Record five civil and environmental grad students receive ARCS awards

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Josephine "Josie" Bates
Osvaldo Broesicke
Calvin Clark
Anna Skipper
Xenia Wirth

Two returning scholars are among the five School of Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students who have won funding this year from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists program.

The number of winners in the School is the most in recent memory and almost certainly a record for civil and environmental engineering students.

This year’s first-time scholars are Osvaldo Broesicke, Calvin Clark and Xenia Wirth. Anna Skipper won a second year of ARCS support; Josie Bates is a third-year scholar.

“I had heard of ARCS before, and I knew it was a very prestigious organization,” said Wirth, a Ph.D. student working with Susan Burns on productive reuse of biomass and the ash leftover from burning coal.

“What I find particularly rewarding about being part of this foundation is the outreach efforts they bring to the scholars,” Wirth said, noting she’s looking forward to meeting past scholars and talking with them about life after graduate school.

The scholarships recognize doctoral students “who have a record of past achievement and who show exceptional promise of making a significant contribution to the worldwide advancement of science and technology,” according to award materials. A Georgia Tech committee selects winners to be supported by the ARCS Foundation Atlanta.

“I chose to pursue my Ph.D. because I feel that it is the best way I can improve the world,” Broesicke said. “Receiving the ARCS Scholar Award helps me reaffirm my path, especially in times when I doubt my abilities and question my choices.”

Entering his second year of studies with John Crittenden, Broesicke focuses on the nexus of food, energy and water, investigating the role commercial urban farms have in addressing the food needs of future generations.

“I will be developing a model that can predict nutrient, energy, and water inputs, and estimate crop yields, and waste production,” he said. “This model will be tied in with some of our other models for energy production, water use, and waste management to assess sustainability of our future cities and the necessary investments needed to get there.”

“I knew this would be a good fit, as ARCS has an emphasis on promoting sustainability,” said Clark, who’s working with Kari Watkins. “The primary focus of my research is to improve bicycle transportation, which can open the door for more people to make use of sustainable transportation.”

Bates uses the continued support of the ARCS foundation to advance her work with Ted Russell on air quality and its impact on human health. She has found associations in Atlanta between cardiac and respiratory problems — like asthma and congestive heart failure — and the airborne reactive oxygen chemicals she studies. Now she’s expanding this work to other cities in the southeastern United States.

Skipper said ARCS support has allowed her to attend a conference in Israel that otherwise wouldn’t have been an option.

She’s working with Donald Webster to study the biomechanics and sensory systems of tiny zooplankton called daphnia. She hopes to use the work to develop a bio-inspired sensor array that would be useful in experimental work and robots that could be deployed in the ocean.

“I couldn't be more grateful for this award,” Skipper said. “It's such an amazing thing that the foundation does.”