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Herbold Fellows

Michael Bullock, Morteza Boroun, Kira Zeider, Ethan Bolze and Christa Sonderer represent the inaugural class of Herbold Fellows at the University of Arizona. The five graduate students will be applying data science to areas including hypersonics, quantum computing and medical imaging.

Herbold Fellowships Apply Data Science to Diverse Areas

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Herbold Fellowships Apply Data Science to Diverse Areas

July 27, 2020
With scholarships sponsored by Bob and Patricia Herbold, five UA engineering graduate students are using computational and other advanced analyses to improve air quality, quantum computing capabilities, hypersonic flight, data-driven decision making and medical imaging.

Bob Herbold, former chief operating officer of Microsoft Corp., and Patricia Herbold, who served as a U.S. ambassador to Singapore, started the Herbold Foundation in 2002 to provide college scholarships to students across the United States studying STEM subjects. This year, they are sponsoring the inaugural class of University of Arizona Herbold Fellows. The five graduate student fellows will each receive $10,000 for their work applying computer science and data sciences to a wide range of subjects.

“Both my wife and I benefited very significantly from scholarships for our college pursuits,” explained Bob, who has a PhD in computer science from Case Western University. “And in today’s world, there’s a genuine need for individuals with skills that are developed in engineering.”

Michael Bullock

Michael Bullock, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at the UA in May 2020, will begin his PhD in the same subject this fall.

He is researching covert communications over quantum channels. The ability for two parties to communicate without a potentially dangerous third party knowing about it is useful in many applications. Bullock said he believes these communications are especially helpful in organizations of social unrest against tyrannical governments.

“This award will enable the freedom to work independently on research,” he said. “With this independence, I plan to pursue research in the intersection of quantum communications and sensing with a focus on covertness and/or entanglement assistance.”

Morteza Boroun

Morteza Boroun earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Tehran in Iran and his master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is joining the Wildcat family in fall 2020 to pursue a PhD in systems and industrial engineering. His research focuses on modeling data-driven decision making in various industries and organizations to save time, money and energy. For example, in Arlington, he collaborated on a project to create alternative models for police departments, in order to optimize the movement of officers and create crime rate prediction models to boost efficiency.

“It’s a great honor to be selected as a Herbold fellow,” he said. “This fellowship will not only provide financial assistance -- it can also add credibility to research projects and inspire other organizations and foundations to fund projects.”

Kira Zeider

During her time double majoring in chemical and environmental engineering, Kira Zeider worked as an environmental engineering intern at Freeport-McMoRan and conducted research into water purification for tribal nations. Now, she’s preparing to start her PhD in chemical engineering, with University Distinguished Professor Armin Sorooshian as her adviser. She'll be supporting a NASA mission to collect an unprecedented volume of airborne data about the Earth’s atmosphere and to analyze it using machine learning methods and other advanced data science techniques.

“This fellowship was a large part in helping me recruit a tremendous student such as Kira, who did not have a shortage of other opportunities,” Sorooshian said.

Zeider said receiving the fellowship made her feel more confident about beginning her graduate studies and reinvigorated her passion for environmental research.

“With this fellowship, I’ll be able to actually dedicate myself just to my studies and my research, which is something I’ve never truly been able to do,” she said. “One of the things about this fellowship is that it will add credibility to my resume and open a lot of doors to me in the future.”

Ethan Bolze

Ethan Bolze, who majored in mechanical engineering and minored in aerospace engineering at the UA, always knew he wanted to be an engineer. He headed to work at Honeywell when he finished his bachelor’s degree in 2019, but after a year in industry, he was ready to get back to higher education. He is returning to the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering to investigate how aircraft interact with high-speed flow. His research will bridge aerodynamics and solid mechanics by producing large, highly resolved experimental and computational data sets that require advanced data analysis to extract the core physics of the interactions.

“It’s a really great marriage between what the university has to offer with this fellowship, my interests, and what the department wants to do,” Bolze said. “For someone to be kind enough to put forward this fund is truly a gift, and I’m extremely grateful, because without that I wouldn’t be going back this fall. I would likely have worked for a couple more years and saved up to go back.”

Christa Sonderer

Christa Sonderer is a master’s student in biomedical engineering, who will begin her PhD studies in fall 2020. Her work is focused on improving MRI technology, a field she says perfectly blends her interests in biomedical applications and computer science.

“MRI can be used for many different applications, such as studying disease pathophysiology or a patient’s response to a particular treatment, and it can be used to find more in-depth answers to biomedical problems,” she said. “The advancements we make in this technology can, ideally, be translated to the clinic to directly help patients.”

After graduation, Sonderer plans to work in industry, integrating biomedical technologies into clinical environments. She is still contemplating a specific research focus, and she said the Herbold Fellowship lets her explore different areas without worrying about finances.

“We are grateful for the generosity of Bob and Patricia, who had a vision to support graduate students around the general areas of computational and data science,” said David W. Hahn, Craig M. Berge dean of the College of Engineering. “I am most impressed with the breadth of subject areas represented in this inaugural class of Herbold Fellows, which supports the Herbold’s original vision and demonstrates the broad applicability of data science research.”