The Minnesota Chapter of ARCS Foundation supports scholars from the University of Minnesota. All are selected by their respective departments and meet ARCS Foundation’s high standards of academic excellence.
ARCS Foundation Scholar Awards are presented each October, and provide Scholars with $5,000 per year, for two years.
2021-2022 Minnesota Scholars
Introducing the ARCS Foundation MN Chapter Scholars
Our current Scholars span six different departments at the University of Minnesota: Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB); Biomedical Engineering (BME); Mechanical Engineering, Civil (Mech E); Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering (CEGE); Computer Science & Engineering (CSE); and Neuroscience.
Joe ia a graduate student at the University of Minnesota enrolled in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience doctoral program. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Physics and Computational Neuroscience from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2019. Before studying at the University of Minnesota, He had research experiences in neuroscience, studying epilepsy and seizures, and bioinformatics, studying proteomic data analysis techniques. His experience developing computational models of epilepsy solidified his interest in using dynamical models to better understand the brain.
He is currently working in Dr. Cheryl Olman’s lab on research in the human visual system. His research project focuses on linking data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with computational models to better understand early visual processing in the primary visual area of the brain. His lab’s research has applications to the study of psychotic disorders and is aimed partly at understanding the neural mechanisms underpinning visual hallucinations and other sensory abnormalities in psychosis. Articulating early visual processing in computational models will allow us to make specific predictions about the causes of visual abnormalities and will hopefully contribute to understanding the link between sensory abnormalities and psychotic disorders. (View Joe's video introduction)
Courtney Hutton Pospick
Courtney's is a PhD candidate in Computer Science in the Illusioneering Laboratory of Dr, Evan Suma Rosenberg. Herresearch focuses on novel user interfaces for augmented and virtual reality. Specifically, she develops new techniques that allow novice users to fly UAVs in complex, confined spaces. She is also interested in developing accessible interfaces and interaction techniques to make virtual and augmented reality feasible for a wider spectrum of users, including individuals with physical disabilities. Broadly, this research will lower the barrier to entry for using VR and AR in a wider range of applications. By developing simple, intuitive interfaces for novice users, VR and AR becomes more attainable. Currently, AR and UAVs can be used to safely explore hazardous spaces, but this requires a highly trained operator. Making this technology easier to use will increase its deployment and potentially lead to new collaborations between augmented reality and UAVs.
She intends to pursue a career in private sector research, focusing on further development of accessible user interfaces for mixed reality environments.
Courtney and her husband enjoy biking and kayaking with our Labrador-Great Dane mix, Felix. Their dog was born deaf and they adopted him when he was a year old. He knows about 50 different commands in sign language, and his favorite things to do are sleep and chase bubbles. (View Courtney's video introduction)
Judee Sharon is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics at the University of Minnesota. She works with Dr. Katarzyna Adamala on research relating to synthetic cell systems and biological computing. She was drawn to this work in synthetic biology because of its potential in explaining how the principles of life operate. Much like we would rebuild a car engine to learn how each individual part contributes to a working whole, creating a synthetic cell that mimics a living one will (hopefully) show us how cells work. She is also working on building a primitive biological computer by tethering the concepts of Boolean logic with well understood concepts in biology. In the distant future, she hopes that biocomputing research will build toward highly integrated prosthetics, intricately programmed bacteria, and biological supercomputers.
Judee grew up in a few different towns in Northern California and attended the University of California, Berkeley for her undergraduate studies. Before coming to graduate school, she worked on soil microbiology research through the USDA and several start up companies. After finishing her Ph.D., she is looking forward to re-entering the biotechnology industry and applying her newly minted experience in synthetic cell research. The ARCS Scholar Award will enable her to attend conferences and workshops in the pursuit of her career development.
Mariah Dorner grew up in Hugo, MN and completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Mariah is currently Ph.D. candidate in the department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering (CEGE) at the University of Minnesota.
As a research assistant in the Behrens lab, Mariah is investigating the effect of biochar on nutrient removal and contaminant degradation processes in activated sludge systems. Biochar is a carbonaceous solid produced by thermal decomposition of organic biomass under low oxygen conditions and has gained a lot of attention because of its sorptive and electron-shuttling properties that can enhance microbial transformation processes. Mariah’s experiments involve the operation of bench-scale sequencing batch reactors amended with biochar, chemical analyses of water quality parameters, and the structural and functional characterization of microbial communities. While her current focus is on evaluating the effects of biochar on microbial nutrient removal in wastewater bioreactors, she plans to expand her work to elucidate the effects of biochar on the degradation and fate of contaminants of emerging concern that enter our wastewater treatment systems The ARCS scholarship will allow Mariah to obtain additional resources to help advance her research, including, textbooks, workshops, conferences, and statistical software.
Mariah stays active in her department by organizing a social group, Science Journal Club, for department graduate students and post-docs. She also serves as Graduate Diversity Coordinator (GDC) in the CEGE department. In her role as GDC, she publishes a monthly newsletter, attends workshops, and organizes events to foster inclusivity and diversity among students and faculty in the department. Mariah spends her precious free time playing ultimate frisbee, gardening, and tinkering with old bicycles.
Mathew Rynes is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He is a member of the Biosensing and Biorobotics Lab under Professor Suhasa B. Kodandaramaiah's group where his research focuses on developing technology for cortex-wide imaging in freely behaving animals and using this technology to answer questions about how brain-wide activity dynamics change during learning to navigate novel spaces. Matt's current research goals are to push technology use in neuroscience to bolster our understanding of how brain-wide activity gives rise to complex behaviors we perform in everyday life. He believes technology is at the core of progression in understanding and treating diseases as well as benefitting society in general.
Matt's background is in neuroscience; he began his studies at the University of Minnesota pursuing an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and biochemistry with an emphasis in motor systems and decision making. He then moved onto research developing materials to store bio specimens in non-cryogenic conditions to avoid the damage it causes to certain biomarkers. After this project, he moved on to pursue graduate studies in the master’s program in biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. There, he began building and characterizing tools for neuroscientists. He completed a project on adapting highly developed computer numerical control milling devices for micro-surgical procedures in small research animals.
As an ARCS Scholar, Matt will continue to push his attempts to understand the brain further, including the possible development and application of new technology. He will continue to present his work and ideas among the scientific community. He will Matt hopes that his research can help further the field of neuroscience, and hopefully some things he is able to learn about the brain can be used to help in the understanding of diseases.
Orla (they/them) is a 4th year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. They complete research in both the Human Machine Design Lab under Dr. William Durfee and in the Medical Robotics and Devices Lab under Dr. Timothy Kowalewski. Orla’s thesis work focuses on determining if there is gender bias in competency based surgical skill evaluation using both crowdsourced and expert evaluations. They are involved in the department's diversity efforts by serving as the co-chair of the Mechanical Engineering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. In the long term, Orla hopes to use this background to research competency-based skill evaluation in graduate and professional school with an intention to stay in academia. They intend to use this research along with their identity as a trans, queer engineer to promote fair practices that encourage LGBTQ+ students to pursue STEM degrees. Orla also has a background in controls engineering having worked on handheld robots, soft robotics, rehabilitation devices and measuring grip force.
Orla grew up in Park Ridge, IL and graduated in 2018 with a B.S in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University Milwaukee, with majors in Biomechanics and Mathematics. They are grateful to be awarded the ARCS Scholar award. They plan to use the money to upgrade equipment in their home office to increase productivity and towards a down payment on a house they hope to buy with their wife in 2022.