ARCS Foundation scholarships support UCSC graduate students

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Sixteen UC Santa Cruz graduate students have received scholarships worth a total of $160,000 from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation for the 2021-22 academic year. Since 1976, the ARCS Foundation's Northern California Chapter has given more than $2.8 million in scholarships to UCSC students.

The ARCS Foundation, founded in 1958, is a national organization that provides scholarships and fellowships for the country's most promising science, medical, and engineering students. This year's ARCS scholars at UC Santa Cruz represent the Science Communication Program and the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics; Biomolecular Engineering; Chemistry and Biochemistry; Computational Media; Earth and Planetary Sciences; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Environmental Studies; Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology; Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; Ocean Sciences; Physics; and Statistics. The scholars and their interests are as follows:

Daniel Droege, Chemistry and Biochemistry: Droege’s research focuses on designing and synthesizing iron-porphyrin complexes and evaluating their ability to function as antidotes for carbon monoxide poisoning. Before beginning his doctoral studies at UCSC, he worked for three years as a medicinal chemist at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases based at UC San Francisco.

Neil Hardy, Electrical and Computer Engineering: Hardy is developing state-of-art brain-machine interface technologies that can help people suffering from neurodegenerative and neuropathic diseases. He has recently developed wireless optical bioelectric probes and demonstrated unprecedented high-throughput and subcellular resolutions for sensing electrophysiological activity of cells.

William Zachary Horton, Statistics: Horton’s research interests include Bayesian nonparametrics, renewal process modeling, and functional data analysis. Currently he works on developing a fully nonparametric model for inhomogeneous renewal processes, with applications in seismology and linguistics.

Jessica Kendall-Bar, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Kendall-Bar’s research explores new techniques for monitoring sleep in marine mammals. She is working to establish and validate the use of non-invasive EEG techniques, like those used in human sleep studies, to record sleep in free-ranging, wild marine mammals for the first time. She is also a freelance artist and science communication strategist who creates data visualization animations, children’s book illustrations, underwater photography, and cinematography to accurately portray science and its role in preserving underwater ecosystems.

Justin Luong, Environmental Studies: Luong’s research uses both field and greenhouse methods to better understand how extreme drought will affect productivity, restoration, and biodiversity of highly valuable and diverse California coastal grasslands. His research also explores the long-term outcomes of grassland restoration, in which he is collaboratively working with restoration practitioners to better inform land management decisions.

Jakob McBroome, Bioinformatics and Biomolecular Engineering: McBroome is focused on studying the evolution of chromatin interactions and consequences for transcriptional regulation. His work in this interdisciplinary field effectively requires expertise in both evolutionary genomics and chromatin biology. In addition to his thesis work, he has made impressive contributions to ongoing work in SARS-CoV-2 genomics.

Brittney Miller, Science Communication: Miller has bachelor’s degrees in biology and journalism and has worked in both research labs and newsrooms. These experiences cultivated her rich passion for communicating science. Her environmental articles have been published in more than 65 publications nationwide, and she has received a 2021-22 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellowship from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Joseph Novak, Ocean Sciences: Novak measures molecular fossils to study relationships between climate, vegetation, and fire regime in Siberia. The goal is to use this fossil data to predict how climate change will alter northern ecosystems and fire activity. Novak is committed to using his research to improve our predictions of, and preparation for, the climate impacts from global warming.

McKenzie Prillaman, Science Communication: Prillaman interested in writing about neuroscience, bioethics, and science-art. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked at the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the volunteer blog editor for Art the Science. She also has an extensive background in scientific research, having studied adolescent nicotine dependence as a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Amanda Quirk, Astronomy and Astrophysics: Quirk is interested in the dynamics and evolutionary history of disk galaxies. She is currently leading studies of the Triangulum Galaxy using the largest spectroscopic dataset obtained with the Keck telescope and DEIMOS spectrograph. She is also dedicated to teaching and has participated in several education certificate programs. In addition to teaching on campus, she is the co-director of the Project for Inmate Education program.

Veronica Rivera, Computational Media: Rivera’s research in Human-Computer Interaction and Social Computing focuses on improving the well-being of platform-based gig workers (e.g. crowdworkers, ride-hailing app drivers, freelancers) in areas such as supporting career and development, designing towards physical and mental safety, mitigating the gender pay gap, and evaluating the experiences of gig workers from underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Regina Spranger, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Spranger studies how an organism’s physiology interacts with the abiotic conditions in its environment. Her research focuses on the acclimation potential of salamander physiology and how that affects their vulnerability to climate change. She is working to develop a more accurate extinction risk model for amphibians that can be applied broadly as well as to specific conservation projects, and she has already started working with two local endangered amphibians to implement these models.

Clayton Strawn, Physics: Strawn is conducting research on the circumgalactic medium, the gas surrounding galaxies. He recently studied physically motivated definitions of the processes of collisional versus photon ionization of the medium, and the agreement between simulations and observations of the boundary layer between inflowing material streams and the surrounding outflowing hot low-density gas. He is also working on a comparison between high-resolution galaxy simulations using different simulation codes with the same initial conditions.

Jeremiah Tsyporin, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology: Tsyporin has made contributions to the study of brain cancer and neural stem cells and is currently working on understanding the molecular and environmental cues that regulate the precise generation of the diverse cell types comprising the mammalian cerebral cortex, the region of the brain responsible for cognition and perception.

Madison Wood, Earth and Planetary Sciences: Wood’s research is motivated by her interest in the climate system. She uses geochemical signatures of seawater chemistry preserved in marine sediments to reconstruct past changes in the carbon cycle. Her current project is focused on carbon cycle changes and climate feedbacks over glacial/interglacial cycles.

Christina Yang, Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology: Yang is working to understand the principles that control bacterial population density and distribution in the mammalian gastrointestinal tract, and in turn, how bacterial population density modulates disease outcomes. Her research uses Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that infects the human stomach and, in some cases, leads to diseases including ulcers and stomach cancer.