Gabriela Calhoun: Shoot for Jupiter, Land on the Moon

Gabriela Calhoun in the Lopes Lab By Sean Christopher Quow Thomason Posted on January 02, 2018  in  [ GCU Experience ]

Amidst a wave of construction projects, the engineering building, one of Grand Canyon University’s newest additions to an increasingly sprawling campus, has set itself apart through the consistent production of noise that can only be associated with student preparation and innovation. Yet today, the traditional whirl of the Lopes Lab (the engineering building’s center for technological experimentation) has been lulled to a systematic silence as a small group of students sit contemplatively around a whiteboard littered with role delegations and points of emphasis for the upcoming week. This unit of dedicated engineering and pre-med majors is currently considering plans of attack for their research and development project, 3Derma, but have encountered the issue of volunteer hesitation that frequently plagues small groups of over-extended individuals. Sensing the indecision and without missing a beat, the group’s co-founder and student lead, Gabriela Calhoun, addresses the wary group and asks, “So, who is going to take care of that for us?”

Calhoun, affectionately called “GC” by her fellow STEM ambassadors, has a history of excellence that she brings to the table through an insatiable drive and dedication easily discernible by those either working with or around her. As a former professional soccer player (in a 22-year-old league as a teenager) and member of the Milwaukee symphony/jazz band, Calhoun’s understanding of team dynamics has undoubtedly aided in her faction’s continued success over the past few semesters. The principle examples of this are her group’s participation in National Geographic’s Chasing Genius initiative and victory in GCU’s highly competitive Honors Symposium. Heading the project with the help of mentors, innovative brainstorming sessions and a collective tenacity, 3Derma clinched the competition’s monetary prize and implanted interest within their project throughout STEM organizations and faculty on campus.

This eventful precursor to the 2017-18 academic year calls attention to Calhoun’s current endeavors. Her research and development project is thriving amid departmental budgetary restrictions, simply due to the sheer spirit and unwillingness to fail shown by her compatriots. Although dealing with administrative permission is a newer facet of progress she has yet to fully acclimate to, Calhoun takes the challenge in stride. Seeing the checkpoints as an opportunity to gain invaluable experience, she stated with an almost comical air of calmness about her that “it’s a growing point because I have to learn to not get what I want.”

Aside from her research based exploits, Calhoun is a recent hire to the Honors College, a decision undoubtedly made to increase the expansive and increasingly influential nature of its student worker staff. Within this consortium of driven students, Calhoun finds herself among the newly appointed STEM ambassadors and engineering liaisons. Both positions allow her to mentor fellow students and assist them in their pursuit of greater things while also adding the capacity for mentorship and advocacy to her already extensive bag of tricks.

Individuals with a hunger for success and an eye for innovation are resources rarely overlooked by those they come into contact with. In the case of Calhoun, it is a tale old as GCU: an individual has an inspired idea, she rallies support from peers and mentors and eventually sets forth to bring about results in a method previously viewed as unorthodox. The deciding factor in this specific case is not a matter of if change will be brought about, but when.

Until then, we wait with bated breath to see what is possible and how subjective the term “limit” truly is.

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