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Washington State University Graduate School

Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS)

In 1999, Washington State University Graduate School was designated as an ARCS recipient school. The first ARCS Fellowships were awarded to the College of Veterinary Medicine through the Seattle Chapter of ARCS. The Seattle Chapter is one of twelve chapters of the ARCS Foundation which has supported graduate education in the natural sciences, medicine and engineering.

By offering financial incentives to graduate students, the ARCS program further encourages the study of science, medicine, and engineering at the most prestigious universities in the United States. Since 1958, the ARCS Foundation has awarded over $66 million to support research in the fields of science and technology. Nationally, 14 ARCS chapters support graduate fellowships at 43 universities. ARCS Foundation Fellows possess outstanding scholastic records and proven abilities, and receive multiple offers to study at other top national universities.

For more information about ARCS, please visit, the Seattle Chapter (ARCS).

2019-2020 ARCS Scholars

Hanen Baggar

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology


Hanen’s career objective is to be a researcher and maximize opportunities to develop and implement infectious diseases control. She would like to work in a research institute that has an impact on public health.

After earning her B.S. in microbiology from King Abdulaziz University – Jeddah, Hanen earned a professional accreditation certificate in medical laboratory in Saudi Arabia. She then worked for two years in medical laboratory labs, including bacteriology, hematology, blood bank and histopathology labs. Following her lab work, she came to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University and worked for a year researching Babesia bovis. During that time, she started developing her interest in vector-borne diseases.

WSU will provide Hanen the opportunity to work on human and zoonotic diseases, and the ARCS scholar award will help ease the transition into a Ph.D. program and provide a stable educational environment for my son.

Hanen’s master’s research is on the mechanism of pathogen entry into tick cells with the goal to identify their molecular pathway. As a result, there will be a better understanding of tick-borne diseases and hopefully improve tick control methods.

In her free time, Hanen enjoys long walks with her son, cooking traditional food, and traveling.

Alex Batson

Plant Pathology

Alex’s career objective is to work as a vegetable plant pathologist alongside vegetable breeders, preferably a plant pathologist at a vegetable breeding company.

Alex graduated from Western Washington University in 2015 with a B.S. in biology. During his time at WWU, he worked in a research laboratory where he studied the inhibitory effect of plant seed extracts on the fungus Aspergillus nidulans. After graduating from WWU, he worked at Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies in Seattle, where he helped develop biological seed treatments for corn, soy, and wheat. Both research experiences inspired him to learn more about how plants and microbes communicate with each other, encouraging him to consider plant pathology as a career path to explore this interest further. He was fortunate enough to begin an M.S. in Plant Pathology at the Washington State University Vegetable Seed Pathology program at the Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center. The aim of his M.S. project and future Ph.D. project are to determine what genetic factors enable the causal agent of spinach Fusarium wilt to be a pathogen of spinach.

The only region suitable for spinach seed production in the United States is the maritime Pacific Northwest, where mild, dry summers with long day length are necessary to produce high yields of quality seed. The primary biotic limitation to seed production in this region is spinach Fusarium wilt caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae. Over 120 host-specific strains of F. oxysporum are known, and recently, host-specificity of given strains of F. oxysporum has been associated with unique combinations of genes known as effector genes. Currently, it is unclear what genetically determines host-specificity to spinach in F. oxysporum f. sp. Spinaciae, thus Alex’s research project aims to identify and characterize unique regions of the genome of F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae. During his M.S. degree, it was  determined that isolates of this pathogen could be differentiated from non-pathogenic F. oxysporum isolates associated with spinach based on profiles of predicted effector genes. By characterizing these predicted effector genes and other genomic regions of F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae as part of his Ph.D. project, it should be possible to develop molecular tools that can be used to detect and quantify this pathogen rapidly, provide information to spinach breeders to increase resistance to Fusarium wilt in spinach cultivars, and improve upon our understanding of the mechanisms that define this F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae as a pathogen of spinach.

Alex chose WSU for graduate studies because he was drawn to the individuals and research in the department of Plant Pathology. The ARCS scholar award had a significant impact on his decision to attend WSU for his Ph.D. Another factor that influenced his decision to continue enrollment at WSU was the community. He did not consider other offers.

Outside the laboratory, Alex likes to spend as much time as possible hiking, riding his bicycle, running, or photographing natural landscapes. A fun fact about Alex is his family owns an inquisitive yellow-naped Amazon parrot named Pan.

Robert Christian


Robert’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. followed by research in industry contributing to neurological development.

Ultimately, he would like to work with NASA or SpaceX to monitor the effects of space radiation on the cellular components of neurons.

Robert is the oldest child of seven, and due to his parents’ divorce, I moved around the west coast several times. Instead of focusing on the hardships of constantly moving, he used the experience to analyze the differences between school systems in different states and to improve what he could while still learning new information. As he moved, one thing that remained the same was his interest in behavior and biology, which got him interested in neuroscience. Due to growing up in different environments, he also developed an interest in environmental effects on neural development, specifically extreme environments. Robert’s goal is to study the effects of environments like Chernobyl and extended space flights on the nervous system and help develop ways to combat those effects in humans. He received his undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University in psychological sciences and biomedical sciences.

Robert chose Washington State University because its Neuroscience Department is well known, but more importantly, becaise the department explores the biological research of the nervous system instead of just the behavioral component. His current research is aimed at understanding the compassion circuitry of the brain and differentiating empathy from sympathy.

The ARCS scholar award helped solidify Robert’s decision to attend WSU. At the time he was thinking of attending UMMC, where he would have research experience while working in a hospital setting.

While his hobbies include reading, exercising, and the occasional video games, he also has interests in community-based teaching projects such as teaching projects.

Holly Rose Drankhan

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology Fellow

During her Ph.D. program, Holly hopes to design tactful research approaches that provide new insight into infectious animal disease. She aspires to have a career in academia, where she can pass down her knowledge and inspire the next generation of veterinarians.

Holly completed her undergraduate studies in zoology at Michigan State University. During this time, she also fostered a passion for education and journalism. She conducted lessons for an after-school science club at Lansing elementary schools, served as editor of her university’s yearbook, and wrote copy for multiple publications with a focus on scientific topics written for the general public.

When Holly started veterinary school in 2015, she quickly became interested in veterinary pathology. She obtained a summer job at the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, where she conducted necropsies on a variety of species. During her clinical phase, she externed in Wyoming and Colorado to better understand diseases affecting domestic and wild animal species in other parts of the United States. For her combined anatomic pathology residency/Ph.D. program at WSU, her main area of research interest is infectious diseases of food animals, especially those with zoonotic potential and/or wildlife reservoirs. In addition to research, Holly also hopes to incorporate teaching into her future career as a veterinary pathologist. Veterinarians are experts in matters of both animal and public health, and Holly believes it is our responsibility to expand public understanding of risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases.

Holly chose WSU because she met many alumni of its pathology program during her externships, and they were all outstanding pathologists combining their passions for pathology, teaching, and research. She aspires to have a similar career. She appreciates WSU’s research focus on zoonotic, food-borne, and vector-borne disease. “After visiting Pullman and meeting the current faculty of the Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology Department, I knew it would be an awesome place to learn, be challenged, and grow professionally,” she says.

Holly is also grateful to have her academic achievements recognized by the ARCS Foundation and for the financial support. She was also offered residency positions at Michigan State University and Colorado State University, but the superior research program, faculty, and financial support from the ARCS Foundation influenced her decision to attend WSU.

Holly hopes to pursue a career in academia at a veterinary college with opportunities for teaching, diagnostics and research. If possible, she would also like to collaborate with federal (and possibly international) agencies working to monitor and control wildlife and food animal diseases that have impacts on public health.

In her spare time, Holly’s hobbies include hiking, tennis, travel, cooking, playing with her nieces and nephews, and playing video and board games.

Ashley Eberly


Ashley was born and raised in Virginia about two hours outside Washington DC and was homeschooled through high school—but she still had fun along the way. While she played sports the whole time, including five years of synchronized swimming, academics was her strong suit.

Ashley attended The University of Alabama and graduated with degrees in chemistry and mathematics in spring 2019. While there, she was a peer coach, helping students stay organized and on top of their academics. She also performed computational chemistry research with Dr. David Dixon. Her project was on determining properties of actinide hydroxide compounds. Through this research, Ashley discovered her primary passion and decided to attend graduate school in pursuit of a greater understanding of the actinide series. Her goal is to graduate with a Ph.D. and continue her research, either at a university or in a national laboratory.

Ashley’s current research aims to further understand the actinide elements by building correlation consistent basis sets and using them for analyzing thermochemical and spectroscopic properties of molecules containing actinides. The benefits include better environmental cleanup of radioactive waste and production of cleaner nuclear energy.

“I chose WSU because of the outstanding faculty in my field of interest, specifically Dr. Kirk Peterson,” says Ashley. Also, while visiting the school, she fell in love with the beautiful campus and the surrounding area of Pullman. She also received competitive offers from Michigan State and the University at Buffalo; however, the ARCS scholar award combined with the excellence of Dr. Peterson made WSU the best choice by far and solidified her decision to attend WSU.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys completing puzzles, exploring parks and other hiking venues, reading informative books, studying psychological typology, and interacting with every dachshund she can. She also enjoys hanging out with her husband John, who has promised to buy her a dachshund.

Elizabeth (Elis) Fisk

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Elizabeth is undecided as to whether to pursue a career in industry, academia, or another area entirely, and wants to keep an open mind as she continues her education.

“There are excellent career opportunities in many areas to put both my pathology and research skills to use,” she says.

Elizabeth received a bachelor of science in neuroscience with minors in creative writing and LGBTQ studies at the University of Michigan, then earned a DVM from Michigan State University. During her student career, Elizabeth has taken part in research involving vaccine development, allergic response, the efficacy of various surgical prep agents, and sterile struvite formation in research dogs. She hopes to hone her diagnostic skills (especially in histopathology) during her time at Washington State University, create lasting connections with colleagues, and help educate future veterinarians in diagnostic pathology. She is especially looking forward to the potential opportunity to give a lecture or two to veterinary students.

For her future research endeavors, Elizabeth would like to focus on host-parasite interaction. “Parasitology is something that’s interesting to me, mainly because of my love for invertebrates,” she says. “I actually have many pet insects and arachnids at home, and was also able to do a clerkship in honey bee medicine. The sheer alien-ness of invertebrates in comparison to every other species is fascinating to me.”

Washington State University has a large, well-established program in veterinary anatomic pathology with emphasis on collaboration between faculty, residents, and programs such as the USDA and the CDC. As someone who hopes to build connections within the field of research and pathology, this collaborative aspect appealed to Elizabeth. “I feel that a collaborative environment within a large program such as that at WSU will give me excellent opportunities to share ideas and gain different and new perspectives from many different sources,” she says. She also believes there is a strong likelihood of exposure to topics that will turn into new areas of interest for her. “WSU’s program offers so many opportunities to pursue the interests I already have, such as host-parasite interaction, aquatic animal pathology through the Aquatic Health Laboratory, and laboratory animal medicine through their status as a reference lab for the Laboratory Response Network for Bioterrorism and as a member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network,” she says.

Elizabeth considered attending Michigan State University, which only offered a stipend to attend the yearly ACVP meeting. While interviewing at WSU, several faculty members mentioned the ARCS Fellowship, and although it is not the only reason she chose to attend WSU, the generous ARCS fellowship definitely factored into her choice.

Elizabeth loves reading both fiction and non-fiction in her spare time, and enjoys writing short stories (the University of Michigan published two, and she is hoping to turn one into a full novel). She also enjoys digital art and finds it a fun and calming activity. Recently she has been printing hand-drawn animals out onto vinyl stickers and giving them out to classmates to brighten their day. She also plays electric guitar and enjoys teaching herself new songs (alternative and classic rock are her favorites). She also likes bicycling, bikes to class every day, and takes long rides at night when she can.

Brenden Fraser-Hevlin

Chemical Engineering Fellow

Brenden’s career objective is to complete his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and work as an engineer in a research position in the biotechnology industry.

Brenden completed an honors bachelor of science degree in bioengineering at Oregon State University in 2017. He previously worked on research projects where he investigated drug delivery systems and essential oil extraction methods. Currently, he is interested in researching in the areas of biotechnology, bioprocessing and biomedical engineering.

“I was inspired to pursue this path after my experience as an intern with a pharmaceutical company several years ago,” says Brenden. “Being able to observe how a product is developed in the research lab from the earliest stages was a fascinating process and something that I am extremely motivated to continue working on.”

Ultimately, Brenden is looking to make a difference in people’s lives, whether that means developing new medicines or medical devices, or developing cleaner energy sources that improve the state of the environment.

Brenden decided to attend WSU after visiting Pullman and exploring the campus. “Overall WSU has a great balance between the facilities on campus, faculty, funding options, and atmosphere. It offers an excellent engineering program and graduate program and a very strong funding package.” he says.

The ARCS award strongly impacted Brenden’s decision to attend WSU, and made the offer better than most of the other offers he was considering.

In his spare time Brenden enjoys watching sports and the outdoors, including hiking, biking, camping, traveling.

Andrew Herr

Molecular Plant Science

Andrew grew up on a small sheep farm in rural Indiana in a community heavily based in agriculture. He found a passion for agriculture and feeding the world in his local FFA chapter and used the organization to learn and develop further. He graduated cum laude with a BS in agronomy focusing on plant breeding and biotechnology from Iowa State University. His research interests include advances in high-throughput phenotyping, genomics, genetic by environmental interaction, plasticity, and prediction modeling.

Andrew was also considering offers from University of Minnesota and Iowa State University, but WSU provided more opportunities for his growth and learning than any other institute he visited.

After earning a Ph.D. with an emphasis in winter wheat breeding and genetics, Andrew hopes to enter the private sector working for a major player in agriculture-based plant genetics.

Andrew enjoys furniture design and woodwork, breeding and showing livestock, and is also very active in his local church community.  A fun fact about him is that he was born in the same town as Wilbur Wright of the Wright brothers.

Nolan Jolley

Animal Sciences

Nolan would like to become a research scientist for either USDA or private industry.

He earned a BS in animal science at Middle Tennessee State University and after working several jobs at an animal hospital, decided to pursue graduate school. Since first participating in undergraduate research, Nolan has been working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a research assistant.

“I have always had an interest in animals, and my undergrad studies heavily exposed me to agriculture,” says Nolan. “I hope to learn more about genetics and statistics to help improve welfare and efficiency of animals in agriculture.”

Nolan wanted to attend a land grant university and study genetics in animal agriculture for his graduate degree. He narrowed down his options by looking at each university’s animal science genetics research, and liked Washington State University’s the best. The possibility of the ARCS scholar award added to his decision for WSU, but finding an advisor that he liked was his biggest priority. He also looked at Colorado State University and University of California Davis.

Nolan’s research goals at WSU will be to investigate the genetic components of animal health, the complex traits of economic importance, and the genomics of fertility. He hopes to use the skills he gains at WSU to get a job using genetics and statistics to improve agriculture.

In his spare time, Nolan is a casual fly fisherman and hiker.

Brianne Jones

Molecular Biosciences

Brianne’s passion for science and learning has been largely shaped by exceptional educators and mentors. Her goal is to give back and extend her assistance to others in some fashion, combining education and mentorship into a potential career.

Brianne has lived in Arizona the majority of her life and calls it home. “I am an only child to a hardworking single mother who has been one of the best role models I could have had,” she says.

Brianne received an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in cell genetics and developmental biology. Her motivation for attending graduate school is to continue learning. “There were too many questions to be answered,” she says. “Although I am not sure of the exact focus areas at the moment, I am confident I will find them at WSU and be able to pursue worthwhile explorations.”

Brianne currently works at The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, which serves as a national test bed for large scale algal production for potential products such as biofuel or wastewater remediation. While her undergraduate studies did not heavily focus on sustainability and environmental education, she feels this research experience has given her the opportunity to understand more of the creative efforts made to preserve our planet and just how important photosynthetics are to the preservation as a whole.

When Brianne visited WSU, she felt a sense of comfort, even though she had just met everyone. “It was a welcoming feeling and I thought it would be beneficial to see it through,” she says. “I believe my thoughts and ideas will be encouraged here and that I will be given the tools to foster my own curiosity and skills, as well as the tools to help others if I so choose.”

Brianne made the difficult decision between Washington State University and Penn State University. The choice ultimately came down to where she felt most comfortable and which place she could receive the optimal balance between mentorship and autonomy. ARCS played a large role in her decision to attend WSU because it was a symbol of support for the students and a pledge to assist in their successes, which she found important.

Brianne enjoys watching movies, participating in outdoor recreation, spending time with friends, and traveling when possible. She will watch almost any film genre except horror, although one of her favorite movies is Jurassic Park—which she believes to have played a key influence in shaping her love for science—particularly life science. She also loves hiking and most water recreations, including open water diving. She has been certified for over two years and tries to go as often as possible. “My mother and I often travel out of the country during the holiday season and often end up in warm weather climates that allow for a few dive trips,” she says. “Living in the Southwest, I have been fortunate to have been in a major hub for many musical bands and artists, as well as music festivals. I appreciate most genres of music and enjoy spending time with friends this way.”

Lance Merrick

Crop Science

Lance’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. and become a plant breeder to develop new cultivars and increase the productivity of farmers, whether for a university or for private industry.

Lance grew up on a family farm in South Dakota, where he learned first-hand the needs of farmers. There he discovered a passion for helping feed people, which led him to earn a B.S. in agronomy at South Dakota State University. While at SDSU he worked in the Spring Wheat Breeding and Genetics program under Dr. Karl Glover. He determined the best way to achieve his goal was to become a plant breeder and develop crops that will help feed the growing population around the world. After graduation he traveled to New Zealand to gain more plant breeding experience and for three months worked at a winter nursery called Southern Seed Technology, where he harvested nurseries from breeding programs from all over the world.

When he came back to the US, he completed a M.S. at South Dakota State University, where his research focused on how production locations in South Dakota affected end-use quality in spring wheat. Working with wheat is what led him to study at WSU. His research interests are in the use of genomic selection and high-throughput phenotyping to make breeding programs more efficient.

Lance’s research project at WSU will focus on identifying marker-trait associations in wheat for important traits, and exploring the use of genomic and phenomic selection as a tool for advancing selection efficiency in the wheat breeding program.

“I chose WSU because it has a large and impressive wheat breeding program with a long history of successful plant breeders,” says Lance. “The ARCS fellowship greatly affected my decision to attend and was one of the main reasons I decided to turn down offers from the University of California, Davis and Oregon State University.”

In his spare time, Lance enjoys traveling and all outdoor activities such as snowboarding, hiking, camping, and bicycling.

Colleen Monahan

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Colleen’s career objective is to expand her knowledge of infectious diseases and other public health threats. With that knowledge, she hopes to become a lead scientist in a government research lab or in the biotech industry researching and developing therapeutic treatments for infectious diseases.

Colleen completed a B.S. in molecular biology and physiology at Cal State Long Beach in 2016, and a M.S. in molecular biology and physiology. Her master’s research on protein metabolism in Toxoplasma gondii was the first time mass specific rate of protein synthesis had been measured in a single cell Eukaryote. The methods that Colleen developed can be used to analyze complex biochemistry and phenotypic changes in genetically altered single-cell organisms. When treating T. gondii infections, protein synthesis inhibitors may not be effective. However, amino acid transporters or other organic material transporters may be a new and exciting area of drug treatments.

By attending various conferences and presenting posters, Colleen discovered her passion for understanding the underlying mechanisms of pathogens. She has traveled to Woodshole, MA and San Jose, CA to present posters, and also had the opportunity to travel to Japan for a marine biology course in which she learned calcium imaging techniques.

Colleen chose WSU because she likes the way the program is structured, and it was clear which faculty were interested in taking a graduate student. She also felt that the current graduate students were very welcoming and a close-knit group.

“The ARCS scholar award impacted my decision to attend WSU,” says Colleen. “When I received the offer, I felt that WSU was setting me up for success and really valued me as a potential graduate student. I also considered offers from University of Georgia, UC Riverside, and Clemson.”

In her free time, Colleen enjoys snowboarding, bike riding, salsa dancing, and swing dancing.

Kiersten Ritchie


Kiersten’s objectives in the WSU entomology graduate program are to study pollinators, specifically honey bee reproductive biology and asymmetric sperm survival in spermathecal storage. Kiersten graduated from the University of Washington in Spring 2017 with a BS in biochemistry.  One of her elective classes was an introductory entomology course, where she fell in love with insects.

Her youth was spent in the family apple orchard, where her scientific curiosity connected with crop sciences with entomology. She wants to research pollinator biology, including evolution and genetics to create more efficient ways to produce higher crop yields and protect honey bees from Colony Collapse Disorder and viruses. She plans to work closely with her adviser, and other faculty and students, to create a supportive community for herself.

“I chose WSU for the renowned study and research in agriculture and relationships with the community,” says Kiersten. “Without the assistance from the ARCS scholar award, I would not have thought attending WSU for doctoral studies would be possible. The ARCS scholar award helped finalize my decision to attend WSU. I also considered attending University of California, Davis; Colorado State University, and Oregon State University.”

Kiersten’s goals after earning her Ph.D. are to work in academia or closely with farmers in a consulting position. She intends to support WSU with her time and finances after completion of her studies, and wants to continue researching and advocating for a healthier planet and educating communities on the benefits and importance of insects.

Kiersten’s personal interests include true crime and the criminal law system. Forensic entomology on television shows kick-started her interest.  “I also love lizards,” she says. “My nickname in my entomology course was ‘The Huntress’, and my favorite local insect is the Ceanothus silkmoth. I also enjoy hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking, floating on a river with friends, camping, and country music festivals.”

Anthony Savoy

Chemical Engineering

Anthony’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. and work as a leading researcher in a sustainable energy lab for a company that has the power to change the way society consumes energy. He is also considering a professorship at a university where he would start a research group based on his interests in sustainable energy.

“I’ve moved around a lot through my life, but I’ve spent the majority of my time in Montana and really hope to stay in the western United States,” he says. Anthony started college at the University of Wyoming, but transferred to Montana State University, where he earned a B.S. in chemical engineering. He worked for a year and a half on biofuel-based research projects that studied alkaline pretreatment reactions on woody biomass and lignin solubility in organic solvents. He is especially interested in sustainable and clean energy as well as energy storage technology, such as batteries and fuel cells. After earning a Ph.D., he hopes to be a leading contributor behind the push for sustainable technology and energy. Anthony’s fiancé is also pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at WSU and the couple hope to one day collaborate and work together.

Anthony’s current research at MSU is meant to benefit the bio-refinery industry’s economic viability by assessing how effectively lignin can be converted into side products and how less severe reaction coordinates affect yields. His specific research project at WSU has yet to be determined; however, it will most likely pertain to the application of catalytic materials to convert fossil or biomass feedstocks into other valuable products, or applying catalysis to emissions. Anthony coauthored a manuscript that will be published in the near future in the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research journal titled, “Integrated Two-stage Alkaline-Oxidative Pretreatment of Hybrid Poplar. Part 1: Impact of Alkaline Pre-Extraction Conditions on Process Performance and Lignin Properties.”

“My soon-to-be wife and I love the feeling of Pullman and the people in our departments,” says Anthony. “Receiving the ARCS award made a big impact on my decision to attend WSU because it felt like WSU was investing a great deal in me, which gives me much more motivation to work harder in my program. I also received an offer of a reasonable stipend from Oregon State University.”

Anthony enjoys hiking, fishing, golfing, and camping, and almost any strategic board game. Anthony has lived in seven different states (eight once he moves to Pullman), and has visited 31. He hopes to have visited all 50 by the time he turns 30.

Stephanie Sikavitsas Johnson

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Stephanie is an epidemiologist who wants to study and research zoonotic diseases in an environment that will challenge her to be ready to step onto the international stage (for the Center for Disease Control perhaps) as a leader in zoonotic disease research. She enjoys data analysis and fieldwork equally, and wants to find a job that allows her to do both, which could include a post-doc position directly after earning her Ph.D.

“I am a Midwestern girl who thought she was going to grow up and be a veterinarian or cure cancer,” says Stephanie. She earned a B.S. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University, and fell in love with statistics and public health. She turned that passion into a master’s in public health in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she focused on dengue. After working in a pediatric research hospital for a year, she accepted an epidemiology fellowship in 2017, which placed her in Puerto Rico studying arboviruses. Then Hurricane Maria happened, which threw her life to Minnesota and switched her focus from vector-borne to zoonotic diseases.

Stephanie has a passion for zoonotic diseases, particularly rabies, and enjoys bringing her background in healthcare facilities to zoonotic disease research when possible. Her current research is looking at the cost of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in Minnesota. The aim there is to obtain a better understanding of rabies PEP and the costs across Minnesota healthcare facilities. The benefits are to help bring transparency to costs and perhaps decrease or stabilize the pricing for PEP through transparency.

“Washington State University is one of the few schools that has a specific global animal health focus and dedicated research to rabies research,” says Stephanie. “I really like the rotation aspect for first-year Ph.D. students to make sure they find the correct lab and adviser for themselves.”

The ARCS scholar award had an impact on Stephanie’s decision to attend WSU. “The prestige and potential mentorship were a factor and WSU was the best fit for me,” she says. “I also considered an offer from the University of Iowa that was tuition- and stipend-funded.”

Stephanie is a seasonal road cyclist, and is starting to do some racing. She swims during the winter months and also enjoys playing board games, reading good fantasy books, exploring new hikes and areas, and is always up to try a new brewery or winery.


2018-19 ARCS Scholars

Shannon C. Allen is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Immunology and Infectious Disease program. She is an NIH Protein Biotechnology Trainee interested in studying zoonotic diseases. In 2016, Shannon earned her bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from Middle Tennessee State University. While attending MTSU, Shannon completed an independent honors thesis in chemistry. Using bioassay guided fractionation and nuclear magnetic resonance analysis, she isolated, purified, and identified the compound responsible for anti-viral activity in Snapdragon. After graduating, she worked for one year as a quality control technician for Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories in Nashville, Tenn. performing microbiological and environmental testing. The following six months, she worked as a research assistant at East Tennessee State University studying the relationship between hypertension and kidney disease. After completing her Ph.D., Shannon hopes to become a principal investigator at a major university, conducting research and training future microbiologists. As an avid hiker and rock climber, Shannon made the most of her move from Tennessee to Washington, visiting beautiful places along the way, like Black Hills National Forest and the Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks. Shannon is an animal lover and has a pet Chihuahua Yorkie mix named Daisy.

Rowan J. Calkins is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Neuroscience at Washington State University currently performing lab rotations to find a supervisor for her PhD program. She has performed research in a variety of fields, including: the protein-localization changes and creation of a proteome for the plant Nicotiniana benthamiana under viral infection by various rhabdoviruses; work in the Alltech, Inc. Nutrigenomics lab under Dr. Ronan Power researching the effect of dietary selenium on weight gain and brain inflammation, and; research into the effect of low-dose arsenic exposure on the metastasis of cancer cells. In her current summer internship, she has performed experiments to investigate the effect of homocysteine treatment on bEnd3 endothelial mouse cells, which has indicated an increase in proliferation under treatment not previously shown. Rowan earned her undergraduate degree in agricultural and medical biotechnology with a minor in biology from the University of Kentucky, where she graduated with a 4.0 GPA. After completing her PhD, she intends to continue her education and research neurodegenerative diseases and neuron repair in either a post-doc or an industry research lab. Rowan is originally from Wedgewood, Minn., but moved to Lexington, Ky., in high school and remained there until moving to Washington in August 2018. She loves singing, has been involved in various choirs since childhood, and has gone on many national tours and two international tours to Spain and Eastern Europe with the University of Kentucky Women’s Choir. In her free time, she enjoys taking care of her fish and her dog, Apollo, videos games and fantasy stories, and spending time on or under the water either boating or scuba diving. She hopes to continue performing as part of a choir, learning the guitar, and participating in Dungeons and Dragons storytelling with her current and future friends.

Elizabeth Campbell is a first-year PhD student, NIH Protein Biotechnology Trainee, and ARCS fellow in the Immunology and Infectious Diseases Program at Washington State University. She earned a combined honors bachelor of science (biology) and bachelor of music (vocal) degree from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada. She completed her undergraduate research with Professors Song Lee and Scott Halperin at the Canadian Center of Vaccinology. Her project focused on characterizing a protein-based oral mucosal vaccine against Bordetella pertussis, and antigen-targeting as a method to enhance the immune response to vaccine antigen in the oral cavity. Elizabeth also participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program at Harvard University, Mass., in Professor David Weitz’s lab. She worked on engineering and characterizing polymer-shelled microcapsules via the microfluidic technique to encapsulate enzymes for detergent dispersions. Her contributions to the project lead to a publication and patent submission. Elizabeth also worked at BASF, a chemical company in Wyandotte, Mich., where she helped develop a research platform on the interaction between bio-active materials and detergent formulations, and contributed to the development of an application test for bacteria removal from textiles. Elizabeth will begin at Washington State University rotating with three professors and working on various projects before deciding where her thesis work will be conducted. Upon graduation, she hopes to start her career in the research and development branch of the biotechnology industry. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys traveling and outdoor activities such as skiing, sailing, or canoe tripping.

Shane Carrion is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Animal Science under the supervision of Dr. Zhihua Jiang. His graduate studies will be assisting in comparative genome biology, attempting to construct a toolset that can profile the transcriptome and its multifaceted variants to accurately predict its impact on the phenome. Shane earned his bachelor of science degree in biology from University of Colorado Colorado Springs. During his time there, he was involved in research on the role of a set of genes in the Post Mating Prezygotic barriers that had recently evolved in two sister species of flies. This was completed under the direction of Dr. Jeremy Bono, resulting in several presentations. He is planning to continue working in the field of genetics in an industry capacity upon graduation. Shane’s wife works in university research and his son is going into eighth grade. A non-traditional student, Shane has spent time working in several industries the last 11 years before discovering his passion for biology, prompting a major career change. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and animal menagerie, hiking, home projects, and playing the latest video games with his son.

Dr. Mitchell T. Caudill is a first-year veterinary resident in the Combined Residency in Anatomic Pathology/PhD program within the College of Veterinary Medicine. He received a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from the College of William and Mary, where he studied animal behavior. His research activities included summers spent studying primate communication at the Smithsonian National Zoo and San Diego Zoo, and a trip to Cameroon to study chimpanzee tool use. Additionally, while on campus he worked in an environmental toxicology lab documenting the effects of environmental mercury on songbird immune response, resulting in a publication. He completed his doctorate in veterinary medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, where he additionally researched and published on the genetic regulation within the bacteria Brucella abortus, the agent responsible for the major zoonotic disease brucellosis. In his free time, Mitch enjoys playing modern board games and spending time with his wife and two cats, Vena and Cava.

Elizabeth (Liz) W. Goldsmith is a first-year PhD student and a first-year veterinary anatomic pathology resident in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology. Liz earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Macalester College in 2007. After graduating, she worked seasonally in wildlife field research in Alaska while guiding dog-sledding trips in northern Minnesota in the winters. Liz returned to school at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to complete her prerequisites for veterinary school from 2011-2013. While there, she conducted research on the population genetics of terrestrial rabies hosts in Alaska and worked as an intern for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Health and Disease Surveillance Program. In 2013, Liz began her master of public health in epidemiology from the Colorado School of Public Health and her doctor of veterinary medicine from the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. During her time at CSU, Liz worked on collaborative research projects with Alaska Department of Fish and Game and with the National Park Service, focusing on brucellosis and rabies in wildlife populations. As a veterinary student, Liz also completed immunology research on sex-specific differences in CD8+ T-cell response to infection at Cornell University and a research project with MPI Research, a contract research organization, on injection site background pathology in rabbits used for vaccine research. After completing the Combined Anatomic Pathology Residency/PhD Program at Washington State University, Liz will work as a boarded veterinary pathologist in academia or in industry.  Liz has continued to be involved in the sled dog community, volunteering as a member of the veterinary team for the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race in 2015 and 2017 and skijoring with her retired sled dog, Drum. In her free time, Liz enjoys reading, cooking, gardening, and hiking with her two dogs, Drum and Evelyn. She also has a snuggly grey cat, Otter Pop, and recently added four chickens to her home.

Dowen Jocson is an incoming first-year PhD student in the Department of Entomology under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Beers and Dr. David Crowder.  She investigates vibrational communication in pear psyllids and how disruption in communication could be integrated in pest management. Dowen earned her bachelor of science degree in biology with a concentration in plant sciences from Saint Louis University.  During her undergraduate career, she spent two years of research comparing reproduction success and pollinators of the two color morphs of Viola pedata, which was recently published in the Journal of Pollinator Ecology. She also earned her master of science degree in biology from Saint Louis University with her thesis focusing on how temperature may influence mating behaviors such as male mating signals and female mate preference in a Hemipteran (Enchenopa binotata).  Dowen has four pending manuscripts stemming for her master’s thesis.  After completing her PhD, she hopes to work with the USDA on developing non-chemical pest management strategies.  Dowen has a red-eared slider named Michelangelo that has a huge personality.  She loves playing board games, cooking, baking, napping, and looking at bugs.

Matthew A. King is an incoming first-year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in chemistry with a research emphasis and minors in mathematics and biology from Concordia University Irvine. Matthew conducted research for seven years under Dr. and professor Kenney in the fields of spectroscopy and inorganic synthesis, with his most recent work based on binuclear chromium complexes. After completing his PhD, Matthew hopes to work in a national lab before returning to academia. Matthew enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing games, and going to museums with his wife.

Merri Metcalfe is a first-year PhD student in the Bread Lab at WSU Mt. Vernon. Her research will focus on the accessibility, quality, and affordability of grain-based products from Western Washington with an emphasis on making nutritional food more available within our communities. She completed a master of science in sport nutrition at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) in May 2018 and is a registered dietitian by trade—but a philosopher at heart. She has spent many sleepless nights thinking about why we are here, the meaning of it all, and our place in this world. She has experience working in clinical dietetics, eating disorder treatment, and sport nutrition, but most recently has been moved by the great need to improve our food system. After learning about the Bread Lab at “Grain School”, an annual event at UCCS, she was incredibly inspired by both its mission and purpose, and decided to apply to their PhD program. The rest is history. She has never been more excited for a next step. In her free time, Merri enjoys cooking—especially with local ingredients—and her favorite place to be is boating on Lake Shasta where she loves wakeboarding in the early mornings when the water is calm. Finally, in the last few months she has started to develop a slight addiction to rock climbing.

Katherine Naasko is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Haiying Tao. She is working in cooperation with the NRCS to complete a soil health assessment project, looking at physical, biological and chemical aspects of soil in the Palouse. Growing up in Michigan, she tries to include outdoor activities in her daily routine, including hiking and photography. Katherine received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Michigan State University, where she graduated as an academic scholar. She discovered the importance of chemistry in the field of agricultural sciences as she received a minor in science, technology, environment and public policy, as well as a second minor in environmental studies and sustainability. She also had a summer internship working for a soybean, wheat, and corn pathology lab studying aphids and apothecia mushrooms. In addition to field experience, she also worked as a technician in MSU’s Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory. Entering into a graduate program in the Pacific Northwest is a dream come true for Katherine. After completing her PhD, she would like to utilize her unique educational background by working for the NRCS to address issues in soil fertility and improve efficiency, sustainability and productivity to improve soil health.

Miguel Rosas is a first-year rotating PhD student in the Plant Molecular Sciences Program. Miguel earned his bachelor of science in biology from California State University San Marcos. While there, he worked under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Escobar investigating nitrate induced class III glutaredoxin proteins and their regulatory role in the primary root growth of Arabidopsis thaliana. His contribution resulted in a publication in the Journal of Plant Physiology with two others well on their way. After completing his PhD, Miguel wishes to move back to San Diego and work in the biotech industry on recombinant protein production in plants before returning to academia. Miguel hopes to one day be a professor at the same university where he attended as an undergraduate. In his spare time, Miguel likes to go backpacking with friends, have bonfires at the beach, go on hikes with his dog, read science-fiction novels, and enjoy pizza with his family.

Eduardo J. Sánchez Díaz is a first-year PhD student in chemical engineering with Dr. Jim Petersen as his advisor. Eduardo earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. While there, he conducted several research projects, the most recent for a course conducted by Dr. Omar Movil comparing the benefits that graphene electronic tattoos have over the standard electrodes. During and following his PhD career, Eduardo would like to continue developing his skills and acquire knowledge to create a better environment and quality of life for humans and nature with his research. Eduardo is an athletic student who enjoys outdoor activities, especially mountain biking, and other activities such as working on cars.

Kayla A. Spawton is a first-year PhD student at Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology under the supervision of Dr. Lindsey du Toit and Dr. Tobin Peever. She studies the ecology and management of fungal pathogens of vegetable seed. Kayla earned her bachelor of science degree in evolution, ecology, and biodiversity with a minor in fungal biology and ecology from the University of California, Davis. As an undergraduate, she contributed to research projects on sudden oak death in California’s coastal forests, soft rot of table grapes, and pitch canker of Monterey Pine. She also conducted an independent project on the insectgall diversity of a population of native sagebrush in California’s eastern Sierras. This research became her honors thesis and was later published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. After graduating, she worked as a microbiologist for three years at an agricultural biotechnology company researching plant-associated bacteria and fungi that promote crop growth. She then briefly returned to UCD to lead the California stream monitoring project of sudden oak death. After completing her PhD in plant pathology, Kayla hopes to work in university agricultural extension where she can conduct and communicate research of plant pathogens that growers are encountering. While not learning about fungi, Kayla enjoys watching films, ranging from those produced during Hollywood’s silent era to foreign new releases. She also enjoys crocheting, hiking, and listening to podcasts.




ARCS  Scholars  Archives




2003 – 2014