Melissa Canales: A Wolf in the Lab

Desiree Pico, Co-Editor in Chief

Wolves are known for being among the best and brightest in Miami-Dade County, earning the highest grades and test scores while also contributing their skills in a variety of extracurriculars throughout the country. Exemplifying these characteristics is junior Melissa Canales, whose hard work has culminated in biomedical research at the University of Miami’s (UM) Endocrinology Department, investigating topics like potential cures for diabetes.

She was introduced to research at UM through her mother. “I’ve always been in that environment since my mom works there. When I started high school, there were people she worked with who opened the doors for me to work with them,” said Canales. During her two years there, she has worked alongside various professors and postdoctoral students performing  lab techniques such as immunohistochemistry, tissue fixation, and tissue imaging, with the ultimate goal of “finding something that does more than ease diabetes symptoms, but is a cure.”

In addition to the work at UM, Canales has been conducting research of her own through an Advanced Placement (AP) Research course at TERRA. She is investigating the effect of environmental stimuli on neurotransmitter levels and its correlation to academic performance in one hundred students. These experiences have been “fun and interesting” and gave her knowledge that she can apply in the future to her career in neurology or missionary medical work through organizations such as the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.

Though Canales cannot help others through medicine just yet, she still uses her desire to help others through extensive involvement with the community both in and outside of TERRA. She is constantly volunteering with a community service group she created called Legacy of Love, an online community who meets up once or twice a month to plan service activities. In addition to being involved in clubs like Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and National Honor Society, she is a student leader, exemplified mostly through her position as the current Class of 2019 president. “I think being in a leadership position puts you in a position where so many doors are opened to you, and you can meet people who continue to inspire you and refresh your energy,” said Canales.

Since her freshman year, she decided to challenge herself with, to date, nine AP classes. She said, “I think TERRA allowed me to be more independent than the other options I had. I really wanted to see if I was capable of doing that.” In addition, Canales challenges herself outside of the school day by taking dual enrollment courses at Miami-Dade College. She hopes to continue taking advantage of TERRA’s academic rigor in her senior year as well. Throughout her time at TERRA thus far, she has found the workload manageable and, more importantly, it is preparing her for what is to come in college. She said, “Being independent has always been something that is important to me, and TERRA has given me the chance to really explore that.”