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
Dean Alderucci
Jeanne Berdik Founder Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Institute of Technology / Engineering & Public Policy
School of Computer Science / Language Technologies Institute
Personal: I love creating new technology in various fields and have been awarded several patents.
Research: Application of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to patent documents and the patent system.
  • My research applies natural language processing to cure problems in the patent system.
  • A combination of new software tools and policy changes would allow dramatic increases in the accuracy and efficiency of many processes that drive the patent system.

Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

• Inducted as a Fellow in the National Academy of Inventors

Timothy Bartholomew
The Heppner-Testoni-Young Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Personal: I am an avid sports player. I played three sports in high school and varsity football in college. Now I spend my free time playing basketball.
Research: Improving water treatment and management for the energy sector.
  • I develop computer models with the goal to reduce the cost and environmental impact of water management networks.
  • I am currently assessing a novel desalination technology that may reduce the cost and energy consumption of treating water that is 3-5 times saltier than seawater.
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • James Sprague Presidential Fellowship, 2015
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention, 2016 and 2017
  • Bradford and Diane Smith Graduate Fellowship, 2017

     

Ethan Bassin
The Chapter-Ragni-Ryan Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Immunology
Personal: Ice Hockey, Skiing
Research: Developing Treg mimicking microparticles with the goal of treating type
1 diabetes.
  • Regulatory T cells (Tregs) normally suppress the activity of other immune cells to prevent excessive inflammation, but in type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases the balance between Tregs and other immune cells is altered.
  • Treg cell-therapy faces concerns with cell stability and regulatory hurdles.
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • M.L Ratay, E.J. Bassin, S.C., Balmert, S.R. Little. An HDACi Microsphere for the Reduction of Inflammation in a Murine Model of Dry Eye Disease (manuscript submitted)
  • Interdisciplinary Training in Transplantation Biology T32 Training Grant
  • 1st Prize poster presentation University of Pittsburgh Immunology Scientific Retreat -1st and 2nd
    year graduate student
    category, 2016
Katerina Clemens
The Fine Foundation Award
University of Pittsburgh
Center for Neuroscience
Personal: In my free time I enjoy hiking and being outdoors with my dog Gustav. I’m also an amateur photographer. My photography interests include natural and urban landscapes.
Research: Visual system and how we decide to make particular eye movements.
  • I study how two brain regions involved in visual information processing and generating eye movements interact when we want to move our eyes to a particular location in our visual environment.
  • The two brain regions I’m interested in are called the Frontal Eye Fields (FEF) and visual area (V4).
Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • NSF graduate fellowship for 2016-2019
Michelle Heusser
The Freed-Jones-Meadowcroft Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: I play the French horn and enjoy swing dancing.
Research: Mechanisms of population coding in the oculomotor system.
  • I am developing decoding algorithms to predict where the eyes are looking (eventually to be implemented in an “oculomotor brain-computer interface”).
  • The developed algorithms will allow us to address questions about the neural basis of various perceptual phenomena.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Department of Bioengineering Bevier Award; Behavioral Brain (B2) Research Training Program
  • GAANN TRED SysMed Fellowship
Alexis Nolfi
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: I LOVE gardening! I also love volunteering and outreach, and this past summer I had the opportunity to help plan outreach and educational programs for students in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.
Research: Women’s health research, specifically the disease endometriosis and
the conditions of pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.
  • I study the pathogenesis of the gynecologic disease endometriosis and am trying to develop a model using cells and hydrogels to study the early progression of the disease.
  • I am especially interested in the role of the macrophage, an important cell of the immune system, in the development of the disease.
  • I am concurrently researching ways to modify the adverse events associated with the foreign body reaction when polypropylene mesh is implanted into the body for alleviation of pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Bevier Award from the School of Engineering
  • Third year as an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program fellow (received at same time as ARCS)
  • Cover art for the August 2016 edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology chosen from images in my published first-author journal article
Ryan Wagner
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Institute for Software Research
Personal: In my free time, I enjoy strength training and mindfulness meditation.
Research: Graceful degradation of computer systems in response to adversarial attacks.
  • It is a reasonable assumption that anylarge-scale computer system has already been attacked, so defenders must not only attempt to keep attackers out, but they also must figure out what to do when an attacker inevitably gets into a system. While system administrators do not know all the vulnerabilities in their systems, they do understand how the systems are architected and how adversaries move through systems.
  • My research leverages “thinking like an attacker” to generate potential paths through a system, assuming undiscovered vulnerabilities could exist. Based on thesepaths, expectations of attacker capabilities, and requirements for system functionality, my approach searches through a space of reconfiguration options to determine which architectural alternative is best at simultaneously keeping an attacker from progressing to critical functionality.
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.
Second 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
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 the development of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.
  • 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
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.
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 where customers might have many carts.

Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • NSF 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
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. Let me know if you’re interested in seeing or doing improv!
Research: My work applies techniques for programming language design and domain-specific language design to invent declarative and principled modes of information visualization.
  • Right now I am building Penrose, intuitively a magical machine that will eat a math textbook and spit out a fully-illustrated book: http://penrose.ink/.
  • I am particularly interested in designing a visual semantics for language.
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • My research received press coverage on the Princeton University homepage
  • I interned at Google Brain, summer 2017
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 traveling, learning foreign languages, cooking, and listening to podcasts.
Research: Sensing using commodity wireless communication devices.
  • I’m working on using the same WiFi cards as in your phone or laptop to detect and identify the material of objects in the environment.
  • WiFi can be an inexpensive way to sense through obstacles and around corners, which would be a useful addition to disaster relief (finding people under rubble) and autonomous vehicles (where a major issue has been identified to be seeing around corners).
Awards/Recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:
  • Michel E. and Kathy Doreau Graduate Fellowship in Electrical and Computer Engineering
First Year Scholars
Mason Donnell
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Cellular and Molecular Pathology
Personal: I am interested in the diversity of plant-based diets, their clinical benefits in the treatment and prevention of disease, and their role, compared to animal based products’, in climate change. I practice a modern form of Chinese meditation coined Falun Dafa that blends Buddhist and Taoist teachings.
Research: Within Dr. Ivona Pandrea’s lab, I am pursuing the study of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in non-human primates (NHPs) as a model for HIV infection and AIDS pathogenesis in
human beings.
  • Due to their coevolution in Africa, SIV infection in African species of NPHs is non-pathogenic and does not progress to SAIDS. Conversely, SIV infected Asian species of NHPs progress to SAIDS and model the comorbidities associated with HIV/AIDS in human beings. 
  • My focus will be on microbial translocation in SIV infected Asian NHPs to investigate how the phenomenon drives infection, immune activation, comorbidity pathogenesis, as well as to bridge the gap in understanding of how Asian species of NHPs progress to SAIDS unlike their African counterparts.
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)
Christopher Kottke
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
Carnegie Mellon University
Mellon College of Science
Theoretical Chemistry
Personal: 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.
  • 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.
  • Finding important politicians through their voting connections.
  • Grouping politicians to see who is really working together.
  • Legislative forecasting.
Michael Oddo
Pittsburgh Chapter Award
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
Bioengineering
Personal: I enjoy swimming and running.
Research: Studying the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis and chemotherapy
resistance.
  • Examining cancer cell response to alterations in mechanics and chemical cues in 2-D and 3-D environments.
  • Testing chemical interventions to enhance cancer cell sensitivity to chemotherapy.

Awards/recognition since becoming an ARCS Scholar:

  • Department of Bioengineering Bevier Award Recipient
Amanda Quay
The Berdik-Unkovic Award
Carnegie Melon University
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Engineering and Public Policy + 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 cropswitching 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
Medical Scientist Training Program
Bioengineering
Personal: I enjoy growing succulent plants, especially Haworthia species.
Research: Developing the use of therapeutic ultrasound and injected lipid microbubbles
to physically destroy microvessel clots and restore blood flow as a minimally invasive therapy.
  • Current standards for treating heart attacks inadequately remove clots in microvessels, resulting in poor patient outcomes.
  • 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