SRI Team


Josh Steffen, Ph.D.

SRI Director; Associate Professor Lecturer

Josh Steffen, Ph.D.

SRI Director; Associate Professor Lecturer
Josh received his BA in biology and secondary education from St. Olaf College. He carried his Ph.D. and post-doctoral research at the University of Utah where he studied plant reproductive development with Gary in the lab of Gary Drews. He carried out post-doctoral research in the lab of Richard Clark where he studied natural variation in gene expression. Over the past 8 years he has held faculty positions at Colby-Sawyer College and Utah Valley University where he focussed on undergraduate education. In 2018 he accepted a position in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah. Currently, Josh manages the Science Research Initiative (SRI), teaches courses associated with the SRI, and mentors multiple undergraduate research groups. Undergraduates working with Josh are using metagenomic approaches to characterize pollinator foraging behaviors, attempting to identify novel antimicrobials, and carry out genetic analysis of maize mutants.
 joshua.steffen@utah.edu

Heather Briggs, Ph.D.

SRI Associate Director; Associate Instructor

Heather Briggs, Ph.D.

SRI Associate Director; Associate Instructor
Heather completed a M.S. at the University of Michigan (Natural Resources) and a Ph.D at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Environmental Studies & Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). She went on to complete two postdoctoral positions, first at Harvard, then at UC Irvine. Heather now helps manage the SRI where she empowers students to work through hypothesis generation, experimentation, and interpretation. As an evolutionary community ecologist, Heather’s research is motivated by the desire to understand how variation in community context influences the outcome of biotic interactions. Through the exploration of the various determinants of insect behavior, plant ecology, and floral evolution, her research considers the importance of context-dependent interactions from both the plant and pollinator perspectives.
 heather.briggs@utah.edu

Ryan M. Stolley, Ph.D.

SRI Associate Director; Associate Instructor

Ryan M. Stolley, Ph.D.

SRI Associate Director; Associate Instructor
Ryan received his BS in chemistry from Fort Lewis College and Ph.D in organic chemistry from the University of Utah. He then conducted a post-doctoral appointment at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’ Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis. After PNNL, he was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies office. Ryan is currently an assistant research professor in the chemistry department where he works with numerous groups as a synthetic chemistry specialist, co-director of the SRI, and chairperson of the Salt Lake section of the American Chemical Society. Ryan’s research is in fundamental organic and organometallic chemistry uncovering new reaction paradigms using underexplored or entirely new functional groups, exotic ligands for rare-earth element coordination, and a variety of exotic conducting materials.
 801-581-6538
 ryan.stolley@utah.edu

Laura Rupert

SRI Project Coordinator

Laura Rupert

SRI Project Coordinator
Laura received B.S. degrees in Geography (emphasis in climate change & landscape dynamics) and Environmental Studies (emphasis in air, water and health) from the University of Utah. Her research experience includes undergraduate field work in the Fijian Islands with a focus on water quality in fresh- and saltwater systems. Within the SRI, she coordinates day-to day operations of the program and works with the goal of collaborating and communicating effectively with college leadership, faculty, students, postdocs and staff.
 L.rupert@utah.edu

SRI Fellows

 

Josh Scholl, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Josh Scholl, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Josh received his B.S. in biology from Florida Atlantic University and M.S. and Ph.D from the University of Arizona in ecology and evolutionary biology. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher with Amy Iler at the Chicago Botanic Garden and as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University. Josh now works as a postdoctoral associate for the SRI. In his research, Josh is interested in understanding the strategies organisms use to cope with changing environments (e.g., urban areas and deserts) and how those strategies affect fitness and population dynamics. He also loves teaching and developing educational tools. To this end, he is a big proponent of the Ecological Society of America's SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program which he enjoyed as an undergraduate member and now as a chapter advisor. To learn more about Josh and his research, education, and outreach endeavors visit https://joshuapscholl.weebly.com/.
 joshua.scholl@utah.edu

Selvi Kara, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Selvi Kara, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Selvi received her Ph. D in mathematics from Tulane University in 2017 and she held a faculty position at the University of South Alabama for 4 years after her Ph.D. Before joining the SRI as a postdoctoral fellow, she worked as a Research Associate at the University of Utah, Department of Mathematics. Selvi’s research is in commutative algebra, combinatorics, and geometry. Her research is focused on using combinatorial tools to study algebraic/geometric problems. One of her recent research interests is in higher dimensional chip-firing, a dynamical system, and she is interested in studying these systems combinatorially and algebraically. Selvi is one of the co-founders of Meet a Mathematician, a collection of short video interviews of mathematicians from historically excluded backgrounds in mathematical sciences. She is dedicated to creating and supporting spaces which center mathematicians and students from historically excluded backgrounds and amplify the historically excluded voices and their experiences in mathematical spaces.
 selvi.kara@utah.edu

Rodolfo Probst, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Rodolfo Probst, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Rodolfo received his B.Sc. in Biology at the State University of São Paulo and an M.Sc. in Systematics, Taxonomy, and Biodiversity at the University of São Paulo, both in Brazil. He recently obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Utah (Ecology, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology), where he investigated the evolution of ant-plant mutualistic interactions while working in the lab of Jack Longino. His research uses genomic tools, taxonomy, and natural history to understand ant-plant symbioses. He is led by his interest in insect evolution and his passion for tropical fieldwork, teaching the public about bugs and conservation, and exploring the outdoors. When not at the lab or collecting ants, he likes going road biking and hiking around Utah, cooking, and writing poetry.
 rodolfo.probst@utah.edu

Mikhael Semaan, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Mikhael Semaan, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Mikhael received twin BSes in Electrical Engineering and Physics from California State University, Long Beach, before continuing to the University of California, Davis for his Physics PhD. While at Davis, he taught active learning-based courses geared towards bioscience majors and cultivated a passion for scientific communication between disciplines. His research centers on how pattern and structure emerge in “complex systems:” how do we discover nature's patterns? How do we recognize a forest's structure as intricate, but a coin flip's as simple? Tackling these questions involves a combination of techniques from physics, mathematics, and computer science—applied in such seemingly unrelated areas as finance and cardiology! As an SRI Fellow, Mikhael is most excited to equip students not just with these tools but with the skills to build new ones, so that they might carry them across disciplinary boundaries throughout their chosen careers.
 m.t.semaan@utah.edu

Gennie Parkman, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Gennie Parkman, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Gennie received her BS in molecular biology from the University of Utah and went on to complete a PhD in Oncological Sciences and Master’s in Clinical Investigation. Her graduate research was focused on the PI3K>AKT cellular signaling axis in melanoma and understanding its role in melanoma initiation and progression. Her thesis was devoted to elucidating the role of this pathway in MAPK-driven melanoma as upregulation of PI3K lipid effectors contributes to current treatment primary and secondary resistance. Before joining the SRI as a postdoctoral fellow, she co-led a SRI cancer biology stream with Dr. Sheri Holmen to define critical targets in cancer that be identified as therapeutic interventions for metastatic melanoma and glioma and is enthusiastic to continue this work. In addition to her research, Gennie has served as an Adjunct Instructor at Westminster College and Utah Valley University and is committed to undergraduate science education. As an SRI fellow, Gennie is excited to not only equip students with the background necessary to identify the most crucial questions in cancer biology but also to formulate hypotheses and have the confidence to undertake the experiments necessary to answer these vital questions.
 gennie.parkman@hci.utah.edu

Austin Green, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow

Austin Green, Ph.D.

SRI Fellow
Austin Green is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Utah under the Science Research Initiative (SRI) and one of the leaders of Wasatch Wildlife Watch (WWW). Both the SRI and WWW are all about providing experiential and research-based learning and mentorship opportunities to undergraduate students and volunteer citizen scientists. Austin’s research goals are to help elucidate how human influence affects wildlife distribution and behavior in an effort to apply this knowledge to on-the-ground wildlife conservation. Austin is passionate about teaching and interacting with people, and he firmly believes that the best way to protect the wild lands we all love is to approach it with inclusive community engagement. He is excited to not only contribute to science and conservation on a local level, but it also help provide valuable evidence about human-wildlife interactions across the globe.
 austin.m.green@utah.edu