A group of UH Hilo undergraduates participating in a federal program to advance under-represented students in biomedical and behavioral sciences presented their research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held in Anaheim, Calif.
A group of University of Hawai‘i at Hilo undergraduates participating in a campus program that supports under-represented students interested in biomedical and behavioral sciences presented their research at a national conference last month. The work was presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held in Anaheim, Calif.
The students are part of the Students of Hawai‘i Advanced Research Project, commonly called the SHARP program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology. The program supports all under-represented UH Hilo students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders, to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research to help them advance to doctoral studies.
Currently, UH Hilo is the only school in the state of Hawai‘i that has a SHARP program.
For many of the students, the trip was their first time presenting off-island at a major conference. Lenard Allen, the SHARP coordinator, says these events are necessary because they place the students in new situations and force them to communicate their work with strangers, which builds their confidence.
“They leave the comfort of the institution; some of our students have not traveled off the island,” says Allen. He explains that attending the conference, watching the different speakers, and networking are key to their success and open doors to them. “Some of our students were offered jobs during the conference,” he says.
Approximately 5,500 participants representing more than 350 institutions attended the four-day conference (see the program). Undergraduates and early researchers were invited to showcase their research through poster or oral presentations, representing 12 disciplines within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The UH Hilo students networked with peers and other researchers and professionals, learned about graduate school opportunities, and honed their professional development skills.
Seven of the students presented their undergraduate work in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The following student papers were presented.
- Keinan B. Agonias: “Antibacterial Effects of Metrosideros polymorpha on Colony Forming Units of Pathogenic Bacteria.” Agonias’s coauthor and faculty mentor is Stan Nakanishi, professor of biology at UH Hilo.
- Maya Sunshine P. Bernardo: “Effects of Cortisol and Fat Distribution Pre- and Post-season of Women Student-athletes Volleyball Season.” The coauthors include her faculty mentor Lincoln Gotshalk, associate professor of kinesiology and exercise sciences, and UH Hilo undergraduates Jia Hao Yao and Tyler Honda.
- Duke E. Escobar: “Antibacterial Effect on Pathogenic Bacteria of Metrosideros polymorpha Liko Extract.” The coauthors are fellow SHARP student Agonias, and faculty mentor Nakanishi.
- Evangeline Lemieux: “Stress and Recovery After Kilauea Eruption.” The coauthors are fellow SHARP student Joshua Turner and faculty mentor Lynn Morrison, professor of anthropology.
- Kieran-Tiaye A. Long: “Investigating the Effects of Social Stress on Light-avoidance Behavior in Planaria.” Long’s coauthor and faculty mentor is Nakanishi.
- Dallas Tada: “Development of Polymeric Nanoparticles of Natural Polyphenols for Improved Oral Delivery.” Tada’s coauthor and faculty mentor is Abhijit Date, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
- Joshua Turner: “Kilauea Lava Animal Rescue.” The coauthors include UH Hilo undergraduate Lemieux and faculty mentor Morrison.
UH Hilo students in the SHARP program receive faculty mentoring, paid research assistantships, and access to conferences and networking. UH Hilo students who have been part of this program have received admissions to advanced degree programs at such schools as Stanford University, the John A. Burns School of Medicine, and the University of California, Berkeley.
The UH Hilo SHARP program is currently funded through May 2021 at which time new NIH mandates will require 75 percent of staffing cost be provided by the university.
Story by Leah Sherwood, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at UH Hilo. She received her bachelor of science in biology and bachelor of arts in English from Boise State University.