received the ARCS Foundation Utah Chapter Award..