Clifford Kapono, a PhD candidate in Chemistry, was born on the eastern shores of Hawai‘i, and has dedicated most of his life towards investigating the unique relationships between human and environmental health. Scheduled to obtain his PhD from the UCSD Department of Chemistry in summer 2017, his academic career is uniquely complemented with his commitment to the sea. As a recipient of the 2016-2017 GHI Graduate Student Research grant, Cliff will be looking at the unique microbiomes of avid ocean goers from around the world. Because ocean recreationalists are exposed to heightened levels of environmental stressors, such as antibiotic resistant bacteria, Cliff’s research will look to identify how extended periods of time at the beach may be influencing human health. He is currently conducting his research abroad at the University of Exeter School of Medicine in Dr. William Gaze's lab. It is the base for the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.
Conall Sauvey is a PhD student in the UCSD Biomedical Sciences program. He uses in-silico and in-vitro screening approaches to identify therapeutic molecules against parasitic disease organisms. This includes organisms such as Naegleria fowleri or “brain-eating amoeba,” which has a fatality rate of over 97% and currently no existing cure. Though Naegleria infections are rare, they particularly affects tropical areas with sources of warm fresh water. Conall’s research also includes Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Chagas disease primarily affects low-income populations living in Mexico, Central, and South America, with an estimated 6.6 million cases worldwide. It causes chronic disease and heart failure in 30-40% of infected patients, and is currently incurable during this stage. Conall hopes that his work will help significantly increase the quality of life and chances of survival for people affected by these and other neglected tropical diseases.