Current Scholars

ARCS Foundation Minnesota is honored to present awards to these outstanding scholars chosen by the scholar selection committees at the University of Minnesota.

ARCS Foundation Scholar Awards are presented each October, and provide Scholars with $5,000 per year, for two to three years depending on the specific Award mechanism.


2015-2017 - Ben Greenberg


ARCS Scholar Award: ARCS Members

Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering


 Ben is a Ph.D. candidate studying under Professor Uwe Kortshagen in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. His research focus is renewable energy technology based on plasma-synthesized nanomaterials. He grew up in the Seattle suburbs, received his B.A. in mathematics from Pomona College in 2009, and taught high school math and science before beginning his graduate studies in 2012.


2015-2017 - Amanda Hayward

Ron Edstrom ARCS Scholar Award

Field of Study: Biochemistry


Amanda is a third year graduate student in the Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB) department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She works under Dr. Wendy Ryan Gordon, where she studies how cells sense and respond to mechanical force.  Amanda’s research interests include X-ray crystallography, biochemistry, and biophysics. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry from University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana.


Amanda strives to inspire young scientists and is very appreciative to the ARCS foundation for assisting in this goal. When she isn’t in the lab, she enjoys reading, running, and playing computer games.


2015-2017 - Chris Korenczuk


Richard Pyle, MD, ARCS Scholar Award

Field of Study: Biomedical Engineering

Chris Korenczuk is a second year Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Since the completion of his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University, he has begun his graduate work in the lab of Dr. Victor Barocas, studying soft tissue mechanics. His research focuses on studying the failure mechanics of ascending thoracic aortic aneurysms through experimental testing and computational modeling. The results of this research look to provide better mechanical characterization and stronger failure criteria for ascending thoracic aortic aneurysms, which are currently not well understood.

Chris looks to pursue a research career concentrating on soft tissue mechanics, particularly the cardiovascular system. He is immensely grateful for the support the ARCS fellowship will provide in helping him develop and grow as a researcher. In his spare time, Chris enjoys playing hockey, reading, and cooking.


2014-2017 - Amy Hauck

Roche/ARCS Foundation Award

Field of Study: Biochemistry

 Amy Hauck is a third year Ph.D candidate in the laboratory of Dr. David Bernlohr in the Department of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics (BMBB) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  Amy received her BA in biology from the University of San Diego.  Shortly thereafter Amy moved back to her home state of Minnesota where she worked for two years as a junior scientist at the University of Minnesota Genomics Core before she began her graduate studies in the Bernlohr laboratory.


2014-2017 - Beth Annoni

Roche/ARCS Foundation Award 

Field of Study: Biomedical Engineering 

Beth Annoni is a first year graduate student whose reserach interests include biomedical imaging and instrumentation. She plans on working at the interface between engineering and the life sciences, specifically biomedical image processing and bomedical signal processing. 


2014-2017 - Mark Hamilton II 

Roche/ARCS Foundation Award

Field of Study: Biomedical Engineering

With a M.S. degree in Biomedical engineering from Purdue University, Mark is in his first year of his Ph.D studies at the University of Minnesota. His desired area of research is neuorengineering and the development of neural prosthetic devices. His research focus is improvement of quality of life by combining ideas from engineering and classical biology and physiology. 


2013-2015 - Kianna Gedwillo

Richard Pyle, MD, ARCS Scholar Award
Field of Study:  Biocmedical Engineering

Kianna Gedwillo is a second year PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Minnesota.  She graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biology from Iowa State University in 2012.  It was here that she reconciled her engineering background with a profound interest in medicine, and made the decision to pursue biomedical engineering.

Kianna works with Dr. Paolo Provenzano, and her research is focused on characterizing the microenvironment of pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death.  Existing treatment options for this disease have limited efficacy, due to the unique microenvironment of pancreatic cancer.  Kianna's research is aimed at improving efficacy of drug delivery to these tumors through targeting of microenvironmental factors produced by pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs).  PSCs are responsible for excessive collagen deposition and contractility that contribute to the grossly elevated intratumoral pressure characteristic of pancreatic cancer.  By understanding the unique challenges facing small molecule delivery to pancreatic tumors and subsequent distribution within the tumors, Kianna hopes to develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat this devastating disease.

Kianna is very grateful for the opportunity to be an ARCS scholar and for the financial support it provides for her and her research.  She is excited to be a part of this valuable foundation with a rich history of celebrating scientific effort across a wide variety of fields and a diverse group of people.When not doing research or schoolwork, Kianna enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, reading, spending time with friends, eating good food, and especially dancing.


2013-2015 - Joshua VanderHook

ARCS Scholar Award: ARCS Members
Field of Study:  Computer Science & Engineering

Josh is pursuing a PhD in Computer Science, under the guidance of Dr. Volkan Isler at the University of Minnesota. His research involves designing autonomous robots that can assist in surveying and data-gathering in remote areas or over long time frames.

Currently, he is designing deployment schemes for autonomous watercraft to monitor lakes for invasive carp. Invasive carp dominate local ecosystems, overwhelming native fish, destroying plant life, and causing serious damage to water quality.  Poisoning or quarantining waterways is controversial and potentially damaging. Instead, biologists have begun placing radio-transmitters on the carp to identify where groups of carp tend to linger. In these areas, simple netting can remove over 90 percent of carp populations from lakes. However, localizing radio-tagged fish is a time-intensive process for humans; to monitor many lakes or larger lakes would require too many man-hours to be affordable.

Josh and his advisor expect robots to enable scalability.  To address this solution, Josh's research focuses on two major components: algorithm design and large-scale field testing.

Josh comments, "What separates these exciting new opportunities from past applications of robotics is their unstructured nature: Inside we can control the environment; outside, we cannot. What drives my research is the development of planning algorithms to enable mobile robots to work in unpredictable environments. It is a privilege to work on cutting-edge research which has a very useful application in my own community."


2012-2013 - Jackie McCourt

Ron Edstrom ARCS Scholar Award
Field of Study:  Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics

Jackie McCourt is a third year graduate student at the University of Minnesota in the department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. She received a B.S. in 2010 from Azusa Pacific University in southern California where she studied Biochemistry and developed a love of proteins. Before pursuing her graduate career at the U, she worked at a small DNA sequencing company in Los Angeles where she gained invaluable experience and perspective in the field of personalized medicine.

At the U, she returned to her passion for proteins in the lab of Dr. James Ervasti studying the biophysical properties of the protein dystrophin and its role in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). She studies the biophysical consequences of sequence mutations and deletions on the stability of dystrophin and the implications these changes have on the development of current gene therapies for DMD.

Jackie is driven to develop both her research and teaching skills here at the U and pursue a career as a professor in order to inspire and train young scientists, as her professors have inspired her. She is very grateful to the ARCS foundation for its generosity and commitment to supporting students like her.

When she isn’t in the lab or studying for classes, she enjoys reading, biking, music, watching basketball, and hanging out with her family. 


2011-2012 - Nessa Johnson

  • ARCS award: ARCS members
    Field of Study: Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota

Nessa Johnson is currently a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Bin He in the biomedical engineering graduate program.  Nessa received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of St. Thomas in 2009, and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of St. Thomas in 2010. She is working to evaluate the feasibility and applicability of combining transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and EEG imaging in healthy subjects.

TMS is a non-invasive neuroimaging and neuromodulation technique that uses brief pulses of electricity through a coil of wire placed next to the scalp to create pulses of magnetic energy that induce focal electric fields inside the brain. These electric fields modulate local neural activity, either inhibiting or facilitating the firing of neurons in that region depending on the time-course of stimulation and the specific neural population. Repetitive TMS can induce plasticity within selected brain regions, and has been investigated as a treatment for a variety of neurological disorders.

Nessa is working to use EEG imaging combined with TMS to evaluate brain connectivity and network behavior in healthy human subjects.  Her interests also extend to other neuroimaging research topics, including EEG source localization for epilepsy and multimodal EEG and fMRI neuroimaging techniques. 

When asked about receiving the ARCS fellowship, Nessa replied: "This means a significant amount to me both personally and financially. I am honored to have been selected to as a recipient of this fellowship as a formal recognition of my academic achievements. As a woman in engineering, I also feel privileged to be supported by a foundation comprised of professional women committed to advancing science and engineering. In addition to helping ease the financial burden associated with my graduate education, the ARCS fellowship will provide me with the financial freedom to attend national conferences focused on neuroimaging and neuromodulation technologies. Attending such conferences will expand my exposure to the latest developments within my field and allow me to meet and collaborate with field experts, both of which will help me further my own research. Without the financial support from the ARCS fellowship, I may not have had the opportunity to pursue such experiences."

In her free time, Nessa enjoys cooking and especially baking. She enjoys watching cooking shows on the Food Network and, after recently taking an introductory cake decorating class, she has developed an interest in creating themed cakes for her friends. She also enjoys running, reading, and spending time outside enjoying the Minneapolis lakes.


2011 - Greg LeFevre

ARCS award: ARCS members
Field of Study: Environmental Engineering, University of Minnesota

Greg LeFevre is a recent PhD graduate in the Environmental Engineering Program in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota.  He completed a BS in environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University and an MS here at the U.

Broadly, Greg’s research interests involve the use of natural and engineered treatment technologies to mitigate non-point source pollutants in water.  His thesis work focuses on the fate and biodegradation of stormwater petroleum hydrocarbons in bioretention areas, such as raingardens.  He hopes his future research can continue to connect science with service to improve the environment.

Greg formerly worked as an environmental engineer for the Indian Health Service in the Four Corners region, and also for three non-profits: Citizens For Conservation, Friends of the Teton River, and the World Wildlife Fund.  Internationally, he has participated in a groundwater exploration for drinking water development in Nicaragua, was a research aide tracking brown hyenas in South Africa, and was selected as one of twelve American participants for the 2011 US-European Commission Short-Course on Environmental Biotechnology in Switzerland.  

Greg is a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation and NSF IGERT Trainee, a U of M Graduate School Fellow, a Morris K. Udall Scholar, and a World Wildlife Fund Scholar.

Greg enjoys the outdoors and also spends time volunteering as a habitat restoration crew leader for the National Park Service.  The ARCS Foundation award and support is accepted with extreme gratitude to the Foundation and those who continue to make its work possible; this will allow him to continue his dream of working in the field of environmental research with the goals of advancing science and improving the environment.   


2010-2011 - Coty Jen

ADC Foundation Award
ADC Foundation
Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota

Coty Jen is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. In 2010, she received her BS in chemical engineering at Columbia University. 

Coty’s research background primarily focuses on atmospheric aerosols and their implications on climate change.  Her undergraduate research was done in Professor V. Faye McNeill’s group where they investigated the organic reactions taking place inside atmospheric aerosols.  Her graduate research is being performed under the guidance of Professor Peter McMurry.  She is studying the mechanisms of how aerosols are created in the atmosphere, a process known as nucleation.

During her time in New York City, Coty developed a love for world cuisines, Broadway musicals, operas, symphonies, plays, museums, and chocolates. Her interests expanded to include canoeing, hiking, and fishing during her short year in Minneapolis. Coty spends the rest of her free time reading books, traveling around the world, and cooking.


2010 - Justin Levandoski

ARCS award: ARCS members
Field of Study: Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

Justin Levandoski recently received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Graduate School Fellow and ARCS Foundation Fellow.  In August of 2011, he joined Microsoft Research. His research addresses functionality and performance issues in the area of database systems and large-scale data management applications and infrastructure.  His thesis proposed the CareDB database system, focusing on efficient algorithms and query optimization issues for embedding preference and context-aware operators inside the core engine of a relational database.  Justin has also published work in the area of non-blocking join algorithms and RDF data management.During two internships at Microsoft Research, Justin worked on enabling full ACID transaction support for cloud computing environments as part of the Deuteronomy project.  In addition to a PhD, Justin holds a BA in Computer Science from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and an MS in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota.