A group of students from the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu were among those honored at a statewide ceremony presented by one of the world’s largest scientific organizations. The American Chemical Society (ACS) Hawaiʻi Section honored outstanding chemistry students throughout the state at its annual awards ceremony, which was held virtually on May 29. The ACS, founded in 1876 and chartered by the U.S. Congress, is one of the world’s largest scientific societies.
“Six outstanding UH West Oʻahu students were presented awards,” said Dr. Bradley Ashburn, assistant professor of Chemistry at UH West Oʻahu who recently was awarded the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching at UH. “This annual event brings together nearly all of Hawaiʻi’s colleges and universities to honor our state’s brightest young STEM scholars.”
The students are Alaina Atanes, Nicholas Bailey, Alena Figueroa, Sierra Furukawa, Pashyn Morimoto, and Chantelle Nartatez.
The online event, typically held as a banquet award ceremony, included Ashburn and UH West Oʻahu Chemistry lecturer Nick Takebayashi presenting the six students.
“I had so many great stories to tell about our awardees that I spent three times longer than the other presenters,” Ashburn quipped. “#PueoPride!”
The following are details about the awards, with excerpts about each student from the presenters:
Outstanding Student in General Chemistry
“Sierra was the voice of her class — not only did she regularly speak up to ask questions and provide responses, but her classmates would ask her for clarification on ideas presented in lecture,” Takebayashi said. “She worked hard to understand the material and her e-mails and speaking were filled with such politeness and well-expressed messages.”
“Anytime the class was posed with questions, Alena would chime right in with the correct responses,” Takebayashi said. “The work she displayed was immaculate — beautifully written and with the correct process.”
Outstanding Student in Organic Chemistry
In presenting Atanes, Ashburn said, “I would like everyone to try something. Close your eyes. Now keep one closed and slightly, very slightly barely open one. That is what our next awardee Alaina Atanes sees on her best days. Now imagine taking a full schedule of classes like that. And not just take, but to earn top marks in them all. She has to work 10 times greater than most of us just to survive, yet she has the strength to play life in hardmode.”
Ashburn continued, “Alaina would come to class early, stay late, make appointments to talk all things chem, and has a giant periodic table in her room. As a STEM scholar who is differently abled, she is truly inspirational. Alaina refuses to be a victim and lives life with a giant, beautiful smile.”
“Chantelle Nartatez incredibly spent her senior year of high school taking a full schedule of STEM courses at UH West Oʻahu,” Ashburn said. “She was always submitting assignments early and consistently sought feedback for improvement. Her sense of humor is wonderful, especially when the random number generator would repeatedly volunteer her to share her work in to the class. She plans to pursue a Biochemistry degree and become a medical doctor.”
Outstanding Student in Biochemistry
“Pashyn has a CV that would make fourth-year graduate students jealous,” Ashburn said. “Multiple publications, research presentations, superior GPA, peer tutor. She somehow balanced all of this working multiple jobs and volunteer community service. We sometimes meet students who you know can accomplish anything. I have the privilege of being one of her mentor’s and seeing her incredible growth into an unstoppable force of nature.”
“The trait the I admire most in Nick is academic maturity far beyond what would be expected of any undergraduate,” Ashburn said. “He is a team leader and has an incredibly strong work ethic. He even became used to eight-hour days in the lab with no lunch break.”
Ashburn continued, “His training in both organic synthesis and microbiology research, coupled with his previous psychology coursework, are a fantastic synergy for Nick to achieve his goals of becoming a psychiatrist. I will leave you with a quote he shared with me that will be the pillar of his future practice: ‘A shared pain is half the pain and a shared joy is double the joy.’ ”