PhD student Kelly Chacon recognized for scholarship and leadership

12/01/14  Portland, Ore.

kelly-chacon2250Congratulations to Kelly Chacon on being named one of the first OHSU Research Roadmap Scholars and receiving the 2014 Vertex Scholarship, both based on leadership, academic excellence and her commitment to scientific research.

Kelly is a Ph.D. candidate entering her fifth year of study in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate program in the OHSU Institute of Environmental Health.  Working with her advisor, Dr. Ninian Blackburn, her research focuses on the underlying chemistry of how metals, and copper in particular, are trafficked and passed about by the proteins that exist in a living organism’s body. By understanding how metal moves through the body, we can eventually better understand diseases of metal transport, like Wilson’s or Menke’s disease. 

Kelly is a committed leader, both at OHSU and in the community. Since 2012, Kelly has served first as the Vice President and now as the President for the OHSU Graduate Student Organization, representing and supporting OHSU’s graduate students. She is the 2015 Associate Chair, and the 2016 Chair of the Gordon Research Seminar in Bioinorganic Chemistry.  She was the Student Chair on the Executive Steering Committee for OHSU Research Week. And outside of school Kelly is a student mentor and volunteer for On Track OHSU!, a Title I high school outreach pipeline program to inspire and prepare minority students for a future in STEM disciplines. In these and many other leadership roles, Kelly’s focus is bringing people together and encouraging outreach. “I have been passionate about serving my fellow students by acting as a strong voice that represents their needs,” says Kelly.

This is the inaugural year for the OHSU Research Roadmap Scholar award, a scholarship developed out of the School of Medicine Research Roadmap launched in 2011. The Research Roadmap develops a vision for a changing research landscape in which collaboration, rapid translation of discoveries, and excellence in science are the cornerstones to address complex human health issues. The creation of an annual Roadmap Scholar is aligned with a key strategic initiative of the Research Roadmap to “enhance the training, career development and mentoring opportunities for the next generation of biomedical researchers.” As a Roadmap Scholar Kelly will have the opportunity to participate in collaborative research planning at OHSU, thus developing her own collaborative leadership skills, as well as providing an important perspective as a developing biomedical researcher.

 The OHSU-Vertex Educational Partnership Program, established in 2007, offers $35,000 scholarships funded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass. The award will fund Kelly’s stipend and fees for one year. The Vertex program is an unencumbered gift to OHSU. Vertex is committed to the discovery and development of breakthrough small-molecule drugs for serious diseases.