Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student Selected as Helen Hodges Scholar

Ashley Brister

April 28, 2021

NS Richel Helen Hodges Scholar

Ritchel Gannaban was selected by the Helen Hodges Educational Charitable Trust for a scholarship to support the pursuit of her doctoral degree

The Helen Hodges Educational Charitable Trust offers scholarships to deserving graduate and undergraduate students who have demonstrated high-caliber academic achievement and have financial need. Nutritional Sciences Ph.D. student Ritchel Gannaban and her long list of research accolades topped the list to be awarded the scholarship. 

“I felt honored to be named a scholar of the Helen Hodges Educational Charitable Trust,” Gannaban said. “Relocating from the Philippines for the duration of my degree program represents a huge challenge, and while it is one that I am fully committed to, it does present considerable financial strain. This assistantship represents an opportunity to fully focus my attention on achieving the best I can in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University.”

With career goals of teaching in higher education, Gannaban has a great desire to mentor future students while researching metabolic and neurological disorders. 

“My interest in the science of nutrition started to grow while working as a research aide in the department,” Gannaban explained. “I realized the importance of nutrition as it relates to health and how it plays a vital role in enhancing human wellness. I also came to an understanding that nutrition is not limited to diet. Instead, it involves a wide scope of programs that are more science-oriented and advance research programs that can offer great opportunities to apply knowledge in medical spheres.”

One of her personal goals is to help improve human wellness. Gannaban says the driving force behind her motivation to pursue an advanced doctoral degree in nutrition is to learn immediate and practical knowledge that can apply to her goal of improving and enhancing the human condition. 

“Currently, I am working under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Shin at the Neurobiology of Nutritional Lab,” Gannaban said. “One specific topic that I am interested in pursuing is understanding the regulation of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) and their distinctive properties involved in many metabolic and physiological roles. Although BCAAs are known to enhance brain functions and can influence protein synthesis and energy production, recent studies have also shown their negative effects regarding nutrient metabolism and cognitive functions. With that, I want to explore further how BCAAs impair neural functions affecting glucose metabolism as well as other nutrient regulation.”

Gannaban plans to continue being an active researcher before her graduation in 2023.