Current Scholars

ARCS Foundation Pittsburgh is honored to present awards to outstanding scholars chosen by the scholar selection committee at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University.  A Pittsburgh Chapter Scholar receives $15,000 in support, payable over three years at $5,000 per year, or until the completion of his or her doctoral degree, whichever comes sooner,  provided the scholar maintains established criteria for continuation.

Third Year Scholars
Christopher Lee Hughes
The Beukema-Wainwright-Wood Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: In my free time, I enjoy playing guitar and video games. I also often find myself exploring the great city of Pittsburgh with friends and colleagues.
Research: Electrical stimulation in the human brain for the restoration of tactile perception.
  • Our lab aims to restore the sensation of touch to those who have lost it.
  • We electrically stimulate the somatosensory cortex to evoke sensations of touch.
  • I aim to improve our understanding of how this works so we can improve the resolution and naturalness of evoked sensations.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Ford Fellowship Honorable Mention
  • EGSO Travel Award
  • Bevier Award, Pitt Recruitment Poster Award
  • BCI Society Student Award
Alyssa Lawler
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Biological Sciences
Personal: I enjoy dancing ballet, playing the ukulele, and practicing yoga.
Research: Neuroscience and Genomics
  • I seek to understand the gene expression and epigenetic landscape of different types of neurons in the brain. Using this information, I assess how different cell types participate in neurodegenerative  disorders such as Parkinson's Disease.
  • In addition, I use machine learning to engineer new technologies for fluorescently labeling specific subtypes of neurons in vivo in the mouse brain.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award
Tyler Meder
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: I taught myself guitar and bass during high school and undergraduate college and have played in venues including the House of Blues in Cleveland.
Research: Peripheral nerve repair, specifically by using an injectable hydrogel meant to modulate the immune response to be more constructive rather than destructive.
  • This product is also being specifically designed with an aged component in mind as the immune system changes with age, so I am focusing on performing in vivo studies using both young and old animal models to ensure product efficacy independent of age.
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Bioengineering Department Bevier Award
  • First prize at the 7th Annual Regenerative Rehabilitation Symposium;  awarded with the Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine Training Grant.
Ziv Scully
The Roy and Susie Dorrance Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Computer Science
Personal: I love music and learning to play new instruments—most recently tenor sax and  electronic drum pad.
Research: Queueing theory – the study of all sorts of systems that involve queues, lines, or waiting—for example, how to manage line lengths at a grocery store.
  • I work on scheduling, which reduces the time customers wait by cleverly deciding the order in which to serve them — for example, by having a fast lane for customers with only a few items in their shopping cart.
  • Traditional scheduling assumes that each customer has one shopping cart; my research tackles the trickier case, analogous to customers having many carts each.

Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Winner of IFIP PERFORMANCE 2018 Best Student Paper Award
  • Finalist of INFORMS APS Best Student Paper Prize
  • Recipient of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Michelle Scribner
The Fromm-Payne-Stockman Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Microbiology and Immunology
Personal: When I’m not in lab I enjoy running and kayaking around Pittsburgh.
Research: The evolution of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens during chronic respiratory infection in cystic fibrosis patients.
  • To study this, I evolve clinically relevant bacterial pathogens in the laboratory in the presence of antibiotics and using DNA sequencing to determine what mutations result in resistance.
  • I will also be collecting sputum samples from cystic fibrosis patients over time and analyzing how different antibiotic treatments impact the evolution of these pathogens within patients.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • NIH training grant in Molecular Microbial Persistence and Pathogenesis
  • Received a Best Poster award at the 2018 BGSA Symposium
 
 
Alex White
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Personal: My hobbies include exercising and golfing.
Research: I work in Jean-Pierre Vilardaga’s lab studying G-protein coupled receptor signaling biology.
  • I study the parathyroid hormone receptor using a variety of optical approaches.
  • I am currently investigating previously undescribed mechanisms regulating parathyroid hormone receptor signaling.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Cotswold Foundation Fellowship
Katherine Ye
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Computer Science
Personal: I do improv with the Steel City Improv Theater, and I can make a mean vegetarian dinner!
Research: My work applies techniques for programming language design and domain-specific language design to invent declarative and principled modes of information visualization.
  • I am building Penrose, a platform that enables people to create beautiful diagrams just by typing mathematical notation in plain text. Check out http://penrose.ink/
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • My research received press coverage on the Princeton University homepage
  • I interned at Google Brain, summer 2017
  • Finalist for Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship
Diana Zhang
The Alicia M. Avery and Virgil D. Gligor Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Personal: I enjoy hiking, cooking, and listening to podcasts.
Research: Sensing using commodity wireless communication devices.
  • Currently, I'm investigating what can be learned from the emerging ubiquity of smallsats. With the cubesat market projected to be at 33.4% by the year 2022, we are working on identifying what can be learned from these satellites to benefit the everyday consumer. Using only channel data from these smallsats, we seek to sense information such as atmospheric conditions and client location.
  • Previously, I’ve worked on using the same WiFi cards as in your phone or laptop to detect and identify the material of objects in the environment to allow for safer drone navigation in urban environments.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Michel E. and Kathy Doreau Graduate Fellowship in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Zoe Wright
The PPG Industries-Templeton Award
Carnegie Mellon University

Mellon College of Science
Chemistry
Personal: I love to garden and go for long bike rides on tree-lined gravel roads. I commute to CMU by bike all year round.
Research: Designing new medical adhesives from the molecular level up, using principles from both organic chemistry and materials science engineering.
  • Synthesize new molecules that react to the presence of water, to deliver drugs to specific parts of the body.
  • Incorporate my new molecules into existing medical adhesives to allow localized drug delivery, and improve the strength and durability of the adhesives.

Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Best Presentation Award, International Symposium on Biorelated Polymers: Innovation in Biomedical Polymers, 255th ACS Nat’l Mtg (March 2018) 
  • Department of Chemistry Graduate Teaching Award (May 2018)
Second Year Scholars
Mason Donnell
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Cellular and Molecular Pathology
Personal: I auditioned for the Pittsburgh Bach Choir and currently sing as a Tenor for the performance art group. I also volunteer for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and run a newsletter titled "The Justice Report," a bi-weekly report on national and state-level criminal justice reform. Aside from my community service, I am interested in the clinical benefits of diet, botanicals and exercise in the treatment and prevention of chronic disease. I enjoy hiking, meditating, and I regularly practice yoga.
Research: Within Dr. Tim Oury’s lab, I study the immunology of asthma and cystic fibrosis (CF). We are investigating the receptor for advanced glycation products (RAGE), which is highly expressed within the lung epithelium and regulates pathways of inflammation.
  • RAGE is a newly characterized pattern recognition receptor found to be most prevalent within the lung epithelium. Our investigations and others suggest RAGE is required for release of danger signals in inflammation, such as interleukin-33 (IL-33).
  • IL-33 subsequently activates innate lymphoid cells that express and release type-proinflammatory cytokines, IL-5 and IL-13. These cytokines lead to eosinophilic inflammation and mucus metaplasia in the lung. Both IL-5 and IL-13 are seen at high levels in infectious CF mucus biofilms. Though, how RAGE regulates this inflammation in CF has not been determined.
  • Elucidating these mechanisms will contribute to the understanding of the pathogenesis of not only CF, but other lung inflammatory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • The People’s Choice Award for my research at the Department of Pathology Retreat (2018).
  • Elected to be the Cellular and Molecular Pathology Representative for the Biomedical Graduate Student Association (BGSA) at The University of Pittsburgh. As the CMP Representative, I helped coordinate the annual BGSA Symposium and volunteered at the Mars Elementary School Science Fair.
Samuel Foley
The Hans and Leslie Fleishner Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Physics
Personal: In my free time I enjoy exploring my new home city of Pittsburgh, spending time with fellow graduate students, and running.
Research: Biological Physics, specifically in theoretical and computational modeling of lipid membranes.
  • This includes coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation of lipid bilayers, as well as methods from continuum-elastic (Helfrich) theory.
Stephanie Frisch
The McGough-Dunn-Unkovic Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Nursing
Department of Acute and Tertiary Care
Personal: I love to travel the world. I enjoy running and doing anything outdoors. I also love to spend time with my growing family.
Research: Development of models for recognition and prediction of critical illness early in the disease course.
  • My current work consists of developing a new triage tool for emergency department patients using data mining and natural language processing.

Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Pre-doctoral Fellow: T32 Technology Research in Chronic and Critical Illness
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Future Nurse Scholar  (received the same time as ARCS)
  • Emergency Nurses Association Foundation Grant
  • University of Pittsburgh: Newmeyer-Thompson Doctoral Student Award
Christopher Kottke
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Theoretical Chemistry
Personal: When not performing research, grading, or doing homework I enjoy reading a good book with a hot cup of coffee. I am also a budding amateur cook and enjoy experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen. 
Research: Biological systems modeling, drug design, and machine learning.
  • My current research concerns computational modeling of biological systems. Specifically I am using molecular modeling to study the ion selectivity of ion channels in neurons.
  • I am also working on a project that models the physical forces involved in the motion of proteins; especially ion channels.
  • A new project is being pursued which attempts to extract causal relationships between the movements of proteins in simulations
  • These areas of research are significant to understanding the transport of materials into brain cells. This may aid in the delivery of medication to these cells for uses in treating neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Thomas Magelinski
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Societal Computing
Personal: I enjoy playing basketball, yoga, reading, hiking, and traveling.
Research: Computational analysis of social systems, currently focused on The Ukrainian Government.
  • Dynamic network analysis
  • Finding important politicians through their voting connections.
  • Grouping politicians to see who is really working together.
  • Legislative forecasting.
Amanda Quay
The Berdik-Unkovic Award
Carnegie Melon University
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Dept. of Engineering and Public Policy  and Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Personal: I skate on the Steel City Roller Derby team.
Research: Remotely sensed data for environmental policy analysis at the Water-Energy-Food Nexus.
  • My current project examines crop-switching behavior due to soil salinization in Californian agriculture during the recent extreme drought.
  • I use satellite imagery as a high-resolution option to quantify various environmental factors (e.g., salinity, precipitation, surface water).
  • Satellite imagery is an excellent option for acquiring vast, detailed data across entireregions, and is well suited to Machine Learning techniques.

Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Accepted into the dual PhD program (adding Civil and Environmental Engineering to PhD studies)
Gary Yu
The Burke-Harter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: I enjoy growing succulent plants, going to the gym and reading in my spare time.
Research: Current standards for treating heart attacks inadequately remove clots in microvessels, resulting in poor patient outcomes.
  • My work involves developing the use of therapeutic ultrasound and injected lipid microbubbles to physically destroy microvessel clots and restore blood flow as a minimally invasive therapy.
  • I am also developing other clinical applications for this technology based on its ability to lower inflammation and oxidative stress, including peripheral vascular disease and sickle cell disease.
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering Bevier Award
  • Cardiovascular Bioengineering  T32 Training Grant
First Year Scholars
Abigail Allen
The Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Personal: I enjoy hiking and traveling to concerts throughout the Midwest.
Research: The role of profilin1 in migration and proliferation of cancer.
  • I am investigating over/under expression of profilin1 in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) using in vitro models.
  • Overexpression of profilin1 is correlated with poor prognosis in RCC.
  • Improving our understanding of how changes in profilin1 levels affect RCC progression may suggest novel therapeutic methods.
Michael De Zeeuw
The Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
College of Engineering
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Personal: I play the guitar and drums, and I was a percussionist in the Wind Ensemble at Calvin College. 
Research: Developing different cameras and imaging systems to solve complex imaging problems.
  • I am currently researching the application of a light-field camera to generate high-resolution reflectance maps of different objects in a scene, which can be used for fine-grain material detection of objects in the scene, among other things.
Kevin Edelson
The Martin-Ragni-Stover Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Robotics Institute
Personal: I enjoy listening to and playing music (guitar, piano, drums). I also enjoying playing hockey.
Research: I am researching robot autonomy for autonomous exploration and scientific discovery.
  • Researching high dimensional constrained planning to improve information gain
  • Developing methods for automatic data understanding
Stephanie Helman
The Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Nursing
Personal:  I am a mother of a vibrant 2 year- old little boy. In my free time, I enjoy entertaining and trying new recipes. 
Research: I will be investigating how temperature behaves in premature infants when their artificial heat source is disrupted. I hope to achieve the following: 
  • I will use premature infant temperature patterns during artificial heat disruption to predict the onset of cold stress and hypothermia.
  • I will investigate the short term and long term outcomes of cold stress and hypothermia in premature infants. 
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Granted the Corrine M. Barnes scholarship through the University of Pittsburgh- School of Nursing
  • NIH T32 Technology Predoctoral Fellow 
Angela Hinchie
The Elliott-Hotopp Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program
 
Personal: I enjoy doing Alley Cat bike races in my free time, long hikes (but not camping), and traveling around new countries with no plans.
Research: Cardiovascular and metabolism research.
  • In my current laboratory rotation, I am studying the effects of adropin analogs on glucose metabolism, and looking at whether adropin treatment may be beneficial in cardiac ischemia and reperfusion.
Amber Horvath
The Heppner-Testoni-Thier Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Personal: The past two summers I traveled to Japan for 2 weeks. Both times it was absolutely incredible and I implore anyone else who has the means to go visit.
Research: I study application programming interface usability by investigating user’s mental models. These mental model investigations will allow us to design more intuitive interfaces for the underlying system. I am currently in the process of designing an interview study.
Deepa Issar
The Thomas-Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Medical Scientist Training Program
Personal: I play soccer and enjoy traveling.
Research: I study how neural activity and hemodynamic signals in the brain’s visual system are related to inform better diagnostics and treatment of brain disorders and injuries.
 
Eric Lopato
The Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Department of Chemistry
Personal: I speak German and French and have spent some time living in Germany and France.
Research: Using machine learning to understand photo-catalytic activity.
  • I am working on photo-catalyzed hydrogen evolution reactions in parallel, and using machine learning to identify a structure functional relationship in photosensitizers. 
  • These systems will allow us to produce clean hydrogen fuel using only sunlight. 

Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Joseph A. Solomon Memorial Fellowship
Adam Smoulder
The Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
College of Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Personal: Most of my free time goes to music:  I play drums, electric bass, and some ukulele.
Research: Revealing the structure of neural variability during motor learning.
  • I am analyzing experimental data to determine how different task contexts affect learning and neural variability.
  • These results hope to elucidate the role of neural “noise” in motor activity and may provide principles for accelerated neural rehabilitation and brain computer interface implementation in the future.

 

Sara Springer
The Bruschi-Hoffman-Wagner Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Center for Neuroscience
Personal: In my free time I read, write, and hike. I spent a lot of my younger life exploring caves and writing poems.
Research: Molecular, cellular and circuit-level dysfunction contributing to psychiatric disorder.
  • First year rotations have included studying gene silencing in a bipolar model, circuitry underlying OCD-related behaviors in mice, and GABA neurotransmission.
Kevin Stieger
The Gookin Family Foundation Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Department of Bioengineering
Personal: I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, snowboarding, and generally spending time outdoors.
Research: Mechanisms of electrical stimulation of the central nervous system.
  • I will be using in vivo multiphoton calcium imaging and electrophysiology to investigate how electrical stimulation affects neural and glial populations.
  • Investigating and characterizing the neurobiological response to electrical stimulation can help us learn more about neural circuits, movement disorders, and eventually develop implantable prosthetic devices to restore vision or somatosensation.

Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Department of Bioengineering Bevier Award
Zoe Wellner
The Fine Foundation Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Mathematics in the Algorithm Combinstorics and Optimization program
Personal:  I enjoy painting and drawing and love to dance.
Research:  I work in topological combinatorics which simply put, means using shapes and symmetries to count things.