Fellowship Supports Innovative Arizona Student Researchers



To face the competitive global market and the complex problems of the 21st century, American engineers need as much support as possible to overcome the challenges they face.

The Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, or ARCS, understands that the next generation of scholars must receive appropriate support to advance science and technology in the United States. The foundation achieves this by providing financial awards to academically outstanding students in science, engineering, and medical research.

This year, a record 21 Arizona State University students were named ARCS Fellows, 13 of whom are pursuing studies at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Since 1975, the Phoenix Chapter of ARCS has provided more than $6.6 million in support to 1,052 graduate students attending Arizona public schools. Recipients receive $8,500 administered by ASU Graduate College that can be used for anything students need to support their research. This year’s fellows conduct research in a wide range of areas, including access to clean water, data science, cybersecurity, brain health and disease risk assessment. Each of these students has different individual goals and obstacles to overcome, and the ARCS scholarship helps them meet the challenge.

great expectations

“I was raised on the poverty line by immigrant parents from vulnerable rural communities without access to clean water, plumbing and education,” says Aide Robles. “I grew up listening to the stories of their struggles, and my family’s struggles became the main driver of my choice to pursue an undergraduate degree in civil engineering with a specialization in hydrology. I was motivated to make sure everyone had access to safe drinking water.

After graduating from Northern Arizona University with a double major in Spanish and civil engineering, Robles chose to pursue master’s and doctoral studies in environmental engineering at ASU after meeting with her academic advisor, Anca G. Delgado, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Fulton Schools, and research fellow at ASU’s Biodesign Institute’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology.

Robles is using the ARCS Fellowship to support his work on user-inspired technology for bioremediation, the process of decontaminating a polluted site by introducing microorganisms. His research focuses on the bioremediation of chlorinated contaminants in groundwater and soil.

By developing and optimizing a new bioremediation technology that uses the metabolic process called chain elongation, Robles will help both industry and government entities remove toxic contaminants from groundwater and subsoil.

Knowledge sharing in machine learning

Tyler Sypherd, Electrical Engineering

ARCS Fellow Tyler Sypherd used part of his funding to present the results of his machine learning research – detailed in his paper, “Being Properly Unfit” – to an expert audience around the world at the International Conference. of 2022 on machine learning.

After earning his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at ASU, Sypherd became interested in exploring the fundamental limits of data and machine learning.

“I was motivated to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering at ASU to learn how to model the most efficient compression and communication system we know of: the human brain,” says Sypherd. “My research is in the field of machine learning, where the goal is to imbue algorithms with intelligence and the ability to learn from data.”

Sypherd made extensive use of ASU’s research computing resources in this pursuit. Its goal is to improve the robustness of machine learning algorithms for a wide range of classification problems with achievable practical utility. The results he has obtained so far suggest that the metrics used by these algorithms would be more efficient if they employed metrics from the field of information theory.

Sypherd hopes his research will provide data scientists and machine learning engineers with a new tool to shape the learning process of machine learning algorithms.

User-friendly cybersecurity

Danielle Jacobs

Danielle Jacobs, IT

Danielle Jacobs is using her ARCS Fellowship to subsidize the time she spends developing a user-friendly tool to assess a consumer’s risk of cyber harm.

As the number of smart devices in our lives increases, from smart cars to smart refrigerators, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average person to manage their cybersecurity. Before returning to school to pursue a doctorate in computer science at the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, Jacobs worked in cybersecurity and noticed how much resource industries spend on their own protection. in cyberspace.

“I realized that in the industry, they have whole teams and a structured way of knowing what their risk is and how to mitigate it,” says Jacobs. “If average consumers try to do research themselves, there’s so much information out there that it’s hard to make head or tail of it and figure out what to do. So one of the things I try to do in my research is to develop a composite index.

This composite index will be in the form of a survey, asking users about their use of smart devices and assessing potential risk areas. The results will assess the level of these risks and share ways consumers can protect themselves.

Take advantage of connections

Jeffrey Blanzy

Jeffrey Blanzy, biomedical engineering

Jeffrey Blanzy, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, cites the connections he made with the Barrow Neurovascular Institute, or BNI, as the most influential part of his work as an ARCS Fellow. , although financial support also played a vital role in advancing his research.

The ARCS Foundation maintains relationships with BNI researchers, which allowed Blanzy to meet neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler.

“At the start of my engineering career, one of my colleagues lost his wife following a ruptured neurovascular aneurysm. This memory was very impactful and personalized my research,” says Blanzy. “Furthermore, I am inspired by Dr. Spetzler’s research at the Barrow Neurovascular Institute. In particular, his work on cranial tumours.

Blanzy’s research focuses on the synthesis of temperature-sensitive hydrogels for the treatment of brain aneurysms. Although this is outside the scope of his current research, he also believes this gel can be used to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into a tumor, minimizing the risk of open-brain surgery.

“Although we are far from clinical trials,” says Blanzy, “it was only with the support of ASU, BNI and ARCS that we could have developed this unique biomaterial and understood its use and its application for the treatment of aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations in the brain.”

Transdisciplinary approach to research

Melanie Newel

Melanie Newell, organic design

Melanie Newell is using her ARCS Fellowship to fund larger grant proposals for what she hopes will be pioneering research in epigenetics, the study of how behavior and environment can affect how genes are expressed. .

Newell was drawn to ASU’s Biological Design PhD program because of its transdisciplinary methodology, which allowed her to merge her interests in epigenetics and conservation biology, the subject of her undergraduate degree. She chose to return to school after spending 10 years teaching STEM subjects at schools in Phoenix to pursue her growing interest in academic research.

Newell discovered the ideal convergence of his interests after meeting Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at ASU’s Biodesign Institute and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Ira A. Fulton School for Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment , part of the Fulton Schools.

The goal of Newell’s research is to take demographic data derived from sewage analysis and study epigenetic changes in a group of people to test whether they are at risk for certain diseases. She is particularly interested in neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This analysis could lead to early diagnoses for those at risk.

“This type of analysis has never been done,” Newell says. “Epigenetics has always been done with individuals. This has always been done with highly purified and carefully cultured human samples.

With the help of his advisors, Newell is eager to set a new standard for epigenetic research.

Meet the 2022 ASU Fulton Schools ARCS Scholars

Thirteen of the 21 ARCS scholars are students at Fulton Schools. See the full list of ASU ARCS Scholars on the ASU Graduate School website.

Edward Andert – Computer Engineering, School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence
Jeffrey Blanzy – biomedical engineering, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering
Emilie Briese – Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Danielle Jacobs – computing, School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence
Tyler McCarthy – Electrical Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
Allison McMinn – Electrical Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
Melanie Newel – biological design, School of Materials, Transport and Energy Engineering
William Parquet – Electrical Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
Sydney Parrish – chemical engineering, Graduate School of Materials, Transport and Energy Engineering
David Quispe – materials science and engineering, Graduate School of Materials, Transport and Energy Engineering
Robles help – Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Tyler Sypherd – Electrical Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
Elizabeth Thomas – chemical engineering, Graduate School of Materials, Transport and Energy Engineering

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