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 Bart Fornal

Bart Fornal

Bartosz Fornal is a theoretical elementary particle physicist working as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah. He is interested in understanding how the world around us works at the fundamental level. Bart's current research is focused on dark matter, the mysterious invisible 85% of the matter in the universe inferred to exist only from indirect observations.…Read More

Bartosz Fornal is a theoretical elementary particle physicist working as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah. He is interested in understanding how the world around us works at the fundamental level.

Bart’s current research is focused on dark matter, the mysterious invisible 85% of the matter in the universe inferred to exist only from indirect observations. His other research areas include new physics at the Large Hadron Collider, the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe, neutrino physics and gravitational waves as probes of the early universe.

In his free time, Bart enjoys swimming, hiking and playing tennis.

Photo of Dale Forrister

Dale Forrister

Dale Forrister works with Dr. Phyllis (Lissy) Coley, in the School of Biological Sciences and studies the ecology of tropical rainforest. Specifically, he works in Yasuni, Ecuador the most diverse forest in the world studying the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and the insect herbivores that feed on them.Read More

Dale Forrister works with Dr. Phyllis (Lissy) Coley, in the School of Biological Sciences and studies the ecology of tropical rainforest. Specifically, he works in Yasuni, Ecuador the most diverse forest in the world studying the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and the insect herbivores that feed on them.

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 Connor Healy

Connor Healy

Connor Healy is a computational biologist, a huge nerd, and a proud advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. He uses image analysis and simulation to study cellular patterning in order to better understand the form and function of human tissue. In his spare time, he uses the same computational techniques to improve his Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and to design his next cosplay.…Read More

Connor Healy is a computational biologist, a huge nerd, and a proud advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. He uses image analysis and simulation to study cellular patterning in order to better understand the form and function of human tissue. In his spare time, he uses the same computational techniques to improve his Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and to design his next cosplay. He actively seeks to improve LGBTQ+ representation in STEM and fights for the rights of sexually marginalized groups in Utah.

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!

Photo of Joshua Horns

Joshua Horns

Joshua Horns works at the University of Utah where he uses state-of-the-art technology to track small birds as they undergo their yearly migrations. Birds are invaluable for maintaining health ecosystems and even for maintaining healthy humans! However their massive migratory treks are fraught with danger. Joshua’s research attempts to identify ways that we as people can help these birds complete their incredible journeys.Read More

Joshua Horns works at the University of Utah where he uses state-of-the-art technology to track small birds as they undergo their yearly migrations. Birds are invaluable for maintaining health ecosystems and even for maintaining healthy humans! However their massive migratory treks are fraught with danger. Joshua’s research attempts to identify ways that we as people can help these birds complete their incredible journeys.

Photo of Yusuf Jameel

Yusuf Jameel

Yusuf Jameel works with Dr. Gabe Bowen at the University of Utah where he studies urban and natural waterways. He has been analyzing the connections between human population, climate, water extraction, water use, and water use impacts, in regions of climatic aridity and extensive land-use change, such as rapidly urbanizing areas across the western United States of America (USA).…Read More
Yusuf Jameel works with Dr. Gabe Bowen at the University of Utah where he studies urban and natural waterways. He has been analyzing the connections between human population, climate, water extraction, water use, and water use impacts, in regions of climatic aridity and extensive land-use change, such as rapidly urbanizing areas across the western United States of America (USA).
Using stable isotopes of water, he has developed methods to connect municipal water to its climatic source, calculating evaporative losses from regional water systems and characterizing their spatiotemporal patterns across the water districts within the region. This work aims to increase our understanding of the interactions between climate, water supplies, consumptive uses and the hydrological cycle in the intermountain west.

He is also working on quantifying the inorganic carbon budget (DIC) of the major rivers in the Great Salt Lake (GSL) basin using geochemical tracers, and understanding the variation in DIC among and within the rivers with respect to varying degrees of urbanization, land cover land used (LCLU) and agricultural practices along the rivers. He also plans to analyze historic data to quantify the changes in inorganic carbon flux in the GSL basin during the last 50 years due to significant LCLU changes in the region which will be useful in understanding the carbon biogeochemical cycling in inland basins and the effect of anthropogenic activities on these fluxes.

Yusuf enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading books, trying new foods and exploring nature.
Photo of Gabrielle Kardon

Gabrielle Kardon

Gabrielle Kardon works at the University of Utah where she studies studies how muscle develops, regenerates, ages, and evolves. Her lab focuses on muscle stem cells because they are the source of all muscle. They also focus on the muscle connective tissue because it provides the niche for muscle stem cells and is critical for muscle form and function.…Read More

Gabrielle Kardon works at the University of Utah where she studies studies how muscle develops, regenerates, ages, and evolves. Her lab focuses on muscle stem cells because they are the source of all muscle. They also focus on the muscle connective tissue because it provides the niche for muscle stem cells and is critical for muscle form and function.

They study how interactions between muscle stem cells and the connective tissue orchestrate development of limb muscles and the diaphragm, how they regulate muscle regeneration and aging, how they can lead to birth defects and fibrosis, and how they shape the evolution of the musculoskeletal system.

This work has lead Gabrielle and her lab to interact extensively with patients with the common birth defect, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernias, as well as their families.

​For more about her lab, see http://www.kardonlab.org/.

Photo of Helena Lucente

Helena Lucente

Helena Lucente is studying oncological sciences and clinical investigation in Dr. Michael Engel’s lab at the University of Utah. She is studying context-dependent notch signaling in leukemia pathogenesis. Specifically understanding how modifying the notch pathway impacts which subtype of leukemia develops and translating that understanding into personalized treatments for patients. ​Twitter @HelenaLucente1Read More

Helena Lucente is studying oncological sciences and clinical investigation in Dr. Michael Engel’s lab at the University of Utah. She is studying context-dependent notch signaling in leukemia pathogenesis. Specifically understanding how modifying the notch pathway impacts which subtype of leukemia develops and translating that understanding into personalized treatments for patients.

​Twitter @HelenaLucente1

Photo of Julia McGonigle

Julia McGonigle

Julia McGonigle works in Dr. William Brazelton's lab at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on studying connections between morphological, genetic, and metabolic diversity found within a single species biofilm inhabiting chimneys at the Lost City, a hydrothermal vent field on the mid-Atlantic ridge. Her scientific interests include biology of extreme environments, exobiology, nutrient cycling, and microbial metabolism.…Read More

Julia McGonigle works in Dr. William Brazelton’s lab at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on studying connections between morphological, genetic, and metabolic diversity found within a single species biofilm inhabiting chimneys at the Lost City, a hydrothermal vent field on the mid-Atlantic ridge. Her scientific interests include biology of extreme environments, exobiology, nutrient cycling, and microbial metabolism.

Julia enjoys rock climbing, mountaineering, yoga, and cooking.

Photo of Ryan McLaughlin

Ryan McLaughlin

Ryan McLaughlin works for the Materials Research, Science, and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Utah in the group of Dr. Valy Vardeny doing experimental research on next-generation electronics. These include organic (carbon-based) semiconductors and devices that exploit magnetism to achieve new functionalities: a field known as “spintronics.” Ryan’s specialization is in optical interferometry, where he uses his home-built fiber-optic laser microscope to make extremely sensitive measurements of the magnetic properties of these new materials and devices.…Read More

Ryan McLaughlin works for the Materials Research, Science, and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Utah in the group of Dr. Valy Vardeny doing experimental research on next-generation electronics. These include organic (carbon-based) semiconductors and devices that exploit magnetism to achieve new functionalities: a field known as “spintronics.”

Ryan’s specialization is in optical interferometry, where he uses his home-built fiber-optic laser microscope to make extremely sensitive measurements of the magnetic properties of these new materials and devices.

Ryan loves the outdoors. He can be found hiking, camping, kayaking, or climbing rocks in Utah’s beautiful mountains.

Photo of Daniel Mendoza

Daniel Mendoza

Daniel Mendoza's research interests include quantifying and characterizing urban greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions for use in human exposure estimation and metropolitan planning. He also examines the health effects associated with acute and chronic pollutant exposure, particularly in vulnerable populations. He recently joined the Dark Skies team and will focus on the association between dark skies and urban light pollution with air quality and health outcomes.…Read More

Daniel Mendoza’s research interests include quantifying and characterizing urban greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions for use in human exposure estimation and metropolitan planning. He also examines the health effects associated with acute and chronic pollutant exposure, particularly in vulnerable populations. He recently joined the Dark Skies team and will focus on the association between dark skies and urban light pollution with air quality and health outcomes.

​He was previously a professional cyclist in Europe, and currently enjoys Utah’s outdoors by competing in duathlons and snowshoe races.

Photo of Olivia Miller

Olivia Miller

Olivia Miller is working with Dr. Kip Solomon at the University of Utah. She studies melting of the Greenland ice sheet, focusing specifically on meltwater storage within the ice sheet. Olivia received her MS in Geology from the University of Utah and BA in Earth & Environmental Science from Wesleyan University. Olivia enjoys skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing -  really any kind of outdoor adventure.Read More

Olivia Miller is working with Dr. Kip Solomon at the University of Utah. She studies melting of the Greenland ice sheet, focusing specifically on meltwater storage within the ice sheet. Olivia received her MS in Geology from the University of Utah and BA in Earth & Environmental Science from Wesleyan University.

Olivia enjoys skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing –  really any kind of outdoor adventure.

Photo of Jeremy Morris

Jeremy Morris

Jeremy Morris works in Dr. David Carrier's lab at the University of Utah. Jeremy studies musculoskeletal design in vertebrates and how sexual selection and natural selection shape the evolution of sexual dimorphism. Specific topics of interest in Jeremy’s research include morphological specialization for locomotor performance and aggressive behavior and the biomechanical and physiological underpinnings of animal performance.Read More

Jeremy Morris works in Dr. David Carrier’s lab at the University of Utah. Jeremy studies musculoskeletal design in vertebrates and how sexual selection and natural selection shape the evolution of sexual dimorphism. Specific topics of interest in Jeremy’s research include morphological specialization for locomotor performance and aggressive behavior and the biomechanical and physiological underpinnings of animal performance.

Photo of Travis Morrison

Travis Morrison

Travis is a 4th year Ph.D. student working for Dr. Marc Calaf and Dr. Eric Pardyjak in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Utah. His thesis work has been on understanding the physical processes in the atmospheric boundary layer (bottom 1 km of the atmosphere) which are driven by spatial differences in surface temperature.…Read More

Travis is a 4th year Ph.D. student working for Dr. Marc Calaf and Dr. Eric Pardyjak in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Utah. His thesis work has been on understanding the physical processes in the atmospheric boundary layer (bottom 1 km of the atmosphere) which are driven by spatial differences in surface temperature. Thus far, his studies have been conducted through field experiments, where he collects basic meteorological data in an idealized setting in Utah’s West Desert. The overall goal of this research is to improve the parameterization of land surface interactions in numerical weather prediction models.

Photo of Dara Niketic

Dara Niketic

Dara Niketic studies bacterial genetics at the University of Utah. She is interested in the genetics of bacterial movement, specifically in the origins and mechanics of the flagellum.Read More

Dara Niketic studies bacterial genetics at the University of Utah. She is interested in the genetics of bacterial movement, specifically in the origins and mechanics of the flagellum.

Photo of Judy Ou

Judy Ou

Judy Ou received her PhD from Boston University School of Public Health and BS and MPH from Brigham Young University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the University of Utah, where she works on a variety of studies in the cancer field. Her projects include identifying the late health effects of pediatric cancer treatments, examining patterns and trends in environmental exposure and cancers among adults, and identifying barriers to adherence in cancer screenings among Latinos.…Read More

Judy Ou received her PhD from Boston University School of Public Health and BS and MPH from Brigham Young University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the University of Utah, where she works on a variety of studies in the cancer field. Her projects include identifying the late health effects of pediatric cancer treatments, examining patterns and trends in environmental exposure and cancers among adults, and identifying barriers to adherence in cancer screenings among Latinos.

She enjoys climbing, gardening, hiking, and eating desserts.

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