Graduate Research Fellows 2021
Hello! I am a third-year graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arizona, working with Dr. Jeong-Yeol Yoon. Our lab develops biosensors for medical and environmental health monitoring. Diagnostic tools can be expensive and time consuming, so our focus is on making these techniques more accessible. One cool aspect of this research is that it uses capillary flow in order to disperse samples throughout a paper-based microfluidic chip. Capillary flow is gravity independent, so by developing these diagnostic tools on the ground, we are also setting up a device that could one day potentially be used by astronauts and explorers in space. Currently, I am working to adapt our smartphone microscope design for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 from patient swabs. As part of the UA/NASA Space Grant Fellowship, I will work with a school in local Tucson, Arizona to introduce middle schoolers to the many facets of graduate school in Biomedical Engineering. Together we will be using the smartphone microscope to learn about antibody-antigen binding, improve our understanding of the tests being performed to detect COVID-19, and explore the exciting process of DIY science using fluorescence microscopy and 3D printing.
I am a 5th year PhD student in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, studying Saturn's upper atmosphere using data from the Cassini mission. I am a non-traditional student and got my first degree out of high school with a double major in biology and fine art. Years later, I went back to school to study astrophysics in order to pursue a career in planetary science. I am passionate about science communication and have completed a certificate in science communication here at the University of Arizona. I love those "aha" moments where a new understanding of the universe clicks and I want to help others have that same experience. A formative such moment for me was when I decided to draw the solar system with all the sizes and distances to-scale as a child. I quickly found that in order to do this I would need the better part of a ream of paper, leaving me with an intuitive sense of the scale of the universe that was awe-inspiring. My project aims to make this available for students and other members of the local community by erecting a to-scale model of the solar system along the mall from the East to the West end of campus. In conjunction with the model, I am designing a one-day undergraduate lab to bolster math skills and support students' understanding of the planets. By partnering with Flandrau Science Center, the model will also be used for outreach with k-12 classes.
I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. My research in the Bronstein Lab investigates how global warming affects species interactions and specifically mutualisms, mutually beneficial interspecific interactions. I draw upon both empirical and theoretical tools to uncover and predict how mutualisms across diverse ecological systems and ecological scales might persist in the face of anthropogenic warming. Before entering doctoral studies at the University of Arizona (UA), I was a social sciences researcher in the Department of Anthropology and The Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. In this role, I worked in an interdisciplinary team on conservation and development challenges in southern Costa Rica where I co-developed a community-based environmental leadership and education program for rural, underserved youth, and additionally helped establish baseline ecological monitoring research for a novel agroforestry project with local farmers in the region.
My UA/NASA Space Grant project will provide a year-long mentoring experience for underserved, high school-aged youth in a program built around two simultaneous parts. First, students will participate in and complete self-directed, outdoor field science research projects while learning about and engaging with the local environment. Second, students will enroll in a credit-bearing course at the UA (cost-free). This course is created specifically for the participating students and will provide an introduction to higher education, the scientific process and research, and include visits to UA laboratories and research facilities. The program will be designed to center on the students’ needs and their personal and educational development, providing them social and academic bridges towards higher education. Students will be guided and mentored on and off-campus by a team of UA undergraduate and graduate student scientists, as well local community-based agencies. Overall, my role is to facilitate sustained engagement with science alongside positive personal and social development through strengthening meaningful connections between local youth, the university, and community-based organizations.
I am a second-year master's student in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. I have been working with the Cooper Center to develop experiential science curricula for 5th graders. The Cooper Center is known for its hands-on research-based programs in science and earth education. It is more important than ever before to engage the next generation in STEM. The young inquiring minds of today will become the problem solvers of tomorrow, and there are a lot of problems to solve. By locally contextualizing issues including climate change, water scarcity, and species endangerment, we can spark curiosity and help it bloom into a passion for STEM. Whether it's through NASA's world-scale missions or field sessions in the Sonoran Desert, we strive to open up learning opportunities for our youth.
I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science. My research focuses on machine learning applications in astronomy and planetary science. I work with researchers in the Steward Observatory on classifying astronomical transients (brief, explosive astronomical events) using information about the galaxies in which those events take place. I also work with researchers in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on identifying the mineralogy on the surface of Mars and the Moon, using images taken by instruments aboard satellites rotating around those planetary bodies. I find working in this domain rewarding and meaningful because the objective of these projects is to ultimately optimize scientific observations and enhance our understanding of nearby planetary bodies in our solar system and far-reaching astronomical events.
Before coming to the University of Arizona, I attended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, graduating in 2016 with a B.S. in Computer Science, and worked as a software consultant in Richmond, VA. I've participated in STEM outreach and science communication in different facets, and enjoy supporting others to explore and learn more about science. I have participated in outreach events in STEM/Computer Science for women at the middle school and university levels. I have also participated in research in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, collecting data to identify trends in the retainment of students of different demographics in computer science. My NASA Fellowship project focuses on enhancing public trust in science via an engaging and personal podcast series featuring space scientists.
I’m a third-year Ph.D. student in the Environmental Science department at the University of Arizona. My dissertation research focuses on late Quaternary soil-landscape evolution in the Sonoran Desert with an emphasis on better understanding how desert landscape dynamics and paleoclimate influenced land-use decisions and subsistence strategies employed by pre-European contact indigenous peoples. My NASA Space Grant project involves teaching students at Tucson High Magnet School about the importance of soils and soil processes in the global carbon cycle. This project will use in-classroom lab experimentation coupled with the field study of soils at the university agricultural experiment station. The soil experiments will use easy-to-find, low-cost materials and the experimental methods will be designed, at least in part, by the students themselves. The students will also have the option to collect and analyze their own soils. The overarching goal of the project is to get students thinking about the complex natural world that exists under their feet and to inspire an appreciation for what the average person simply refers to as “dirt”.