Chloe Talana has a mantra in life: Don’t wait for opportunities to knock, go out and get them.
That how’s the Chaminade senior found herself researching Hepatitis C in a lab at New York University’s School of Medicine over the summer and then presenting her findings at a national conference alongside other undergraduates selected for the competitive Leadership Alliance program.
“You have to find the initiative,” she said. “That’s how I see opportunities. You go and find them.”
Talana was one of two Chaminade students who participated this summer in Leadership Alliance, designed to prepare underrepresented minorities for academic research and graduate degrees. Also representing Chaminade: Nainoa Norman Ing, who conducted research at Vanderbilt University.
Chaminade is one of 35 institutions nationwide that are part of the Leadership Alliance. Other participating universities include Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Through the program, Chaminade students gain access to valuable research, mentoring and career development opportunities.
“This program specifically tries to gather people from different walks of life and really bring them together to let them see you’re not alone in this journey,” said Talana, who came to Chaminade from Farrington High. “Their mission is to really make sure that students who want to pursue Ph.D. in any field are able to do it, regardless of their background and the challenges they face along the way.”
It was actually the second year that both Talana and Norman Ing participated in the program, completing internships that give them real-life experiences in labs and then presenting what they learned to their peers – and to experts in the fields they’re interested in pursuing.
Norman Ing said the Leadership Alliance symposium, held in Connecticut this year, is aimed at giving researchers-in-training a taste for what it’s like to defend your conclusions – while also considering what you might have missed. He added that the experience of working in a cutting-edge university lab and then reporting on what you’ve learned is aimed at preparing students for graduate school.
“This experience … reminded me that while I live and learn on this island, the world is a much bigger place,” Norman Ing said. “One of the biggest lessons I learned from experiencing living with people from across the country in a diverse setting is just how important it is to be grounded in one’s own culture.”
He said that while he’s learned so much at Vanderbilt University about organic chemistry – his presentation at the conference was titled, “A vision for vaccines built from fully synthetic cell-surface antigens” – the biggest takeaway of the internship for him was that he could envision a future for himself in academics. It was “just the pure experience in and around the university,” he said.
As for Talana, she said she’s already gunning for that next opportunity.
After graduation from Chaminade, she hopes to secure a post-baccalaureate appointment at a university on the mainland in order to further build a foundation of knowledge. After that, she plans to seek a dual medical and doctoral degree, with a focus on infectious diseases.
She added that she’s grateful for all of the opportunities she’s been able to grab at Chaminade. “The attention from faculty is amazing,” she said. “The help they provide to students, I can’t even pick words to describe it. It’s really wonderful how they’re able to help students pursue what they want to do.”