National Minority Health Month – MARC Student Profile

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Caleb-Matthew Olaso, graduated this spring with a BA in Chemistry and BS in Marine Biology, and completed his research with JABSOM’s MARC Program.

Continuing our celebration of National Minority Health Month, we’re shining the spotlight on Caleb-Matthew Olaso, a current trainee in JABSOM’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, an opportunity he finds beneficial, as it helped him develop his professional skills and knowledge, and provided guidance to his career after graduation.

Which degrees are you working toward, or have already earned?
I will be graduating in Spring 2023 with a BS in Marine Biology and a BA in Chemistry (as of original publication in April 2023). 

What is your research about?
The microbiome includes the bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms that live on or in a host. In recent years, the effects that the composition of this microbiome has on host biology has become a hot topic. My research looks at how the composition of the microbiome affects mosquitoes, and in particular, their ability to store fat. I am also investigating how the microbiome of mosquitoes changes in response to blood-feeding.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research? What motivates you toward this area of research?
A method of mosquito control that might be used in the near future involves releasing mosquitoes that have been infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia into natural areas. Wolbachia is passed on from mother to offspring and interferes with mosquitoes’ ability to transmit diseases like dengue fever and malaria. I hope my research is able to inform methods of mosquito control by helping other researchers raise infected mosquitoes that are more robust and more likely to pass on Wolbachia. The applicability of my research in the real world is what drew me to this project.

Why did you choose to apply to the MHRT or MARC program?
What I was looking for in the MARC was an opportunity to develop my skills professionally. I knew I needed to prepare for my future career after my undergraduate education, and the MARC has provided more than enough direction in this area, whether it be in applying for graduate school or grants, developing a network of connections, learning to present scientific information, or leading my own research project.

What have you found the most exciting about being part of the program?
The most exciting part of the program has been sharing my research, either by presenting or publishing my work.

What do you enjoy most about your research?
I believe the most important aspect of any research lab are the people you interact with. My mentors over the course of the MARC program, Professor Margaret McFall-Ngai and Dr. Matthew Medeiros, have cultivated positive learning environments that I look forward to each week.

Where are you from? If Hawaii, which high school did you graduate from?
I’m from Kapolei on Oʻahu. I graduated from HTA (Hawaii Technology Academy).

What other interests/hobbies interest you outside of school?
I like hiking, fishing, and freediving with friends. I’ve been getting into astronomy and astrophotography recently and am in the process of building my first telescope. I also play the bass guitar.

What are you working toward after completing this program? What are your long-term career goals?
I will be taking a study abroad gap year in Asia after graduating. I would love to learn what working in industry is like during my gap year, but I am also curious about working in a field that is tangential to research, such as in a ministry of science or in a scientific outreach nonprofit. After, I plan to pursue a PhD in bioengineering. I’m not sure what my long-term career goals are, but I know I want to pursue a career that gets people excited about science.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice to share with incoming participants of this program?
In the MARC, you will have countless opportunities to network with scientists across all disciplines. Keep your mind open, use these resources, and forge as many connections as you can.
For more information on the MHRT program, eligibility for the program, and how to apply, please visit the MARC website or MARC send them an email here.