Two Wyant College Students Named UA ARCS Foundation Scholars

    Date Posted: 
    Wednesday, March 17, 2021

    Congratulations to Wyant College graduate students Sawyer Miller and R. Garrett Richards on their receipt of the UArizona ARCS Foundation Scholarship.

    The 2021-22 ARCS Scholarship funding includes the following:

    • $8,500 scholarship cash award from ARCS.
    • $2,000 cash award from the Graduate College.
    • $500 travel grant from the Graduate College. 

    More from the winners

    Sawyer Miller

    More about the Research

    In broad terms my research is concerned with the manipulation and analysis of the polarization state of light. Specifically I am working on novel devices which utilize liquid crystal polymer to manipulate, orient, and analyze the state of polarization as well as imaging experiments where specific polarization signatures are captured in the natural world. One of the more challenging and enjoyable experiments I have been able to work on was imaging total internal reflection (TIR) events in air bubbles as they travelled through water. TIR produces an elliptical polarization signature under the right conditions and it was a lot of fun exploring and capturing these events under natural conditions outside the lab!

    Polarization has many applications from display technology to remote sensing. Currently, one of the biggest areas of interest and applicability is the augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) space. The miniaturization of optics for placement within a headset requires quite of bit of polarization manipulation to operate properly. My research is directly applicable to AR/VR, especially my work with liquid crystal polymer. 

    About the Scholarship

    Receiving the ARCS scholarship is such an honor. To be recognized for my hard work in academics and research is a wonderful feeling. I am also excited to connect with the other recipients from across Arizona. I hope to meet many new friends and colleagues through the scholarship. Additionally, I hope to learn from their research and hopefully come away with new ideas.

    Long Term

    My long term goals at this time are to either join industry or a national laboratory. I’d like to continue working on making AR/VR better and more accessible to those that need it. But in general, I’d like to just continue solving difficult problems and contributing to the scientific community as an optical scientist and engineer. 

    Garrett Richards

    More about the Research

    My research involves the development of a new SPECT imager, named AdaptiSPECT-C. SPECT is a type of gamma-ray imaging, wherein a subject is injected with a solution of radioactive molecules that target specific receptors within the body. These molecules, called radiotracers, can be customized to target all types of cells in the body. The SPECT cameras are equipped with converters that absorb gamma-rays and re-emit a small amount of visible light in a process called scintillation. Behind the converters are very sensitive detectors that sense the scintillation photons. Raw image data is collected from a variety of angles around the subject and processed to reconstruct an image of the 3D radiotracer concentration. With AdaptiSPECT-C, we are targeting dopamine receptors in the brain to perform clinical research. Ultimately, we hope to use AdaptiSPECT-C as a tool for drug discovery for neurodegenerative disease. It incorporates a number of improvements over traditional SPECT cameras, including dynamic, multiplexed pinholes and a hybrid-sensor modular camera.

    My specific contributions to AdaptiSPECT-C were the mechanical design of the cameras, gantry, and mounting interfaces, and the schematic and board layout of the front-end electronics. We are right in the middle of procurement for the project—custom machined parts, electronic components, circuit boards, lots of t-slotted framing, etc.—so the next few months are shaping up to be quite a push.

    About the Scholarship

    Unsurprisingly, I am very excited to be awarded this scholarship. I'm in the final year of my PhD program, and the ARCS Foundation scholarship serves as an integral, and much appreciated, bridge to its completion. It has been so helpful in a number of ways, and I'm just thrilled.

    Long Term

    Long term, I am hoping to find a job as a research scientist, IRAD engineer, or the like. I'm looking into positions at national laboratories, aerospace companies, and research divisions of other private companies. One thing is certain: my wife Shreya and I want to stay out west. We have two big dogs and spend our free time outdoors.