Chino Cabalteja

Chino Cabalteja, a student research at the Master’s Level in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at UH Manoa, was awarded the 2014 UHM Student Excellence in Research Award for his work in mentor Dr. Jon Paul Bingham’s lab in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Cabalteja, who graduated from Kauaʻi High School in Lihu‘e, was honored at the 2014 Manoa Awards Ceremony on April 30 at the Orvis Auditorium.

On May 9, along with other CTAHR award winners, he was recognized again at the college’s Awards Banquet at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu.

Cabalteja is currently researching the bioengineering of conotoxins, bioactive peptides from the venom of Conus sea snails. Cone snail venom is being investigated for its many possible applications, from the potential design of drugs with specific pharmacological properties to agricultural pesticides. Instead of having to harvest the venom from the snails, which is still being done today, Cabalteja is also able to recreate the conotoxin in the lab, formulating it amino acid by amino acid.

An interesting discovery arising from his research is that human-made conotoxins have different configurations than those that are created naturally by the snails, the discovery that led to his award.

Cabalteja, called the “lab superstar” by a student colleague, was previously awarded the CTAHR Best MS Student Poster Presentation at the 2012 Student Research Symposium jointly held by CTAHR and UHM’s College of Engineering. He was also awarded a travel stipend to attend a conference in his field on the Mainland. In this year’s Student Research Symposium, Chino was awarded the Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering Best MS Student Oral Presentation.

Cabalteja will be attending the University of Pittsburgh’s prestigious PhD program in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology in the Fall. After he has earned his doctorate, he plans to return to Kaua‘i, where he moved as a child from the Philippines.

Growing up on Kaua‘i, he says there used to be less in the way of science enrichment education, although that situation is now changing thanks to such programs as the Hawaiʻi Regional Science Bowl, which a cousin of his participated in and loved.

Another sign of the changing science-education climate is the Kaua‘i “Gene-iuses on a Mission” program, a series of Saturday workshops at the Kaua‘i Community College for elementary-aged students to encourage scientific thinking and appreciation for all things science related.

Each session, led by students and faculty from CTAHR’s Biotechnology Outreach Program, focuses on a specific theme, including DNA, cells, forensics and agriculture. Cabalteja hopes to be part of that change as well, bringing even more opportunities for science education to his home island.

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