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Month: December 2018

Message from the Interim Chancellor to UH Hilo Community: It’s been a wonderful semester, filled with accomplishments

Above photo: Happy customers at the sold-out annual poinsettia plant sale, Campus Center Plaza, UH Hilo. The plants are grown by students of the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. Nov. 28, 2018. Photo by Raiatea Arcuri.

A message from Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai to the UH Hilo community:

As we start the holiday season, I reflect on the amazing and talented people who are part of our university ‘ohana, and I’d like to share with you some of the accomplishments of the past semester.

Incoming Freshman Class, August 2018.

We started our new academic year with The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2018 Almanac ranking the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as the most diverse four-year public university in the United States. The cultural and ethnic diversity found in our university ‘ohana strengthens everything we do in teaching, research, and outreach, and prepares our students to be productive citizens in the real world.

Two student playing pick up ball.
Students play at the renovated court.

We also started the semester with two new outdoor gathering spaces for our students: a newly renovated basketball court behind Auxiliary Services complete with a grill and several covered picnic tables with solar powered e-recharging stations, and covered solar recharging stations outside the Student Services building. The new spaces, complete USB charging ports and Wi-Fi access, were built through a great collaborative project with students from the carpentry program at Hawai‘i Community College.

Jolene Sutton
Jolene Sutton

A team of our genetic researchers studying the ‘alalā (Hawaiian crow), led by biologist Jolene Sutton, published their work describing the high-quality reference genome that was generated to assist recovery efforts for the endangered bird. Researchers Martin Helmkampf  and Renee Bellinger, along with collaborators from the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, San Diego Zoo Global, and Pacific Biosciences, all contributed to the project. This is an extremely important contribution to the world of conservation genetics. The genome assembly is now publicly available.

Geneviève Blanchet
Geneviève Blanchet

And our conservation biology students also made headlines. A group of our graduate students in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program presented their work at the 25th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu. Two of the students came home with honorsGeneviève Blanchet was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation, and Koa Matsuoka was awarded Runner-Up for Outstanding Graduate Poster Presentation.

Makalapua Alencastre, Roxanne DeLille, Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Noelani Iokepa-Guerrero, Kananinohea Mākaʻimoku, Ray Barnhardt, Walter Kahumoku III, Kamehaʻililani Waiau, Keane Nakapueo-Garcia, and Sylvia Hussey,
UH Hilo group at Sami University of Applied Sciences, Norway, for accreditation recognition from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.

The Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education Program received accreditation. The UH Hilo graduate certificate program is the first teacher education program in the world to receive accreditation from the prestigious international authority, the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. The consortium also renewed accreditation for the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of the college, and all faculty and staff of the college are to be congratulated for their hard work in making UH Hilo’s language and culture revitalization program a model for the world to follow.

Students in computer lab.
Pierre Martin (right), associate professor of astronomy and observatory director, with students in the upgraded computer lab.

Students and researchers in the physics and astronomy program celebrated the installation of 12 brand new high-end desktops and monitors, along with a new data processing and storage Linux computer system, thanks to a generous donation by the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory. The TMT gift totaled over $28,000 in equipment, supporting the replacement of 10 aged computers purchased in 2010 that no longer met department needs.

UH Hilo launched its long-planned data science program this fall by offering a certificate in the fast growing field. Program Director Roberto Pelayo says the program is filling a need in the state because almost every branch of science collects massive amounts of data, but there are not a lot of trained people able to analyze that data and make conclusions—for example, here on our island, in conservation efforts, water resource management, and climate change impacts. The data science certificate is open to all students, regardless of major or background. Computer scientist Travis Mandel, mathematician Grady Weyenberg, and colleagues across many branches of science put in untold hours to create this new data science program.

Two people with drone landed on lawn.
UH Hilo drone team took a lead role in collecting data during the recent lava flow in Puna. Photo via UH System News.

Last month, a new aeronautical sciences degree program was approved by the UH Board of Regents. The provisional bachelor of science program has two concentrations: one in commercial professional pilot training, and another in commercial aerial information technology (which utilizes drones), where there is a high projected workforce need in the state. Ken Hon, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Bruce Mathews, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management where the program is housed, achieved a major milestone in bringing the program to life.

These are just a few of the exciting accomplishments of the semester that provide positive learning experiences for our students, conduct important research for our environment and communities, and expand outreach to improve the quality of life for everyone. Mahalo to all of you for your contributions.

Sending aloha to you this holiday season.

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column, Dec. 2018: Preparing students for the future through applied learning

Through applied learning in research, internships, and creative endeavors, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.

By Marcia Sakai.

Every student at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is offered the opportunity to apply their textbook knowledge to the real world through research, internships, creative endeavors, student employment and more. Through this type of scholarly work, students enhance their classroom learning and get a big boost toward advanced degrees, future employment, and leadership roles in their professions and their communities.

I would like to share with you three of our student research programs and a few extraordinary students doing important research and inquiry of great benefit to the people of our state and the island environment. These accomplished students—and many others in these and other programs, too many to name here in this column—are already contributing in positive ways to the problems facing our island state.

Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Program (SHARP)

SHARP is a relatively new program, largely supporting under-represented students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who would like to do research in preparation for doctoral studies. The students are mentored by expert faculty researchers to develop interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and is administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology.

Six SHARP students showcased their research at the 2nd Annual SHARP Symposium held on campus in August. Five of the students are undergraduates and one is in a doctoral program at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. The students worked with faculty researchers to develop their topics and learn skills to conduct their research.

Undergraduates Duke Escobar (biology major) and Kieran-Tiaye Long (psychology) are investigating the anti-bacterial efficacy of native Hawaiian plant-based medicines. Dallas Freitas (chemistry) is researching key mechanisms of ion channel signaling in cancer drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment.

Duke Escobar points to his poster project.
Duke Escobar presents his research at the 2nd Annual SHARP Symposium, Aug.31, 2018, UH Hilo. Courtesy photo from SHARP, click to enlarge.

Jasmine Hicking (biology) is researching medicinal plants, specifically anti-cancer and anti-bacterial agents from microorganisms and herbal medicine. Skyla Lee (chemistry-bioscience) is doing research on synthesis and evaluation of antibacterial and anti-cancer agents in natural products. Doctoral student Nathan Sunada (pharmaceutical sciences) is investigating neuroblastoma and the mechanisms that promote cancer progression through a native Hawaiian perspective.

Keaholoa STEM Program

The goal of Keaholoa is to increase enrollment, support, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines. Over the years, Keaholoa has become a program where minority students can engage in scientifically rigorous research that is grounded in indigenous or native cultural practices and knowledge.

For example, anthropology student Rosa Motta has compiled water property data from nearshore marine environments using historical land use patterns and archaeological sites to determine the health of coastlines in terms of the ʻāina-kai (land-ocean) relationship. Physics major Gabriel Gutierrez mapped coral reef health using traditional Hawaiian canoes. Environmental science major Jowell Guerreiro is interested in restoring loko i‘a (fishponds) and collected data on flow rates during specific moon phases.

Marine Option Program (MOP)

MOP is a UH systemwide certificate program, offered on all UH campuses, providing educational opportunities for students from all disciplines who are interested in studying the ocean.

Earlier this year, three students from UH Hilo MOP came home with awards from the statewide MOP Student Symposium held at Windward Community College. The annual event features oral and poster presentations by undergraduate MOP students from UH campuses around the state. Our students were outstanding representatives of UH Hilo, and brought home major awards, including best research presentation, which has been won by UH Hilo MOP students in 24 of the past 29 years.

Gina Selig, Andrea Ehlers, Wheatley Crawley, Michelle Nason, Julia Stewart, and Nikola Rodriguez.
UH Hilo delegation to the Marine Option Program Student Symposium held April 21 at Windward Community College. (l-r) Gina Selig, Andrea Ehlers, Wheatley Crawley, Michelle Nason, Julia Stewart, and Nikola Rodriguez. Courtesy photo.

Julia Stewart won best research presentation for her research project on coral, an ambitious project using bioinformatics. Wheatley Crawley won best poster presentation for her project on conservation at Wai‘opae, one of the last research projects at the teeming tidepools before the recent lava flow tragically covered the area. Michelle Nason won the John P. Craven Child of the Sea award for her work establishing a coral nursery on Hawai‘i Island.

Budding scholars, future leaders

Many UH Hilo graduates have benefited greatly from our various applied learning programs. When they move on to graduate school, doctoral programs, or professional positions, they are already well-skilled in doing sustainability, conservation, health, community-based research projects and more that make an impact.

As we prepare for the close of the semester and Fall Commencement, I’d like to congratulate the graduating class, wish each student great success, and thank everyone for your contributions to UH Hilo, our students, and our community.

Sending aloha to you and your families this holiday season!

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai