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 Dr. Olja Simoska

Dr. Olja Simoska

Dr. Olja Simoska received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bard College, NY, in 2015. She received her Ph.D. degree in Analytical Chemistry in 2019 from the University of Texas at Austin, working with Prof. Keith J. Stevenson. Her graduate research focused on the design, development, and application of ultramicroelectrode array platforms for the quantitative, real-time monitoring of dynamic metabolism and responses of pathogenic bacteria.…Read More

Dr. Olja Simoska received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bard College, NY, in 2015. She received her Ph.D. degree in Analytical Chemistry in 2019 from the University of Texas at Austin, working with Prof. Keith J. Stevenson. Her graduate research focused on the design, development, and application of ultramicroelectrode array platforms for the quantitative, real-time monitoring of dynamic metabolism and responses of pathogenic bacteria. At present, Olja is the ACS Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellow and working in the research group of Prof. Shelley D. Minteer at the University of Utah Department of Chemistry. Her postdoctoral research focuses on methodically exploring bioengineering approaches to improve extracellular electron transfer and performance of microbial-based electrochemical systems. She also a strong science outreach enthusiast and is excited to expand her science communications skills through the STEM Ambassador Program. In her free time, Olja enjoys jewelry design, baking, hiking, and skiing.

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 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.

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.

Photo of Rebecca Goldstein Zitnay

Rebecca Goldstein Zitnay

Rebecca Goldstein Zitnay works at Huntsman Cancer Institute in the Lab of Michelle Mendoza She is interested in how the environment around cells informs and directs their behavior and is pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in biomaterials. In Dr. Mendoza’s lab she is investigating how features of the environment around a lung tumor instruct cancer cells to invade away from the tumor.…Read More

Rebecca Goldstein Zitnay works at Huntsman Cancer Institute in the Lab of Michelle Mendoza She is interested in how the environment around cells informs and directs their behavior and is pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in biomaterials. In Dr. Mendoza’s lab she is investigating how features of the environment around a lung tumor instruct cancer cells to invade away from the tumor. Her favorite part of this research project is getting to observe fluorescently labeled cells moving around in 3-dimensions under the microscope. When she is not in the lab, she is likely talking about science, reading books about inspiring people, outside playing in the Wasatch mountains, or exploring the southern Utah desert.