Group Members

Visiting Kilauea volcano at Volcanoes National Park in April 2019 with a cohort of amazing student researchers.

Current Members

Pashyn Morimoto, health professions major (pre-medicine) at UH West Oahu, Fall 2019-present

Pashyn was born and raised on the island of O‘ahu, and will be graduating from the University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu with a BAS in Health Professions Pre-Medical in December 2021. She is a first-generation college student with a career goal to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Her future plans include attending medical school and traveling around the globe to gain various perspectives and knowledge from many cultures. She strives to apply a patient-centered model to her future practice and to create a healthier community. Pashyn believes that educating people on how their personal lifestyle habits play such a significant role in their well-being and providing them with the resources to grow will gradually shift community health in a positive direction. 

Pashyn has research experience in chemistry, molecular biology and microbiology and has presented her work at numerous research symposia. Pashyn was selected for the competitive Haskell Environmental Research REU at Kansas University in Summer 2021. Her work was published in Native Science Report as part of the Spring 2020 Student Research Showcase with co-author Diana Le.

Nicholas Bailey, post-baccalaureate student (pre-medicine), Fall 2020 to present

Nicholas was born in 1995 on the island of O’ahu and is a proud graduate of the University of Hawai’i West O’ahu. He has remained at the university to complete additional coursework on his journey to becoming a psychiatrist. He believes in the statement: “A shared pain is half the pain and a shared joy is double the joy.”

Nicholas’ research focuses on the design and synthesis of novel chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of fungal diseases. Nicholas has also worked on natural product extraction and antibiotic evaluation with Dr. Joseph Bariyanga and Dr. Olivia George. In Spring 2020, he was awarded the Hawaii ACS Organic Chemistry Student of Year and in Spring 2021 for Outstanding Biochemistry Student from UH West O’ahu.

Reina Takaki, post-baccalaureate student (pre-medicine), Summer 2021 to present

Reina is a recent graduate of THE Oregon State University (Go Beavs!) with a BS in Bioengineering and a minor in Chemistry. She is currently attending UH West Oʻahu preparing for a career in medicine. For three years, Reina served as a Hui O Hawaiʻi club officer at OSU, one of which she served as President. As President, she increased awareness about the social and cultural issues and differences in Hawaiʻi through various on-campus events. She coordinated OSU’s 64th Annual Lūʻau, the largest student-led event on campus, and received the Cultural Event of the Year Award on behalf of Hui O Hawaiʻi. She aspires to serve and advocate for local, native, and underserved communities in Hawaiʻi as a physician. Her research focuses on developing optimized biological assay protocols for novel treatments targeting pulmonary aspergillosis.

Alaina Atanes, psychology major, Fall 2020 to present

Alaina’s research focuses on synthesizing a series of novel fluorinated chalcones as potential anti-parasitic agents to combat leishmaniasis. Alaina has a rare physical condition which makes her high level of achievement even more impressive. She has taken a wide variety of physical, earth, and biological sciences but enjoys building new molecules in the research lab the most.

Alaina has twice been awarded the Hawaii ACS Chemistry Student of Year from UH West O’ahu and was an INBRE biomedical researcher in Fall 2020. Beyond chemistry, she is also an accomplished artist, poet, and fanfic writer.

Group Alumni

Diana Le, health professions major at UH West Oahu, Fall 2018-Spring 2020, (graduated Spring 2021)

Diana’s first year of research with the group was to synthesize a variety of chalcones with electron-withdrawing and donating substituents. She presented this work at the UH Hilo TCBES symposium in Spring 2019. Her second year of research focused on discovering the physicochemical properties of nootropic nutritional supplements using UV/Vis spectrometry. Diana also has an artistic side and won a contest to redesign the logo for the Hawaii INBRE program in April 2019! Her work was published in Native Science Report as part of the Spring 2020 Student Research Showcase with co-author Pashyn Morimoto and she recently graduated in Spring 2021 from UH West O’ahu.

Khue Huynh, natural science major at Leeward CC, Summer 2015

Khue’s research focused on natural product extraction and antimicrobial assay from Native Hawaiian plants with fellow group member Liping Wang (below). They presented their work at the 2016 JABSOM Biomedical Research and Health Disparities Symposium. While obtaining her BS in Biochemistry from Hawaii Pacific University, she continued this project in the Horgen Group. Khue is currently pursuing a MS degree in Chemistry at the University of Hawaii Manoa and is interested in pursuing a career as an organic chemist.

Liping Wang, natural science major at Leeward CC, Summer 2015

Liping’s research focused on natural product extraction and antimicrobial assay from Native Hawaiian plants with fellow group member Khue Huynh (above). They presented their work at the 2016 JABSOM Biomedical Research and Health Disparities Symposium. Liping graduated with a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Hawaii Manoa and is seeking admission to MD programs.

Jonna Ocampo, natural science major at Leeward CC, Summer 2014

Jonna worked on the synthesis and antimicrobial evaluation of a series of 16 chlorinated chalcones with group member Rina Carrillo (below). Jonna has presented her work at multiple regional and national conferences. She has gone on to earn a Masters in Biomedical Science from Florida Institute of Technology and was accepted into the MD program at Ross University. Here is an article about her intensive summer research experience with my group. In addition to being a biomedical scientist and medical school student, she has competed internationally as a powerlifter, and is a published children’s book author.

Rina Carrillo, natural science major at Leeward CC, Summer 2014

Rina spent a summer carrying out the synthesis and antimicrobial evaluation of a series of 16 chlorinated chalcones along with Jonna Ocampo above. Their work was the group’s first published work in this field. After graduating with her BS in Molecular Biology and MS in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering from the University of Hawaii Manoa, she began her PhD program in the same department. Rina has a passion for plants and has worked in a variety of lab technician roles in addition to being a graduate teaching assistant for upper division biochemistry courses.

Jessi Cadorna (Tsukayama), natural science major at Leeward CC, Fall 2012-Spring 2013

Jessi’s work has impacted hundreds of organic chemistry students at Leeward CC, Windward CC, and UH West O’ahu by helping to create a series of organic chemistry I and II laboratory experiments. Jessi has gone on to earn a BA in Chemistry and Masters of Public Health at the University of Hawaii Manoa. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the Hokama Research Award from the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH Manoa. Jessi is currently applying to MD programs.

Hiromi Kobayashi, liberal arts major at Leeward CC, Fall 2011

First student at the College to perform a CHEM 299 Independent Study. Her focus was on organic synthesis methodology and the development of hydroxy-substituted chalcones via the Claisen-Schmidt condensation. Hiromi graduated from the University of Hawaii Manoa with a BS in Chemistry and earned an undergraduate Teaching Assistant position during her senior year. She then moved back to Tokyo, Japan where she worked as a professional organic chemist for the Fuijifilm Corporation.

Collaborators

Helmut Kae, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Leeward CC

Dr. Helmut Kae is an award-winning educator and leader at Leeward Community College where he actively mentors undergraduate researchers in a wide variety of molecular and microbiological projects. He is a co-founder of the Leeward CC Annual Summer Biomedical Research Symposium and his contributions to engaging undergraduates in research experiences have transformed the college into a vibrant community of promising young talent. Dr. Kae’s expertise and generosity enable our group members to perform the biological evaluation of their synthesized compounds at his laboratory.

Group Mascot

Mister Mang, The Ginger Rocket

Mister Mang earned a doctorate in cuddling and demands petting at all hours of the day and night. His expertise in laying on keyboards is renowned throughout the entire household. Mang leaves his mark (orange fur) on every shirt and pair of pants he encounters. When Mister Mang is not busy in Dr. Ashburn’s lap getting petted, he spends his free time sleeping on his 7-foot tall cat palace, sleeping on the bed and sleeping in Dr. Ashburn’s dresser. His research focus is on learning to open kitchen cabinets to discover the wonders that lie in the unknown.