STEM Ambassadors

The STEM Ambassador Program began in 2016 as a training program for a small cohort of University of Utah scientists. Since then, we have grown to work with over 50 faculty, graduate students, and post-docs. Scroll down to learn about the scientists who have participated. Contact us if you would like to reach out to a STEM Ambassador.

Note that many Ambassador bios were uploaded when the Ambassador joined the program and may not be current.

Photo of Sarah Apple

Sarah Apple

Sarah works in Dr. Michael Kay’s lab at the University of Utah, where she uses the law of symmetry to design drugs that prevent infections. Specifically, her projects focus on developing D-peptide drugs that stop Ebola virus and E. coli bacteria from entering and infecting cells. She uses a variety of techniques, including peptide synthesis and X-ray crystallography, to understand the details of how D-peptide drugs bind to their targets.…Read More

Sarah works in Dr. Michael Kay’s lab at the University of Utah, where she uses the law of symmetry to design drugs that prevent infections. Specifically, her projects focus on developing D-peptide drugs that stop Ebola virus and E. coli bacteria from entering and infecting cells. She uses a variety of techniques, including peptide synthesis and X-ray crystallography, to understand the details of how D-peptide drugs bind to their targets. Sarah hopes that her work will lead to treatment and preventative therapies that protect people from disease.

Photo of Emerson Arehart

Emerson Arehart

Emerson Arehart works with Dr. Fred Adler at the University of Utah to use mathematical modeling in the study of natural systems and interactions. Emerson has a Bachelors in Math, and a background in a wide variety of topics, including designing slot machines and breeding honeybees.Read More

Emerson Arehart works with Dr. Fred Adler at the University of Utah to use mathematical modeling in the study of natural systems and interactions. Emerson has a Bachelors in Math, and a background in a wide variety of topics, including designing slot machines and breeding honeybees.

Photo of Tom Becnel

Tom Becnel

Tom Becnel works with Dr. Pierre Giallardon. His overzealous love of tinkering with the household appliances forced his parents to ship him off to the University of Utah, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Tom is now working with SCI and AirU to develop a low cost, ultra low power particulate matter sensor to further aid in monitoring pollution in the Salt Lake Valley.…Read More

Tom Becnel works with Dr. Pierre Giallardon. His overzealous love of tinkering with the household appliances forced his parents to ship him off to the University of Utah, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Tom is now working with SCI and AirU to develop a low cost, ultra low power particulate matter sensor to further aid in monitoring pollution in the Salt Lake Valley. With thousands of these sensors deployed in the valley, AirU aims to create a dense pollution map that is available online as an open source project. Tom likes to explore Utah’s wilderness with his fiancé, Dayana, and his chocolate lab, Moose.

Photo of David Belnap

David Belnap

David Belnap received his B.S. in biochemistry from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. in biology from Purdue University. Since his days at Purdue, David has used three-dimensional electron microscopy to study the structure of viruses. He has published work on papillomaviruses (human, rabbit, and bovine), polyomaviruses (human, mouse, simian, and avian), poliovirus, hepatitis B virus, herpes simplex virus, and bacteriophages (bacterial viruses).…Read More
David Belnap received his B.S. in biochemistry from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. in biology from Purdue University. Since his days at Purdue, David has used three-dimensional electron microscopy to study the structure of viruses. He has published work on papillomaviruses (human, rabbit, and bovine), polyomaviruses (human, mouse, simian, and avian), poliovirus, hepatitis B virus, herpes simplex virus, and bacteriophages (bacterial viruses).
David has also studied other macromolecular complexes—tiny “machines” that keep us alive—and helped improve 3DEM techniques. Currently, he directs the Electron Microscopy Core Laboratory at the University of Utah, where he helps clinicians and researchers use the electron microscope. David has also published in the area of science and religion. ​He enjoys gardening, playing sports, cycling, running, reading, and almost anything outdoors.
Photo of Benjamin Breeden

Benjamin Breeden

Benn Breeden works with Dr. Randall Irmis at the University of Utah. He is a vertebrate paleontologist broadly interested in the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, which is dated to 201.3 million years ago. His research in recent years has focused on the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of early dinosaurs and their closest relatives from across the Colorado Plateau, often utilizing X-ray computed tomography (CT) to help visualize the anatomy of fossils.…Read More

Benn Breeden works with Dr. Randall Irmis at the University of Utah. He is a vertebrate paleontologist broadly interested in the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, which is dated to 201.3 million years ago. His research in recent years has focused on the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of early dinosaurs and their closest relatives from across the Colorado Plateau, often utilizing X-ray computed tomography (CT) to help visualize the anatomy of fossils.
Benn received his MS in Geological Science from The University of Texas at Austin and his BS in Geology from The University of Maryland. Benn is a drummer and enjoys collecting vinyl records, playing Pokémon, and trying to learn Japanese.

Photo of Rebecca Bruders

Rebecca Bruders

Rebecca works with Dr. Michael Shapiro at the University of Utah where she uses the domestic rock pigeon as a model to study the evolutionary developmental basis of phenotypic diversity in animals. With over 300 different breeds of domestic pigeon created from centuries of selective breeding for traits such as color, feather ornamentation, and behavior, the domestic pigeon is an ideal model for understanding the genetic and developmental basis of unique traits.…Read More

Rebecca works with Dr. Michael Shapiro at the University of Utah where she uses the domestic rock pigeon as a model to study the evolutionary developmental basis of phenotypic diversity in animals. With over 300 different breeds of domestic pigeon created from centuries of selective breeding for traits such as color, feather ornamentation, and behavior, the domestic pigeon is an ideal model for understanding the genetic and developmental basis of unique traits.

Rebecca enjoys reading, running, walking, and playing games.

Photo of Marc Calaf

Marc Calaf

Marc Calaf directs the Wind Energy and Turbulence Lab at the University of Utah. His research group studies the impacts of wind turbines on the dynamics of the atmospheric boundary layer (first kilometer of the atmosphere) and works to develop new parameterizations and models to better reproduce the interaction between the land-surface and atmospheric flow and to be used in numerical weather prediction models.Read More

Marc Calaf directs the Wind Energy and Turbulence Lab at the University of Utah. His research group studies the impacts of wind turbines on the dynamics of the atmospheric boundary layer (first kilometer of the atmosphere) and works to develop new parameterizations and models to better reproduce the interaction between the land-surface and atmospheric flow and to be used in numerical weather prediction models.

Photo of Julia Carleton

Julia Carleton

Julia Carleton works with Dr. Jay Gertz at the University of Utah. She is developing new technologies to study the 'dark matter' of the human genome that does not contain genes. She is using these tools to identify the switches that control genes and determine how these bits of DNA may contribute to cancer. Julia enjoys Utah's natural beauty through hiking, skiing, and canyoneering.Read More

Julia Carleton works with Dr. Jay Gertz at the University of Utah. She is developing new technologies to study the ‘dark matter’ of the human genome that does not contain genes. She is using these tools to identify the switches that control genes and determine how these bits of DNA may contribute to cancer.

Julia enjoys Utah’s natural beauty through hiking, skiing, and canyoneering.

Photo of Krista Carlson

Krista Carlson

Krista Carlson works with glass technologies including aerogels and waste containment techniques. Her focus trends towards the development of solutions to environmental problems including pollution and contaminated drinking water.Read More

Krista Carlson works with glass technologies including aerogels and waste containment techniques. Her focus trends towards the development of solutions to environmental problems including pollution and contaminated drinking water.

Photo of Mark Chynoweth

Mark Chynoweth

Mark Chynoweth works in Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu’s laboratory at the University of Utah. Mark is most broadly interested in working with geospatial data to address applied ecological questions across a variety of scales. Currently, he is studying large carnivore ecology and conservation in human dominated landscapes. With a variety of methods, Mark is investigating how carnivores move across a modified landscape and use anthropogenic resources to survive.…Read More

Mark Chynoweth works in Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu’s laboratory at the University of Utah. Mark is most broadly interested in working with geospatial data to address applied ecological questions across a variety of scales. Currently, he is studying large carnivore ecology and conservation in human dominated landscapes. With a variety of methods, Mark is investigating how carnivores move across a modified landscape and use anthropogenic resources to survive. He hopes that his research will be used to guide conservation and management of carnivore species and protection of biodiversity at the ecosystem level.
Mark enjoys exploring the outdoors on foot, bikes or skis, playing music, and traveling to new places.

Photo of Bob Cieri

Bob Cieri

Bob Cieri works in Dr. Colleen Farmer's lab at the University of Utah. He is interested in the evolution of breathing in reptiles and birds. His current research uses computational fluid dynamics, x-ray videos, and traditional physiology techniques to explore unidirectional lung airflow in monitor lizards. Finding out why different animal lineages developed distinct organ systems and types of breathing will help us understand what kind of evolutionary pressures led to the amazing diversity of organismal life we enjoy today.…Read More

Bob Cieri works in Dr. Colleen Farmer’s lab at the University of Utah. He is interested in the evolution of breathing in reptiles and birds. His current research uses computational fluid dynamics, x-ray videos, and traditional physiology techniques to explore unidirectional lung airflow in monitor lizards. Finding out why different animal lineages developed distinct organ systems and types of breathing will help us understand what kind of evolutionary pressures led to the amazing diversity of organismal life we enjoy today. Past research examined the sudden development of modern behavior in humans around 50,000 BCE.
Bob is striving for a career that combines research, teaching, and science communication to explore how the natural world works. Passionate about opening science to underrepresented groups, Bob works on the Touch Science project, which builds traveling science toolboxes for visually impaired students.

Bob loves to travel, learn about history, and explore Utah’s incredible deserts and mountains.

https://formsmostwonderful.com/science-touch/

Photo of Kelsey Cone

Kelsey Cone

Kelsey Cone works in Dr. Nels Elde’s lab at the University of Utah where she investigates host-pathogen evolution. Specifically, she studies how poxviruses adapt to host immune defenses, uncovering new aspects of poxvirus biology and genome evolution. Her work combines molecular biology, genetics, and evolution to understand how viruses function and evolve. Kelsey loves backpacking, snowboarding, and hiking with her friends and her dog.…Read More

Kelsey Cone works in Dr. Nels Elde’s lab at the University of Utah where she investigates host-pathogen evolution. Specifically, she studies how poxviruses adapt to host immune defenses, uncovering new aspects of poxvirus biology and genome evolution. Her work combines molecular biology, genetics, and evolution to understand how viruses function and evolve.
Kelsey loves backpacking, snowboarding, and hiking with her friends and her dog. She also enjoys travel, puzzles, and board games.

Photo of Amanda Cooper

Amanda Cooper

Amanda Cooper works in Dr. David Carrier’s lab at the University of Utah where she studies evolutionary morphology. Amanda’s focus is centered on functional morphology and the complex anatomy of vertebrates. She is interested in the evolutionary origins of dominance and aggression.Read More

Amanda Cooper works in Dr. David Carrier’s lab at the University of Utah where she studies evolutionary morphology. Amanda’s focus is centered on functional morphology and the complex anatomy of vertebrates. She is interested in the evolutionary origins of dominance and aggression.

Photo of Kevin Davenport

Kevin Davenport

Kevin works with Dr. Andrey Rogachev at the University of Utah, where he studies condensed matter physics. His primary line of research is focused on understanding electronic transport mechanisms present in organic materials that will be used in the next iteration of today’s electronic devices. Specifically, Kevin uses a technique known as noise spectroscopy to extract information about the processes that occur in devices made from these materials, such as organic light-emitting diodes, organic transistors, and photovoltaic cells.…Read More

Kevin works with Dr. Andrey Rogachev at the University of Utah, where he studies condensed matter physics. His primary line of research is focused on understanding electronic transport mechanisms present in organic materials that will be used in the next iteration of today’s electronic devices. Specifically, Kevin uses a technique known as noise spectroscopy to extract information about the processes that occur in devices made from these materials, such as organic light-emitting diodes, organic transistors, and photovoltaic cells.
This information is critical in understanding how these devices function so that they can eventually be scaled up for industrial production. Kevin’s other research interests include nano-fabrication techniques and 1-dimensional superconductivity in nanoscale wires, both important for small-scale, supercooled computing applications.

Kevin is very involved in student government. He also loves collecting and reading books, creating and playing games, and playing the piano.

Photo of Tara Deans

Tara Deans

Tara Deans directs the Applied Synthetic Biology Laboratory at the University of Utah. Her research group focuses on building novel genetic tools to study the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation for the purpose of directing their cell fate decisions to be used for therapeutic applications.Read More

Tara Deans directs the Applied Synthetic Biology Laboratory at the University of Utah. Her research group focuses on building novel genetic tools to study the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation for the purpose of directing their cell fate decisions to be used for therapeutic applications.

Photo of Kendall FitzGerald

Kendall FitzGerald

Kendall FitzGerald works with Dr. Kip Solomon at the University of Utah. Her research involves using environmental tracers to age-date groundwater from seeps and springs in order to better understand the shallow aquifer in the Salt Lake Valley. This work has brought Kendall into the backyards of numerous Salt Lake residents who have springs on their property, leading to her interest in engaging with the public about groundwater resources.​ ​ Kendall graduated with a B.A.…Read More
Kendall FitzGerald works with Dr. Kip Solomon at the University of Utah. Her research involves using environmental tracers to age-date groundwater from seeps and springs in order to better understand the shallow aquifer in the Salt Lake Valley. This work has brought Kendall into the backyards of numerous Salt Lake residents who have springs on their property, leading to her interest in engaging with the public about groundwater resources.​

Kendall graduated with a B.A. in Geological Sciences from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she also studied English literature.
Her capstone project involved creating an on-campus exhibit that explored connections between art and geology. Kendall remains interested in exploring these interdisciplinary connections between science and the humanities, in the hope of facilitating communication between these disciplines and the public.
Photo of Greg Handy

Greg Handy

Gregory Handy works in the Computational Neuroscience Group led by Dr. Alla Borisyuk at the University of Utah. His current project focuses on investigating the role astrocytes, cells that make up approximately 50% of human brain volume, have in the brain and in certain disease states, such as epilepsy. He works closely with experimentalists to ensure that his mathematical models can be used to guide future experiments.…Read More

Gregory Handy works in the Computational Neuroscience Group led by Dr. Alla Borisyuk at the University of Utah. His current project focuses on investigating the role astrocytes, cells that make up approximately 50% of human brain volume, have in the brain and in certain disease states, such as epilepsy. He works closely with experimentalists to ensure that his mathematical models can be used to guide future experiments.

Greg enjoys all things outdoors, from hiking to biking, as well as skiing during the winter season.

Photo of Carly Hansen

Carly Hansen

Carly Hansen works in the Urban Water Research Group with Dr. Steven Burian at the University of Utah. Her research is at the intersection of water resource planning/management and data science/modeling. She is currently working on several projects which explore water supply and water quality under urban growth and changing climate conditions. Carly enjoys finding new places (or experimenting with new dishes) to indulge her inner-foodie or running off the calories.Read More

Carly Hansen works in the Urban Water Research Group with Dr. Steven Burian at the University of Utah. Her research is at the intersection of water resource planning/management and data science/modeling. She is currently working on several projects which explore water supply and water quality under urban growth and changing climate conditions.

Carly enjoys finding new places (or experimenting with new dishes) to indulge her inner-foodie or running off the calories.

Photo of Jordan Herman

Jordan Herman

Jordan Herman works in the Clayton-Bush Lab at the University of Utah where she studies the interactions between avian hosts and and their nest parasites. She is interested in how different bird "personalities" influence their fitness, or reproductive success, in different predator and parasite environments. In her research, Jordan emphasizes projects in avian ecology that will improve our understanding of how birds interact with changing biotic and abiotic environments and inform our approach to conservation practices.…Read More

Jordan Herman works in the Clayton-Bush Lab at the University of Utah where she studies the interactions between avian hosts and and their nest parasites. She is interested in how different bird “personalities” influence their fitness, or reproductive success, in different predator and parasite environments.

In her research, Jordan emphasizes projects in avian ecology that will improve our understanding of how birds interact with changing biotic and abiotic environments and inform our approach to conservation practices. She is also a strong proponent of public engagement in science-related fields and is excited to improve her science communication skills through the STEM Ambassadors program.

Jordan enjoys the many adventures that the wild world offers through camping, backpacking, hiking, birding, snowboarding, climbing and beyond!

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