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 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.

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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.

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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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David Parrot

David Parrott studies a tiny mutant of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress; discovered in Leslie Sieburth’s laboratory at the University of Utah). Using a combination of genetics, genomics, and plant physiology, David is investigating how an as-of-yet unknown signaling molecule made in the root of the mutant plant (but present in all plants) might alert the shoot and slow growth when there is too much salt or not enough water in the soil.…Read More

David Parrott studies a tiny mutant of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress; discovered in Leslie Sieburth’s laboratory at the University of Utah). Using a combination of genetics, genomics, and plant physiology, David is investigating how an as-of-yet unknown signaling molecule made in the root of the mutant plant (but present in all plants) might alert the shoot and slow growth when there is too much salt or not enough water in the soil. This research could be important in understanding how plants cope with drought.

David loves to telemark ski, mountain bike, and work in his garden.

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Brandon Patterson

Brandon Patterson is the Technology Engagement Librarian at the University of Utah’s Eccles Health Sciences Library. His role connects students, staff and faculty to digital tools and emerging technologies to support teaching and learning. His research interests include increasing information literacy in the health sciences and creating simulation tools in extended reality (VR/MR/XR) platforms for health sciences learners.…Read More

Brandon Patterson is the Technology Engagement Librarian at the University of Utah’s Eccles Health Sciences Library. His role connects students, staff and faculty to digital tools and emerging technologies to support teaching and learning. His research interests include increasing information literacy in the health sciences and creating simulation tools in extended reality (VR/MR/XR) platforms for health sciences learners.
Brandon enjoys quality time in the great outdoors, cooking good food, cycling up canyon roads, and hanging out with family.

Photo of Ariadne Penalva

Ariadne Penalva

Ariadne Penalva works at the University of Utah where she studies neural development, as well as the origins of neurodevelopmental disorders. She has a background in biochemistry and psychology.Read More

Ariadne Penalva works at the University of Utah where she studies neural development, as well as the origins of neurodevelopmental disorders. She has a background in biochemistry and psychology.

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Cecilia Prator

Cecilia Prator is an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology and works in Dr. William Brazelton’s lab at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on examining the role of viruses in the Lost City hydrothermal field chimneys. Cecilia completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and has also worked on plant and human viruses. Her scientific interests include virus transmission biology, virus diversity, and host-virus interactions.…Read More

Cecilia Prator is an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology and works in Dr. William Brazelton’s lab at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on examining the role of viruses in the Lost City hydrothermal field chimneys. Cecilia completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and has also worked on plant and human viruses. Her scientific interests include virus transmission biology, virus diversity, and host-virus interactions. She enjoys horseback riding, camping, skiing, and cooking.

Photo of Rodolfo Probst

Rodolfo Probst

Rodolfo Probst works in Dr. Jack Longino’s Lab at the University of Utah where he investigates the evolution of ant-plan mutualistic interactions. Specifically, he studies how fast (evolutionary speaking) does it take for arboreal ants to evolve a “true friendship” with their plant hosts. Roodolfo received his B.S. and Master’s from The State University of São Paulo and the Zoology Museum of the University of São Paulo respectively.…Read More

Rodolfo Probst works in Dr. Jack Longino’s Lab at the University of Utah where he investigates the evolution of ant-plan mutualistic interactions. Specifically, he studies how fast (evolutionary speaking) does it take for arboreal ants to evolve a “true friendship” with their plant hosts. Roodolfo received his B.S. and Master’s from The State University of São Paulo and the Zoology Museum of the University of São Paulo respectively. He is led by his interest in ant evolution, as well as his passion for tropical fieldwork, teaching the public about bugs and conservation, and exploring the outdoors – or complex mallard reactions in his kitchen.

Photo of Shrinivasan Raghuraman

Shrinivasan Raghuraman

Shrinivasan (Cheenu) works with Dr. Toto Olivera at the University of Utah where he investigates different types of brain cells found in rodent nervous system and tracks how these cells change their properties under chronic pain conditions. Cheenu uses microscopy and fluorescence imaging techniques to study these brain cells and to search for novel pharmacological interventions that could alleviate chronic pain.…Read More

Shrinivasan (Cheenu) works with Dr. Toto Olivera at the University of Utah where he investigates different types of brain cells found in rodent nervous system and tracks how these cells change their properties under chronic pain conditions. Cheenu uses microscopy and fluorescence imaging techniques to study these brain cells and to search for novel pharmacological interventions that could alleviate chronic pain.

Cheenu likes to experiment with different cuisines that he shares with his hiking and trail running friends.

Photo of Kathleen Ritterbush

Kathleen Ritterbush

Kathleen Ritterbush is a paleontologist at the University of Utah. She studies what ocean life was like during and before the time of the dinosaurs. Recent projects include modeling sea shells of extinct squid-like ammonite fossils to test if the animals could swim, and hunting for fossil sea sponges in ancient rocks. Because these ancient rocks are pushed into mountains by the Earth's shifting surface, fossil hunting takes her across deserts of the American West and up into the Peruvian Andes.…Read More

Kathleen Ritterbush is a paleontologist at the University of Utah. She studies what ocean life was like during and before the time of the dinosaurs. Recent projects include modeling sea shells of extinct squid-like ammonite fossils to test if the animals could swim, and hunting for fossil sea sponges in ancient rocks. Because these ancient rocks are pushed into mountains by the Earth’s shifting surface, fossil hunting takes her across deserts of the American West and up into the Peruvian Andes. She is most interested in what animals flourish after global mass extinction events, and how this is related to world-wide environmental changes.

Photo of Victoria Russell

Victoria Russell

Victoria Russell works at the University of Utah where she studies biological fuel cells, which use catalysts derived from biological components to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. These catalysts include components from living cells (enzymatic fuel cells), or even entire cells (microbial fuel cells). Her research involves using genetic engineering to develop and improve upon biological catalysts used in enzymatic fuel cells.…Read More

Victoria Russell works at the University of Utah where she studies biological fuel cells, which use catalysts derived from biological components to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. These catalysts include components from living cells (enzymatic fuel cells), or even entire cells (microbial fuel cells). Her research involves using genetic engineering to develop and improve upon biological catalysts used in enzymatic fuel cells.

A native of New York City, Victoria dove enthusiastically into all that Utah’s outdoors have to offer. She can often be found hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking, or canyoneering. She also enjoys reading and traveling, and is always up for planning her next adventure.

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Abbey Soule

Abrianna, or "Abbey", works with Dr. Phyllis Coley in the Biology Department at the University of Utah. She is a chemical ecologist broadly interested in plant-herbivore interactions, plant chemical defenses, botany, entomology, and defense sequestration. In the Coley lab, she helps investigate and identify defensive compounds found in the leaves of the tropical tree genus Inga.…Read More

Abrianna, or “Abbey”, works with Dr. Phyllis Coley in the Biology Department at the University of Utah. She is a chemical ecologist broadly interested in plant-herbivore interactions, plant chemical defenses, botany, entomology, and defense sequestration. In the Coley lab, she helps investigate and identify defensive compounds found in the leaves of the tropical tree genus Inga.

Abbey also worked with Dr. Mark Hunter at the University of Michigan to study how dietary plant chemistry and environmental change affect flight ability in the monarch butterfly. She currently works as a lab tech for Dr. Coley, but hopes to move on to a PhD program in the near future and pursue a career in research and academia.

Abbey loves backpacking, camping, hiking, and generally appreciating in the natural world with her friends and dog, Korra. She also enjoys reading, writing, singing, live music, and good food.

Photo of Anna Vickrey

Anna Vickrey

Anna Vickrey works in Dr. Michael Shapiro’s lab at the University of Utah. She is interested in understanding the genetic, developmental, and evolutionary basis of variation. Birds in particular display an enormous amount of variation that has evolved under natural, sexual, and artificial selection. Relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms that produce this variation.…Read More

Anna Vickrey works in Dr. Michael Shapiro’s lab at the University of Utah. She is interested in understanding the genetic, developmental, and evolutionary basis of variation. Birds in particular display an enormous amount of variation that has evolved under natural, sexual, and artificial selection. Relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms that produce this variation. In order to identify genes, mutations, and developmental pathways that produce particular traits in birds, her lab studies the rock pigeon. Rock pigeons are an ideal species in which to study variation because of the tremendous phenotypic diversity present among over 350 breeds.

The lab is currently investigating a variety of traits in rock pigeons, including colors and color patterns, feather ornaments, and flying behaviors. Similar traits are present in wild species of birds, and learning about the molecular and evolutionary basis of these traits in pigeons helps her learn about the same traits in wild species.

Anna has about 40 pet pigeons, and loves birding, bird banding, road biking, trail running, and cooking in her free time.

Photo of Morgan Wambaugh

Morgan Wambaugh

Morgan Wambaugh works in the lab of Dr. Jessica Brown at the University of Utah. She is using a screening method to identify drugs that work synergistically (having a greater effect together) with the common antifungal fluconazole. She then investigates the mechanism of why these two drugs work better together to identify the potential new fungal target and more treatment options for invasive fungal infections.…Read More

Morgan Wambaugh works in the lab of Dr. Jessica Brown at the University of Utah. She is using a screening method to identify drugs that work synergistically (having a greater effect together) with the common antifungal fluconazole. She then investigates the mechanism of why these two drugs work better together to identify the potential new fungal target and more treatment options for invasive fungal infections.

Morgan enjoys craft breweries, hiking, and traveling with friends.

Photo of Bryan Welm

Bryan Welm

Dr. Bryan Welm is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah and breast cancer researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. His laboratory is developing a method, called Functional Precision Oncology, where live cancer cells are removed from a patient and studied in the lab to evaluate therapeutic vulnerabilities. The goal of his research is to determine whether the response of a person’s cancer cells to different drugs can help physicians determine the best treatment for the patient.…Read More

Dr. Bryan Welm is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah and breast cancer researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. His laboratory is developing a method, called Functional Precision Oncology, where live cancer cells are removed from a patient and studied in the lab to evaluate therapeutic vulnerabilities. The goal of his research is to determine whether the response of a person’s cancer cells to different drugs can help physicians determine the best treatment for the patient. Dr. Welm is also an artist and builds metal sculptures that symbolize elements of science and biology. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys skiing and mountain biking in the mountains around Salt Lake City.