Chantell Balaan, a University of Hawaii medical school doctorate student from Koloa, is the 2019 winner of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) award in medicine.
Balaan is the first in her family to attend college, and she has made the most of it. She has two bachelor’s degrees from UH Manoa, and a master’s degree, and is not far from earning her doctorate from the UHM John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
Balaan will present her current research on April 13 at UH Manoa to the ARCS members and will be presented the award in a ceremony on May 6 at the Outrigger Club in Waikiki.
Balaan, a Kauai High School graduate, is a third-year doctorate student in the developmental and reproductive biology program, holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and religion.
”My educational goals are to complete a Ph.D. degree with emphasis on understanding the interplay between gut microbiota, brain-gut bidirectional pathways, and metabolome in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) etiology. The most exciting part of my work is implementing an evolutionary model system, Astyanax mexicanus (species of teleost with two distinct morphs: surface and cave morphs) to study ASD. We hope to incorporate a lot of interdisciplinary knowledge in the long run,” she said.
”Hands-down, I have the best colleagues ever (special shout-out to Vania Felipa Lima Fernandes, Mclean Worsham and Kimberly Lactaoen). We are all very excited about our model system and we are always reaching out to each other whenever we have questions about our project/experiments,” she said.
”It is also great that many of our undergrad volunteers are funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, so we all have a chance to extend our knowledge and experiences to undergrads. We are also appreciative of our PI (principal investigator), Dr. Masato Yoshizawa, for his mentorship,” she said/
”When I am not in the lab or grading papers, I try to do as much physical activity as possible, such as hiking and going to the gym,” she said.
“My favorite spot in Hawaii is my hometown, Koloa on the island of Kauai. I spent most of my childhood there and I grew up on my family’s farm where our primary crop was kalo (taro). It was here that I believe I honed my observational skills that I utilize as a behavioral scientist, as I spent many days in my childhood observing native flora and fauna.
”My favorite place outside of Hawaii would be Seattle, where my older brother, Cheston, currently resides. I enjoy how it contrasts to Hawaii. However, I appreciate the cultural atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest.
“Like many other students, I am a first-generation college student who is learning as I go. I am very lucky and grateful for the faculty and staff who have enabled me to pursue higher education here at UH Manoa and at the John A. Burns School of Medicine,” she said.
”I would like to acknowledge those who have made a huge impact in my academic growth. I would like to give special acknowledgment to the ARCS Foundation for the award. I am truly thankful for everyone involved. I hope that my story will inspire other students to pursue their goals.”