HONOLULU—HI–The awards just kept coming at a gala dinner held this fall in San Jose, California. Fourteen Chaminade undergraduate students, hailing from all over the United States as well as the Pacific including Samoa, Guam, and Hawaii, waited anxiously to hear if maybe one of their fellow students had been selected for a prize at the Association for Biomedical Research and Minority Scientists (ABRCMS) national conference. This gathering of over 1600 young STEM undergraduates, as well as prestigious graduate school and nationally-recognized researchers, sets the standard in recognition and resume-building for those students who intend to enter PhD programs or medicine following their graduation. Five Chaminade students took top honors for their research presentation.

First to be called with an award was Chaminade junior Mata’uitafa Faiai, with an award for her work on imaging of cellular energy use during obesity and nutrient overload. While student research coordinator Dr. Jolene Noelani Cogbill sent an excited text message to Mata’uitafa’s research supervisor, Dr. Helen Turner, as more Chaminade awards were called.

“I was at a meeting in Dayton” explained Dr. Helen Turner, Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Chaminade. “I was following all of the excitement by text. Those text messages just kept coming. Research is such an integral part of our curriculum and enrichment experiences for Chaminade majors in biology, biochemistry and forensics, and to see their hard word recognized at the national level is fantastic”.

Every year over 20 Chaminade science students participate in summer research experiences at prestigious mainland institutions, and spend both summers and semester time performing research in Chaminade’s own research program, which focuses on Pacific health disparities such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, pre-term birth and liver cancer. “Home-grown research on Pacific health problems is critical to engaging the students and having them commit to serve our community after graduation,” explained Dr. Turner. “We try to couple that with an experience at a top-20 research University in order to broaden their scientific horizons.”

This year ABRCMS Outstanding Student Presentation Awardees were presented to the following Chaminade students:

  • Mata’uitafa Faiai – Insulin treatment of mast cells causes ectopic lipid body accumulation and mitochondrial alterations in mast cells, Chaminade University, funded by the NIH STEP-UP program
  • Mary DeVita – Understanding the Role of L-3,4-DOPA in the Adhesive Mechanism of Dreissena rostriformis bugensis, Quagga Mussel, ByssalThreads, Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, funded by the UNLV NSF REU program
  • Anthony Junker – Telomerase and Telomere Length as a Read-out for Fetal Cell Proliferation, Chaminade University, funded by NIH INBRE program
  • Alyssa Dixon – Targeting Scr through drug combination therapy in Anaplastic and papillary thyroid cancer, University of Colorado Denver, funded by the Endocrine Society Minority Access Program
  • Katie Shewbart – oral presentation on The Utility of Infrared Vibrational Frequencies for the Lead Optimization of Quinoxalines, and Pyridinopyrazines as PKB/Akt Inhibitors, Chaminade University, funded by the NIH INBRE program.

Dr. Cogbill, a University of Hawaii graduate who heads Chaminade’s Natural Sciences divisional efforts in student research placements, was quick to point out that, “three of our five award recipients did their research right here at Chaminade.  This shows not only the caliber of our students, but that our research labs are nationally competitive and conducting research that is relevant to the scientific community at large”.

Additionally, Dr. Cogbill took time to acknowledge the funding agencies that make these experiences possible for Chaminade students. “We have undergraduate research projects and conference attendance funded by the NSF, NIH, National Institute for Minority Health and Disparities, Air Force Research Laboratories, FASEB-MARC, the Endocrine Society, the Leadership Alliance and others” which means “no out of pocket expenses for students who wish to  participate”.

Still excited, Biology undergraduate Christina Linares said that now it’s time to get back to work, “I can’t wait to get back in the lab, get back on the microscope and start working towards next year’s conference.”

Educating students for life, service and successful careers, Chaminade University is a Catholic/ Marianist university offering programs of study grounded in the liberal arts with day, evening, online and accelerated courses. A Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander serving institution, Chaminade is located at 3140 Waialae Ave., Honolulu, HI 9681, which is its main campus. It also has nine satellite locations around Oahu. Chaminade University is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and looks forward to increased opportunities to promote environmental sustainability. For more information, visit the Chaminade Web site at www.chaminade.edu or call (808) 735-4711. ###

Media Contact: Kapono Ryan

(808) 735-4797