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 David Parrot

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.

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.

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.

Photo of Abbey Soule

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 David Wheatley

David Wheatley

David Wheatley works with Dr. Marjorie Chan in the STAR (Sedimentary and Terrestrial Analog Research) group at the University of Utah. He studies sedimentology and planetary geology focused specifically on soft-sediment deformation within the Carmel Formation of southern Utah. Clastic pipes (a type of soft-sediment deformation) reveal ancient water table conditions and provide clues about past environments.…Read More

David Wheatley works with Dr. Marjorie Chan in the STAR (Sedimentary and Terrestrial Analog Research) group at the University of Utah. He studies sedimentology and planetary geology focused specifically on soft-sediment deformation within the Carmel Formation of southern Utah. Clastic pipes (a type of soft-sediment deformation) reveal ancient water table conditions and provide clues about past environments.

David uses these terrestrial analogs to inform interpretations of Martian environments and soft-sediment deformation to understand past groundwater conditions on Mars. David’s other research interests include geoarchaeology, GIS applications, and engineering applications to geology.

David enjoys exploring the outdoors through snowboarding, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and canyoneering.

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