Amazing Students Profiles

Melissa Cabinian

Melissa Cabinian

Melissa Cabinian has had an extraordinary career at UGA, accumulating numerous accolades during her four years. Her most recent honor is being recognized by
the Georgia Legislature as UGA’s Academic Recognition Day Scholar for 2006. Cabinian pursued her interest in science as a research apprentice with UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. After two years in the apprentice program, she then served as an advisor and mentor to other CURO apprentices. After her sophomore year, Cabinian received a Foundation Fellowship, UGA’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship, which includes funds for international travel. The Fellowship enabled her to study the public health system in Ukraine, investigate air pollution in the Philippines, and set up clinics in Nicaragua. Such experiences make for an impressive resume and were likely a factor in her acceptance to some of the country’s most selective M.D./Ph.D. programs. She will head to one of them following graduation in May.


Conyers, Georgia

High School:

Salem High School

Degree objective:

Bachelor of science in microbiology and a bachelor of science in environmental health

Expected graduation:

May 2006

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

When I entered UGA, I received the Center of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Apprenticeship through which I began research in the College of Veterinary Medicine. My experience as an apprentice sparked my passion for science and led me to myriad opportunities from that period forward. Participating in research as an undergraduate has been one of the greatest highlights of my college experience. In my second year, I received the Midterm Foundation Fellowship. While the CURO exposed me to the realm of scientific research, the Fellowship opened my eyes to the entire world through travel. I have since been to 8 countries doing everything from volunteering to air pollution research. I have also been the undergraduate co-president of the Association for Women in Science for two years and have organized AWIS’ community outreach program Pi in the Sky.

Current Employment:

I don’t have an official job, but you could probably consider research my job. I have been working under the direction of Rick Tarleton in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases for the past year. This semester, I am completing my Honors Thesis on how the parasite that causes Chagas Disease is able to evade the host immune system by expressing variant peptide epitopes. I love my work, and I can’t wait to see it to completion.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I came to UGA for two reasons: research and scholarships. I really liked science in high school, and I was drawn to the idea of participating in the process of scientific discovery, so I had made it my goal to experience conducting research as a college student. Fortunately, UGA offered me the opportunity to join a laboratory from the moment I stepped foot on campus. In addition to this, I discovered that I would be able to pay for my first two years of college with the various scholarships I had received. These two opportunities made my decision to come to UGA easy.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…people watch. I love UGA’s bustling campus. I could never be bored sitting on the grass in Myers Quad or on a bench at Tate. There are always so many people to see and so much activity going on. You’re bound to run into someone you know. I love randomly encountering with friends I haven’t seen in a while and catching up with them on the bus or walking to class.

When I have free time, I like…

I am taking a tennis class this semester, yet I have never played tennis before. I’ve been spending some of my free time practicing with my more experienced friends. I was absolutely terrible in the beginning of the semester, but I now have a much better success rate of getting the ball over the net. It’s been great fun learning a new sport. Like most other college students, I spend most of my free time with my friends. One of my favorite things to do with them is going to ethnic restaurants. I love trying new things, and I can’t think of a better way to do so. Over all though, when the occasion of a few precious moments of nothing to do arises, I mostly just like to relax.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…swim in the dark ocean on the equator in the middle of night. I recently visited the Galapagos Islands traveling by way of a 96-foot sailboat. Besides seeing blue-footed boobies and swimming with sea lions, one of the highlights of the voyage occurred when the captain anchored our boat on the equator while traveling between two islands. That’s when we took advantage of our only opportunity to swim on the equator. It was amazing.

My favorite place to study is…

…the antique schoolteacher’s desk in my room surrounded with recessed lighting and a plentiful supply of caffeine. This works best for me in the very early morning hours just before the sun comes up.

My favorite professor is…

…is Dr. Karen Cornell, surgeon and professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Cornell was my first research mentor. She took me into her lab as a freshman even though I had no research experience and would be the only undergraduate working under her direction. Dr. Cornell would also invite me to observe interesting surgeries that she was performing. She treated me as if I was a graduate student. With her guidance and mentoring, I came to love scientific research. She gave me a good deal of independence in my research project and really respected my work. In addition, I have great memories of when our small lab would go on lunch outings to discuss future research goals or just to chat.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…the scientist Marie Curie. Her intense passion for science and genius led to the discovery of radium. She was the only person to have won two Nobel Prizes for sixty-one years. Her scientific genius coupled with her humanitarian dreams led her to use her discoveries to alleviate human suffering. During World War I, she organized x-ray vans that used radium to identify shrapnel and bullets and assist with surgery on the battlefield. I want to emulate Marie Curie’s devotion to science and courage to challenge convention. Most importantly though, I always want to be attuned to the benefits that my scientific work can provide for the world.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…put my efforts toward alleviating a significant problem in the world such as provide food for the world’s poor, put an end to genocide, or discover a vaccine for AIDS or malaria, and I would probably choose to address the problem that would have the greatest positive impact if solved. However, I intend to address these issues throughout life no matter how small my impact may be. If I were to choose something that I would never otherwise attempt unless I could not fail, it would be to go pro…in anything. I have no preference in what it would be. It would be amazing experience the exhilaration of performing a unique talent as a chess prodigy, a pro-golfer, a professional Latin dancer, a basketball player, or even an opera singer.

After graduation, I plan to…

…attend a M.D./Ph.D. program next fall. My eventual goal is to become a biomedical scientist and work in academic medicine.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

I hope to keep all of my UGA memories close to my heart, so I couldn’t choose just one event to remember. Although, the one thing that I will miss the most about UGA in the years to come and that I probably couldn’t have again is grilling hamburgers at my place with friends before a UGA football game. We make these juicy burgers seasoned with anything and everything available that sounds good on hamburgers. I love feeling the energy, excitement, and extreme pride for being a bulldawg before a football game. There’s no better time to enjoy being a UGA student.