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 2022-23 academic year. Since 1976, the ARCS Foundation's Northern California Chapter has given nearly $3 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; Computer Science and Engineering; Earth and Planetary Sciences; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Environmental Studies; Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology; Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; Ocean Sciences; and Physics. The scholars and their interests are as follows:

Reilly Raab, Computer Science and Engineering: Raab is interested in socially responsible applications of machine learning. He is currently exploring the dynamics of prejudiced social norms in a multiagent setting as well as the long-term effects of fairness interventions using reinforcement learning. His research frames the dynamics of social disparities and sustainability as control problems in multiagent systems, combining theoretical results in evolutionary game theory, empirical approaches to multiagent reinforcement learning, and the concerns of fairness and accountability in machine learning.

Rae Taylor-Burns, Ocean Sciences: Taylor-Burns’ general research interests include climate adaptation, hydrodynamic modeling, coastal science and policy, physical oceanography, and coastal engineering. She is studying the influence of marshes on wave transformation in a sheltered estuary; the impacts of stakeholder identified marsh restoration on flooding in San Mateo County; and the interactions between marsh habitat and levee failure in San Francisco Bay.

Jonathan Philpott, Chemistry and Biochemistry: Philpott’s research focuses on the molecular details of mammalian circadian rhythms, using structural biology to draw connections between structure and function in the molecular circadian clock, which ultimately controls our physiology and behavior. His research uses biophysical methods such as X-ray crystallography and NMR to interrogate the interactions between core clock components that give rise to 24-hour rhythms.

Michael Trebino, Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology: Trebino’s research project focuses on understanding the mechanism and regulation of biofilm formation in the human pathogen Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera. Biofilm formation is important component of V. cholerae’s infection cycle, and it is controlled by integrated regulatory networks that allow this pathogen to sense and respond to changing environmental conditions. This research will provide novel insights into V. cholerae biofilm formation during infection and transmission.

Kateryne Voitiuk, Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics: Curious about how the brain processes information, Voitiuk is interested in neural interfaces, closed-loop neuroscience, and biologically inspired machine learning algorithms. Her research project involves studying neural activity in 3D stem-cell-derived organoid and connectoid models of brain regions and activity changes with closed-loop stimulus-response training. The experimental setup integrates high-density multi-electrode array recordings with electrical and optogenetic light stimuli.

Will Chapman, Earth and Planetary Sciences: Chapman specializes in understanding processes of erosion and sediment transport in rivers. His research focuses on how rivers both respond to and reflect changes in land use and climate, combining careful fieldwork, analysis of high-resolution topographic data, and big data analysis. Currently, he is exploring a fundamental problem in fluvial geomorphology: How do non-perennial rivers in arid settings move the same amount of sediment as perennial rivers in temperate settings, despite having far less water?

Jerry Tyler DeWitt, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology: Tyler DeWitt’s research is focused on discovery of the molecular mechanisms that control cell growth and size, with the goal of understanding why nearly all cancer cells have severe defects in control of cell size. His work aims to better understand growth-dependent signaling in the context of the cell cycle and cell size control, using budding yeast as an initial model for investigation and then testing for conservation in mammalian systems.

Mays Mohammed Salih, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology: Salih studies immune response regulation with a focus on regulation through RNA and splicing. Her thesis focuses on how RNA splicing proteins can regulate the immune response and alter the transcriptional and translational profile of a cell after an infection. Studying mechanisms of immune regulation will help better understand how organisms respond to pathogens, mechanisms by which inflammatory and autoimmune diseases arise, and ways to target them via therapeutics.

Nolan Smyth, Physics: Smyth works at the intersection of dark matter, black holes, astro-particle physics, and machine learning. His research projects include exploring the impact of a period of dark matter kinetic recoupling on small scale structure; determining whether a dark QED model can produce black holes in the pair-instability mass gap; parameter estimation and potential detection of a stochastic gravitational wave background from a machine learning approach to time-series data; and determining whether a cosmic axion background is detectable from resonance of higher modes at ADMX.

Rosa Wallace Everson, Astronomy and Astrophysics: Everson is active in one of the most challenging and novel areas of modern astrophysical research: the evolution of binary stellar systems, including black holes and neutron stars. With the advent of gravitational wave astronomy, understanding the fate of interacting binary stars has become paramount. Supported by insights from local and global computational simulations of binaries undergoing common envelope evolution, Everson’s work is updating a decades-old analytical framework for predicting the outcomes of these systems.

Joseph Murphy, Astronomy and Astrophysics: Murphy is interested in what the population of precisely characterized “exoplanets” (planets orbiting stars other than the sun) can tell us about the physical processes that govern planet formation and evolution in our galaxy. He is a member of the TESS-Keck Survey (TKS), a large, multi-institution Doppler survey of promising planet candidates discovered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. His work with TKS includes observing with the HIRES spectrograph on the Keck I telescope as well as the characterization of small planets amenable to future atmospheric observations.

Francis Joyce, Environmental Studies: A restoration and community ecologist, Joyce studies ecological processes affecting recovery in tropical forests to inform restoration and conservation strategies. His dissertation focuses on factors limiting the recruitment of late-successional tree species in former agricultural land in southern Costa Rica that was restored almost two decades ago using different methods. He is also analyzing long-term monitoring data to understand how bird communities change in restored forests over time.

Matthew Kustra, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Kustra’s research focuses on cryptic female choice—a process in which females bias fertilization to favor specific males. He uses empirical work on the ocellated wrasse (Symphodus ocellatus) to understand how females can influence the evolution of male behavior and individual-based models to understand how cryptic female choice can cause speciation (the creation of new species).

Stephanie Adamczek, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Adamczek’s research focuses on the intersection between health, behavior, and fitness using marine mammals as a model system. Her dissertation work explores the fitness impacts of growth and investment into large body size and how these factors influence reproductive success and resilience to anthropogenic and environmental disturbance.

Anna Marie Yanny, Science Communication: Yanny earned a B.S. in behavioral neuroscience at Western Washington University in 2018 and spent four years conducting research on genetic cell types at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Her research comparing cell types in the human brain to those of other mammals was published in the journal Nature. Her science communication pieces have been featured in the Seattle Times and the Allen Institute news.

Sean Cummings, Science Communication: Cummings seeks to develop his skills as a science and environmental journalist, focusing on stories about biodiversity, extinction, conservation, climate change, and the intersection of human culture, psychology, and society with these topics. He also hopes to focus on longform, narrative-style journalism whenever possible. He has done reporting internships at Mountain Journal and the Santa Barbara Independent and written for the Stanford Daily and regional newsletters of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society.