Amazing Students Profiles

Ariel Chan

Ariel Chan

Ariel Chan loves food. So much so that this self-proclaimed “foodie” is planning to dedicate her career to plant breeding in order to employ genetic technologies for agricultural advancements, including strategies to combat world hunger.


Lawrenceville, Georgia

High School:

Peachtree Ridge High School

Degree objective:

Food Science and Technology

Expected graduation:

May 2012

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I honestly don’t know why I even try to plan my life out anymore! If you were to ask me three years ago for a prediction of my college career, my description wouldn’t even come close to what’s really panned out during my past years in Athens. I’ve changed my major more times than I can count on one hand, but all my experiences have taught me that’s what college is about: finding your niche. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m grateful to have attended the University of Georgia. This university gives its students so much room to explore. I came into UGA with the full intention of attending its pharmacy program; however, after completing the two years of pre-pharmacy courses and gaining acceptance into the College of Pharmacy, I realized that I really couldn’t see myself in the pharmacy profession. After this realization, I began exploring the other majors at UGA and luckily discovered Food Science and Technology in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Transitioning into CAES has been nothing but rewarding, and I have the honor of representing my college as a CAES Ambassador this coming year.

As I dive deeper into my Food Science studies, I’m developing a great interest and passion for certain topics, including the role of genetics in agriculture and food security. My interest and belief in plant biotechnology’s curative potential catalyzed my involvement in undergraduate research in Dr. Wayne Parrott’s laboratory, where I investigated the cause of a mutant phenotype in Arabidopsis thaliana. I’m really excited that UGA’s CURO Program is giving me the opportunity to present my research at the 2011 CURO-UCR International Symposium in San José, Costa Rica this summer.

Dr. Parrott’s lab actually isn’t my first encounter with research. During my sophomore year of college I conducted ovarian cancer research in the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences with Dr. Shelley Hooks and presented my research at the 2010 CURO Symposium. I also presented my research at the 2011 FGLSAMP Expo 2011, the 2010 LSAMP Annual Fall Symposium and Research Conference, and the 2011 CAES Undergraduate Research Symposium, where I received first place in poster presentations, first place in oral presentations, and third place in oral presentation, respectively.

I’m currently interning with the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, Georgia Crop Improvement Association and the Georgia Seed Development Commission and enjoying every minute of it. Participating in this plant breeding summer internship provides a remarkable opportunity to work along side GSDC employees and gain insight on how this non-profit, self-supporting organization carries out its mission to provide leadership and economic support for new business opportunities in assisting the maintenance of agriculture as Georgia’s number one industry. This program serves as a robust stepping-stone towards my career in plant breeding and genetics research, and it’s amazing to see how bench work translates to the agricultural market.

Sustainability also holds a dear place in my heart. I served as one of ten resident assistants in UGA’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) proposed residence hall this past year, and I took full advantage of the resources this leadership position provides by promoting environmental preservation and educating the residents of Building 1516 about engaging in sustainable practices through various mediums, including educational programs and competitions. I assisted in implementing a Teracycle collection recycling program in Building 1516 where hard-to-recycle materials are collected and transformed into affordable green products. During my sophomore year, I assisted the Housing Sustainability Programming Committee in planning a Sustainable Film Series and a Sustainable Eating in the Dining Halls program for UGA.

Current Employment:

I currently intern with the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, Georgia Crop Improvement Association and the Georgia Seed Development Commission.

Family Ties to UGA:

My family has no ties to UGA. It’s quite the opposite, actually. My father, Cheong-wo Hunter Chan, received his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently conducting research at Tech. My older sister, Leslie Chan, also attended Tech and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. I guess you could say I’m the odd one out, but what else is new?

I chose to attend UGA because…

…for many reasons. However, the university’s Honors Program and College of Pharmacy served as the two main catalysts.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…eat and listen to music! Maybe it’s the foodie in me that’s talking right now, but I always leave the UGA dining halls with a huge grin on my face! This past year was actually my first experience on the university’s meal plan, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because of the social atmosphere and because I’m constantly hungry! Another one of my favorite things to do on campus is wander around in the Hodgson School of Music listening to the students and musicians rehearse. I discovered the wonders of this building when I had a couple of guitar lessons there last semester.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

..packing up one suitcase and flying to Wyoming with a group of complete strangers from across the nation for a week to learn about conservation at Grand Teton National Park with the Student Conservation Association.

My favorite place to study is…

… depends on what mood I’m in and what subject I’m studying. I find myself spending the most time in the John J. Powers Student Activity Room next to the Food Science Building and the UGA Visitors Center Four Tours.

My favorite professor is…

…technically not a professor, but he will be this coming fall: Nathan Hancock. I’m currently conducting undergraduate research in Dr. Wayne Parrott’s crop genetic transformation lab, and Nathan is our lab’s postdoc and my research mentor. UGA has a large population of talented researchers; however, what makes these researchers stand out (at least in the eyes of students) is their ability to translate and transfer knowledge. Not only is Nathan an amazing researcher, but he’s also an outstanding teacher. As I dive deeper into my Food Science and Technology studies, my interest in the use of plant breeding and genetics to combat the issue of food security continues to develop. I unfortunately have not taken any genetic courses (but definitely will this coming fall 2011 semester), so Nathan has basically taught me everything I know about gene tagging. He’s great at explaining things, and he has a lot of patience (trust me)! He truly has his workers and co-workers’ best interests at heart. If something’s wrong, you go to Nathan. He’s always willing to answer questions and always greets people with smiles. There’s an ongoing joke in most research labs: the majority of people who undergo the ordeals of Ph.D programs come out a little hardened and a bit more cynical than when they first went in (possibly due to sleep deprivation and excessive caffeine consumption). I can’t sense that at all in Nathan, and that’s what I like most about him: he’s a kid at heart.

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

…Anthony Bourdain. Hands down. He’s everything I aspire to become minus the carnivorism. This man is an absolute genius when it comes to cooking and finding the best places to eat. I’m a crazed follower of his show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel where he traverses the globe to uncover the best cuisines and cultural experiences. Not only is he a talented chef and hilariously cynical television host, but he’s also a talented writer and food critic. This man can kill with words. Conversing with him over a meal would be entertaining to say the least.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…love to sing and play guitar. I can hold my own during my family’s yearly karaoke sessions, but I always seem to freeze up when trying to perform in public. I can’t seem to get over my stage fright! I did manage to perform a welcome song for my freshman girls during my first floor meeting as a resident assistant, but that will probably be my last performance for a while.

After graduation, I plan to…

…pursue a Ph.D in philosophy in the area of plant breeding and genetics to employ genetic technologies for agricultural advancements. Insight on the plant genome promises solutions that will alleviate various world ailments, including strategies to combat world hunger and the production of second-generation biodiesel to combat our unhealthy reliance on fossil fuels.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…serving as a resident assistant. No matter how time consuming or stressful, serving as a resident assistant for both the Hill and Reed Community will be memorable.. Adopting this leadership position (basically an extroverted role) forced me out of my comfort zone on a day-to-day basis and opened my eyes to the diversity of the university’s student population. I’ve met some amazing individuals and life-long friends that I otherwise would never have met had it not been for this position.