Reading about the hala tree as a possible source of anti-cancer treatment in ancient Hawaiian books has led Kiani Arkus to $40,000 in college scholarship money.
hala juice study
4 Kamehameha students share
in Intel science awards
By Helen Altonn
The 15-year-old Kamehameha Schools student learned about hala tree juice from ancient Hawaiian books last year in the eighth grade.
"It was like a mix of culture and science for me," she said.
In a summer science institute at her high school, she had to research Hawaiian medicine and find something that could be adapted to modern technology, she said.
The result was a science project this year that has won a series of top awards: "Hala and HELA: The Inhibitory Effects of the Pandanus odoratissimus on the Growth of the Human Cervical Cancer Cells."
Arkus was one of two Hawaii students winning scholarships of $5,000 per year for four years at the recent 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif. Her scholarship is to California State University-San Bernadino.
Marlon Lopez Gomez, 18, of James Campbell High School, also won a $5,000 scholarship per year for four years to California State University-Bakersfield in the Intel fair.
His project: "Growth of Micropropagated Papaya With or Without Sucrose."
Arkus also won a $20,000 scholarship as one of eight finalists in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Orlando, Fla., and she won $500 in the state science fair.
"Awards are always surprising," she said. "Pretty much every student works very, very hard. Recognition is really rewarding.
"Sometimes when you're at school at 7 p.m. on Friday, you think no one cares, but they do."
Nights and weekends, she said, she was "always in the lab," a phone number her parents added to the address book.
Her ambition is to study forensics. "It's like, in my opinion, the ultimate science. It's like every science combined to make forensics. It's really amazing."
She said she has never seen the touted "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" television show but watches "The New Detectives," which presents case studies in forensic science.
"I used to be really into 'ER' and 'X-Files,' but when I really started to look at science and actually do my own research, I got annoyed at shows," she said. "There are a lot of little mistakes throughout them."
She either watches Discovery Channel or, for entertainment, "Friends."
Kiani said she has a younger brother, older sister and older half brother and promised her parents, Robert and Melissa Arkus, "no matter what school I went to, they wouldn't have to pay for it."
One of her $20,000 scholarships is to a college of her choice, and she is interested in the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
It has a good forensic science program and will be more like home, she said. "It won't be too freezing."
Although she spends a lot of time in the laboratory, Arkus is also on the swim team, plays sports and is active in New Hope Christian Fellowship. She makes time, she said, to "go out and play."
Four Kamehameha Schools students won Grand Awards at the recent 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif.
students share in Intel
>> Kawika Analu Mortensen, 17, won a second-place Grand Award of $1,500 in the medicine and health category for his project, "Happy Hearts: Microalgal Antioxidant Effects on an In Vitro Model of Atherosclerosis."
>> Marissa Joy Kellett, 17, won a third-place Grand Award of $1,000 for her biochemistry project, "Effects of Extracts of the Artocarpus altillis Bark on Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Cells."
>> The team of Kalikolehua Hurley, 17, and Nicole Shishido, 17, won a fourth-place Grand Award of $500 each. Their project was titled "Inside Iholena: Anticancer Effects of Floral Extracts."
Also competing at ISEF were Mei Mei Fong of Castle High School (Windward district); Aaron Cates of Kamehameha Schools (Hawaii Association of Independent Schools); Joshua Santos of Baldwin High (Maui District); and Tara Bonilla, Rickey Rodrick, Whitney Haraguchi, Tyson Wakayama and Rodney Yama of Kapaa High (East Kauai district).
The students are ninth- to 12th-graders who earned the right to compete by winning top prizes at local, regional, state or national fairs.
Their teacher-adviser was Larry Mordan, an honors science teacher at Kamehameha Schools.
More than 1,200 students from 39 countries and four U.S. territories competed at the Intel ISEF this year. More than 10 percent are applying for patents on their research.
ISEF is sponsored by Intel and administered by Science Service, a nonprofit educational organization.
The State Science Fair is sponsored by the Hawaii Academy of Science with the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Education.