Graduate Student Researchers



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.


Nina Gao, 2nd year PhD candidate, is researching Group A Streptococcus, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes, best known for causing strep throat. However, around the world, the same bacterium can cause a spectrum of diseases such as scarlet fever and strep throat, to life-threatening necrotizing fasciitis (“flesh eating disease”) and rheumatic heart disease. The global health burden of these infectious diseases weighs heaviest on developing nations without access to adequate health care, resulting in the development of serious post-infection autoimmune sequelae. She will be traveling to Brisbane, Queensland to research S. pyogenes in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Walker, director of the Australian Infectious Disease Research Centre.