ARCS Scholar Profile: Sarah Heater

Sarah, a PhD candidate in the Tetrad program, is one of 12 outstanding UCSF students chosen to receive an ARCS scholarship. The Graduate Division interviewed her in fall 2020.

Why did you decide to pursue a PhD?

I’ve always been curious about how the natural world works. Research allows me to explore that curiosity in a way that benefits society. I love working on scientific puzzles as well as figuring out how to present biological concepts, and hoped to work on these skills through my PhD.


I was first interested in UCSF based on the diversity of research opportunities available as well as the training I would get in Tetrad. During my interview, I really enjoyed my conversations with faculty and students and had a strong sense that I could really see myself here. I (correctly) thought this was a place where I would grow a lot both as a researcher and as a person.

Tell us a little about your research.

Histoplasma capsulatum is a fungal pathogen that is the source of approximately 500,000 infections per year in the U.S., causing significant morbidity and mortality. Temperature is a critical regulator of pathogenesis, and my primary project seeks to define the molecular mechanism(s) by which temperature initiates signaling to regulate both virulence and morphology. My hope is that this project will provide insights relevant to treating and/or preventing infection by this pathogen.

What are your post-graduation career goals?

I am very interested in staying in academia, but I'm also curious about exploring career paths in nonprofits and science communication. I am currently taking the UCSF MIND course to explore my career interests.

What are your interests outside the lab?

I enjoy backpacking, cooking, and science outreach volunteer work.

Funding for the ARCS Scholarship is provided through a grant from the ARCS Foundation, whose mission is to advance science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding US citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research. Visit the ARCS Foundation website to find out more. The Graduate Division and our students are grateful for this generous support.