Current ARCS Foundation Utah Scholars

2021-2022 Utah Scholars
Noelle Brown

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

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

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.

Mathew "RT" Williams

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. Randall J. Olson.

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..

2020 - 2021 Scholars
Ethan Griswold

Ethan Griswold is pursuing a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering with a focus on biomaterials and therapeutics at the University of Utah.  Prior to Utah, Ethan conducted research at the University of Vermont and at the Uniklinikum RWTH Aachen University in Germany.  He worked on improving the hemocompatibility of lung assist devices, pulmonary xenotransplantation of mammalian and avian species, immunogenicity studies of proteins, and adapting 3D printing technology for biological materials.  Ethan completed his Bachelor of Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was part of several organizations, including Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society.   He also served as president of his local chapter of Engineering World Health, as part of which he traveled to Guatemala and worked with local hospitals to repair medical equipment.  Ethan received the Diane and Tom Might Award in honor of their grandson, Bertrand Might.

Jacob Immonen

Jake graduated magna cum laude with an Honors B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2017. Since then he has worked as a field engineer for a water treatment company specializing in biological water treatment at various industrial sites. Jake’s decision to pursue a PhD comes from his love of the environment and his desire to find innovative and sustainable engineering solutions that preserve the environment while also amplifying humans’ quality of life. Jake is working in Dr. Kody Powell’s research group with his research based around modeling, optimizing, and controlling complex energy systems. Jake enjoys challenging himself mentally through engineering problems and physically through various backcountry adventures.  Jake received the ARCS Foundation Utah Chapter Award.

Lydia Sauer

Lydia Sauer completed her medical school training at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. During this time, she also pursued a doctoral degree in the Department of Experimental Ophthalmology in Jena under the mentorship of Dr. Martin Hammer.  Her thesis focused on how a new retinal imaging technology, called fluorescence lifetime imaging ophthalmoscopy (FLIO), could be applied in basic science and clinical approaches. Her thesis work in FLIO imaging received a prestigious thesis award by the German Ophthalmological Society.  Dr. Sauer’s research in FLIO related to retinal carotenoids—antioxidants made by plants that are believed to neutralize light-induced damage in the eye—connected her with Dr. Paul S. Bernstein at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. She accepted a visiting scholar position in clinical research with Dr. Bernstein, an opportunity that established the Moran Eye Center as the first FLIO imaging and research center in the United States.  FLIO, an extremely sensitive, non-invasive camera, is used to map subtle changes in the retina before structural damages occur, leading to early diagnosis and treatment and a better understanding of eye diseases.  Dr. Sauer’s primary research interest focuses on inherited retinal diseases, including macular telangiectasia type 2 and age-related macular degeneration.  From 2018 until 2020, Dr. Sauer worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Bernstein’s lab. Her research was recognized with the Heidelberg Engineering Xtreme Research Award in 2019. As a resident, Dr. Sauer’s research goal aims to further establish FLIO as a clinical diagnostic tool, specifically with retinal diseases.  In her free time, Dr. Sauer enjoys hiking, skiing, and photography.  Lydia is receiving the Mark and Kathie Miller Award in honor of Dr. Randall Olson.

2019-2020 Scholars
Jadie Adams
Jadie Adams

Jadie is pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Computing with a focus on machine learning and image processing techniques for biomedical data analysis.  She earned a BS degree in mathematics with honors from Westminster College where she also minored in physics and computer science.  Her research background ranges from publishing on the interface of snow and human sciences in avalanche safety literature, to solving open questions in the pure math field of tiling theory, to patenting new technology for enhancing language models in automatic speech recognition systems.  At the University of Utah, she will be working with research assistant professor Dr. Shireen Elhabian from the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute on a project in the orthopedics domain, using deep learning to construct 3D models from sparse x-ray images for anatomical shape analysis.  She believes in the potential for computer vision and probabilistic modeling to make diagnosis more accurate and less expensive for all.  In her free time, she enjoys skiing and backpacking in the mountains as well as tending to her garden and playing with her new puppy. 

Sean Collon
Sean Collon, MD

Sean Collon, MD, completed his Bachelor of Science at the University of Michigan in 2012 and earned his medical degree at Vanderbilt University in 2019. In the intervening years, while working as a mountain guide in Washington and Alaska, he developed relationships with individuals who would become mentors in ophthalmology and global health. With these mentors, he worked in several low-or no-cost clinics both at home and abroad, and realized a passion for addressing healthcare inequities. In medical school, he held a staff position at the student-run free clinic where he helped to implement a teleophthalmology diabetic retinopathy screening program. He also returned to Nepal and worked to investigate and implement a mobile phone-based teleophthalmology protocol to improve detection of retinal and optic nerve pathology in rural screening camps. Beginning his ophthalmology residency at the University of Utah, he hopes to continue to address healthcare inequities through continually working to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of outreach efforts, as well as through minimizing the environmental impact and cost of high-quality eye care.  Sean received the Mark and Kathie Miller Foundation Award.

Emily Diedrich
Emily Diedrich

Emily completed her BS in Civil Engineering at Gonzaga University in 2017. After graduation, she started her career as an Engineer in Training on a structural engineering team at a company called DLR Group in Seattle. During her two years there she was exposed to the design of many different construction materials including wood, steel, and masonry on a variety of projects ranging from schools to justice centers to warehouses. After working for a while, she decided to return to school to pursue a graduate degree from the University of Utah. She is excited to be back in the academic world, and looks forward to applying the experience she had while working as a designer to future research projects. In her spare time, Emily enjoys hiking, cooking and spending time on the water.  

Lizze Kumar
Lizzie Kumar

Lizzie completed a BA in Mathematics with honors at Scripps College, where she became interested in issues of social justice arising from the use of machine learning to automate decisions that affect people, such as credit scoring, loan eligibility, and other risk assessments.  She worked as a data scientist while completing her MS in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts in her hometown of Amherst.  At the University of Utah, Lizzie is pursuing a PhD in Computing under the supervision of Professor Suresh Venkatasubramanian, studying how to audit algorithmic systems for fairness, justice, and other legal and ethical qualities.  She hopes that her work will support the development of technology policy.

Allie Simpson
Allie Simpson, MD

Allie Marie Simpson, MD, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Northern Iowa in 2014. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and was awarded the Purple and Old Gold Award for demonstrating outstanding academic success. Her undergraduate research focused on plant genetics, and her work helped elucidate homeobox gene regulation of leaf morphology in a member of the grape family.  Dr. Simpson earned her medical degree from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2019. She was an active member of the Glaucoma Genetics Lab at the university’s Institute for Vision Research and graduated with research distinction. Her work aided in the discovery of a new disease-causing mutation in a patient with LADD syndrome and open-angle glaucoma. She also independently screened over 200 glaucoma patients from the Faroe Islands for known glaucoma-causing mutations. She was elected to the Alpha Omega Honor Medical Society in recognition of her leadership, scholarship, and service and received the Thomas A. Weingeist Award for her research in ophthalmology. Dr. Simpson is looking forward to engaging in further glaucoma and anterior segment research at the Moran Eye Center.  Allie's award was funded by Diane and Tom Might in honor of their grandson, Bertrand Might.

2018 - 2019 Scholars
Anthony Yin

Anthony Yin graduated magna cum laude in mechanical engineering with a biomechanics minor from the University of Florida. As an undergraduate, he worked on developing a microscale tensile tester to study the effects of tensile loading on cell behavior. Anthony has interned at Alcon, where he performed research on the manufacturing process of a new intraocular lens, and Exactech, where he focused on product development of an orthopedic ankle implant and the necessary instruments for its successful surgical application. At the University of Utah, he is pursuing a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering with research focused on biomaterials and bone cements. 

Ariana Levin

Ariana M. Levin, MD, completed her Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in mathematics at Stony Brook University, where she was the 2014 Ward Melville Valedictorian.  As an undergraduate, she received the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Shaps Scholarship for excellence in research.  Dr. Levin earned her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 2018 with honors in service and distinctions in ophthalmology and geriatric medicine.  At the Moran Eye Center, Dr. Levin is exploring research related to synthetic intraocular lenses, used to replace the eyes natural lens, and surgical planning.

Anna Deleray

Anna Deleray is pursuing a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering. She plans to research biomaterials and therapeutics. Prior to the University of Utah, Anna conducted protein engineering and biosensor design research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This research help solidify her intention to pursue graduate studies and a career in bioengineering. Anna completed her BS in chemical and biochemical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. While at the Colorado School of Mines, she was a member a several professional societies, including the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. In addition to her academic pursuits, Anna played on the Varsity Women’s Soccer Team. She also enjoys skiing, hiking, and trail running.

Bram Hunt

Bram Hunt is a first-year doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the U. His research is in cardiac electrophysiology and biophysics, and he hopes solve problems of reliability in medicine using machine learning and automation. He comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering.  He received a departmental Outstanding Senior Award in recognition of his academic excellence and outstanding contributions to the school community. After graduation, he worked at Sandia National Laboratories in their Microelectromechanical Systems Department developing testing systems and software for national security applications. In his free time, he invests in the local community through volunteering in the emergency room, teaching in STEM, and participating in his church choir.

2017 - 2018 Scholars
Samual Sprawls

Sam is pursuing a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering with the goal of advancing his career in renewable energy photovoltaics (PV), a term which describes the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the phtovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photchemistry, and electrochemistry.  At the U, he will be working under the direction of associate professor Mike Scarpulla.  sam earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering physics specializing in materials science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.  He wrote, "After earning a PhD in materials science and engineering, I hope to be a leader of PV research and development in industry or government."  Sam also enjoys film and digital photography, cycling, and served as president of Habitat for Humanity.

Chantel Charlebois

Chantel came to the University of Utah Department of Bioengineering from the University of Vermont where she was a research assistant investigating ventilator-induced lung injury.  She completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY.  Chantel was an RIT Presidential Scholar and received numerous academic awards and scholarships.  At the U, she will be working with associate professor Christopher Butson in the area of deep brain stimulation for the treatments of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.  Chantel worte, "I enjoy research at the boundary of engineering and medicine where advancements in engineering and methodology have the potential to have a profound impact on healthcare."  In her spare time Chantel enjoys a variety of outdoor activities such as horseback riding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking and sailing, among others.

Bradley Jacobsen, MD

Dr. Jacobsen is a first-year ophthamology resident at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah.  He plans to focus on the retina and the treatment of retinoblastoma--a type of eye cancer most common in children.  Jacobsen earned his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine and completed a general surgery residency at Baylor College of Medicine.  At UC Irvine, Jacobsen founded the International Ultrasound Project, which uses medical students to teach ultrasound and conduct research in Mwanza, Tanzania.  He also received a $60,000 John Tu grant to initiate what hs now become an integrated medical education course at a Mwanza medical school.

Jacobsen's many research projects range from investigating alternative treatments for patients with retinoblastoma to the feasibility of using ultrasound as a diagnostic imaging device in low-resource settings.  He plans to continue his research at Moran, combining it with his passion for furthering high_quality care in underserved and resource-limited areas.

2016 - 2017 Scholars
Alex Jafek

Alex completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering with a minor inmathematics at Brigham Young University. At the University of Utah, he is engaged in microfluidics research with Professor Bruce Gale, where he will be focused on advancing the understanding of exosomes function as a promising approach to cancer vaccines and therapeutic delivery vehicles. Alex hopes to devote his future to research a way of contributing to the world through scientific advancement and discovery. As an undergraduate, Alex worked on submarine acoustics and water surface measurements, intelligence gathering via satellites, and providing humanitarian aid through the development of a low-cost prosthetic limb. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society.

Marcus Perry

Marcus Perry was an exemplary student in chemistry at Westminster College. While he always intended to pursue graduate studies, Marcus accepted a position in industry to gain experience and help focus his interests. As a pharmaceutical chemist at Pharmatek Laboratories in San Diego, Marcus discovered his passion for materials science and engineering, especially in the characterization and development of novel materials. In addition to his active engagement in undergraduate research in computational chemistry and molecular modeling at Westminster, Marcus played on the Men’s Varsity Basketball Team and was named captain in his senior year. Marcus is currently working with Assistant Professor Taylor Sparks on the on the discovery, synthesis, and characterization of new materials for energy applications.

Amanda Reynolds

Amanda Reynolds completed a BS in biochemistry at the University of Florida in Gainesville. As an honors undergraduate, Amanda mastered advanced research techniques in fluorescent microscopy where she created protocols and ran her own experiments working as a research assistant in the Materials Science Department and Veterans Affairs Hospital. As a graduate student in Bioengineering, Amanda researches the properties and uses of Collagen Mimetic Peptides in drug delivery and imaging applications. She aspires to a career in pharmaceutical research.

Amanda receives continuing support from the Roche/ARCS Foundation Scholar Award in Life Sciences.

Rebekah Gensure

Rebekah Gensure graduated summa cum laude in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University, followed by graduate school at Rutgers University, receiving the PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2013 and MD degree in 2016. Rebekah performed her PhD thesis research with David J. Foran, PhD at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Rutgers University Center for Biomedical Imaging and Informatics. Using 3D tumor characteristics, she developed a prognostic tool for treatment planning and response assessment to radioembolization therapy in patients with liver cancer. Returning to the medical school curriculum, Rebekah served as a Vision Research Scholar in the Wills Eye Hospital Research Department under the direction of Julia A. Haller, MD and Lisa Hark, PhD, where she made significant contributions to a $3 million grant submission to the Department of Defense for the use of trans-corneal electrical stimulation for improvement of ocular dysfunction in patients with traumatic brain injury. Her remarkable research productivity includes eight peer-reviewed journal articles and 13 conference proceedings /abstracts.