Our successes are largely due to our talented faculty, staff and students who make UH Hilo a remarkable place of knowledge and learning.
Aloha UH Hilo ‘Ohana,
When I began my tenure as the Interim Chancellor for UH Hilo, one of my goals was to create a comprehensive report that highlights the accomplishments of our campus. I am pleased to share with you the UH Hilo 2018-2019 Annual Report.
Our successes are largely due to our talented faculty, staff and students who make UH Hilo a remarkable place of knowledge and learning.
With today’s technology, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries, UH Hilo students are learning from many sources and contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world.
The Mission Statement of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo begins with the adage, ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi (One learns from many sources). One unique aspect of UH Hilo is that we offer both undergraduate and graduate students many opportunities to do research in a variety of fields. Our students are doing important work, collecting and analyzing new data, publishing findings alongside their mentors, graduating with a packed résumé and a degree, fully prepared to join the workforce or continue to a terminal degree.
I would like to share with you some research projects where our students are learning by doing the work, making the discoveries, and enriching the world with new knowledge.
UH Hilo professors, scientists and students provided valuable expertise and resources on multiple fronts during the recent lava flow in Puna, helping government officials assess hazards to the public.
UH Hilo volcanologist Cheryl Gansecki, assisted by undergraduate students, provided real-time chemistry analysis of lava samples. The information helped government scientists determine how the lava would behave and how fast it moved, critical information for response plans.
While completing a summer internship at the University of Michigan, UH Hilo astronomy student Kyle Steckler developed an algorithm to discover minor planets that orbit the sun beyond Neptune. The algorithm did not fully work all summer and he was not discovering anything new. But about three hours before he gave his final presentation at the symposium in Ann Arbor, he was running his software and it suddenly popped up something new—Kyle had discovered a new object in our solar system!
Kyle’s internship was funded through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, a highly competitive program funded by the National Science Foundation that supports active research done by undergraduates. He will graduate with this amazing accomplishment already on his résumé, a solid foundation for making future discoveries.
Another astronomy student, Chantelle Kiessner, is doing solar investigations, having been awarded three internships over the course of the past two years. She started in 2016 as a Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium trainee and then, building on the skills learned as a trainee, she was selected for the Akamai Internship Program in the summer of 2017. As an Akamai Scholar she was placed at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui to work on quantifying data on the new Adaptive Optics system where she looked for ways to correct the errors introduced by Earth’s atmosphere.
Chantelle then conducted research over the past summer as an intern in the REU program. She studied at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, a research facility at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While there, she worked at the National Solar Observatory analyzing spectral data from the solar chromosphere, the reddish outer layer of the sun.
These two students are already earning their research chops as undergraduates and I can only imagine the great work they will do in their future careers.
Sabena Siddiqui, a graduate student in tropical conservation biology and environmental science, is researching the sounds of humpback whales when they are not singing, an aspect of their communication that is clearly important but little studied. Sabena’s investigations focus on spectral analysis of the social sounds of the humpback whale population that breeds in Hawaiʻi.
Sabena secured funding to attend UH Hilo through the NSF Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) with partial funding through the Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems bioacoustics lab at UH Hilo.
In addition to her graduate studies, for the past seven years Sabena has served as the student chair of the American Cetacean Society, the world’s oldest whale conservation organization. Her role is to be a mentor and guide to student leaders of other groups on campus.
‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi
Armed with today’s technology, the guidance of expert mentors, and a deep desire to make new discoveries, these students are learning from many sources and already contributing to their selected fields, their communities, and the world. In a future column I will share with you the work of several programs that support our students in exploring and investigating our island and beyond.
Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai hosted a Coffee Hour with the local press today on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Interim Chancellor Sakai shared the following information in her PowerPoint.
UH Hilo Most Diverse Four-Year University in the Nation
The program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state.
I am pleased to share an update on the exciting new data science degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The program is multidisciplinary in scope with elements of geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge, and economic forecasting. Students will learn how big data sets, from seemingly unrelated areas, can be used to solve complex problems.
Data science is a field that can have great impact on our local communities and environment. The collection and analysis of big data in areas such as water resources, for example, can reveal patterns and trends that can alert decision makers such as lawmakers and policymakers about the directions needed to ensure future stability for our island and state. This is especially important in relation to human behavior—for example, analyzing statewide water resources can reveal things our communities can do better to use and conserve water more efficiently.
The UH Hilo data science program is part of a statewide project funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the UH System $20 million last year to do a five-year study of water sustainability issues throughout the state. The project is called ʻIke Wai (Knowledge, Water) and has the overall goal of gathering new data on groundwater flow, sustainable yield, and economic impact. The data will help communities and state decision makers preserve Hawaiʻi’s water resources for the future.
Four tenure-track professors will lead the UH Hilo program. The first two were hired over the summer: Travis Mandel, assistant professor of computer science and Grady Weyenberg (who grew up in Hilo), assistant professor of mathematics and statistician. They will be joined in the near future by the others in the natural and social sciences.
While developing the UH Hilo data science program, our faculty team will work with ‘Ike Wai data scientists and water researchers around the state, collaborating alongside local communities, indigenous peoples, government agencies and businesses to generate the scientific data. Partners also include undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty to address water challenges at the academic and policy level.
‘Ike Wai student scholars
As part of our program, a cohort of ‘Ike Wai student scholars will be chosen each year to do research and analyze the data collected (this year’s scholars are currently being chosen). The scholars will work with six faculty across natural science fields on research projects including investigation of local flora and fauna, genetics, and improving educational software. This is an invaluable training ground for our students, and when they graduate, they will have the background and skills needed to start professional careers in related fields. This is of immense benefit to our local communities and state.
Since Travis and Grady’s arrival, they have been hard at work on the process of getting approval for a certificate program in data science, which will be followed by a baccalaureate degree.
Meanwhile, proposals have been submitted to launch four new courses: three in computer science and one in math, which will form the core curriculum. Two of these courses will focus on computer programming and language, statistical techniques, and data plotting.
Grady is primarily involved in the development of the math course with focus on computing language and statistics, which will be attractive not only to students who are earning a data science certificate, but also to anyone in a natural science program (or even beyond) who needs an introduction to applied data analysis techniques. Target date to launch the new course is fall of 2018.
Travis is the new data science hire in computer science. He is also working on the design of the certificate and its courses, proposing a new course on cutting-edge machine learning techniques that will take students to the “next level” of data analysis. His research interests lie in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Specifically, he is interested in how we can use data to automatically improve human-focused systems.
While the university is developing curriculum, we also need to ensure that students are getting a good background in specialized techniques that will be useful for local industries, such as renewable energy and agriculture. It will be this practical application that will make the biggest impact on our local communities and economy.
Faculty have recently begun reaching out to local schools and businesses, with the intent to ensure that a smooth transition can be created from secondary education to the university and through the data science program to the workplace. It will be wonderful to see high school students exposed to some of the interesting problems that can be addressed with data science before they get to the college level.
The development of the data science initiative makes us very proud of our campus—we are educating our students to be the problem solvers of our state’s future while helping to protect and conserve the islands’ precious natural resources.
Visit the EPSCoR website to learn more about the data science program and the ‘Ike Wai project.
The University of Hawai‘i System has entered into a formal agreement with the Tsuzuki Education Group to advance collaborative education and research with several universities in Japan. Last month I traveled with UH President David Lassner to Fukuoka, Japan, where the group is based, to sign the agreement. Dean of the UH Hilo College of PharmacyCarolyn Ma joined us on the trip.
The Tsuzuki Education Group includes more than 20 private universities and colleges, as well as high school and middle schools, in multiple locations across Japan.
The agreement is a continuation of a 35-year relationship between Hawaiʻi and Fukuoka, established by former Governor George Ariyoshi, whose father came from Fukuoka Prefecture.
The agreement under Gov. Ariyoshi was Hawaiʻi’s first sister-state international relationship, and it was a perfect choice given that we are island communities with deep familial, cultural and economic connections between us.
Fukuoka City is now designated as an Innovation Hub for Japan, which parallels nicely to the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative where UH is working with the private sector and government to build an innovation, research, education and training enterprise in Hawai‘i.
It’s within this context that the new agreement with the Tsuzuki Education Group is a natural partnership, building on the longstanding relationship between Fukuoka and Hawai‘i to work collaboratively on common, modern challenges in a wide range of fields: business, pharmacy, traditional medicine, disaster resilience, technology, and sustainability.
This new system-to-system partnership builds on already existing agreements between UH Hilo and Tsuzuki including exchange programs with the Yokohama University of Pharmacy and Japan University of Economics.
UH Hilo’s Conference Center is already arranging study trips for Japanese students. Representatives from Yokohama University of Pharmacy came to visit us here and we put together a series of short visits for students—Japan students can see how we do things and vice versa for our students. We hope now to expand these types of exchange opportunities for students both ways.
The trip to Japan
The following video highlighting the research and academic strengths of the UH System was presented at the celebration of Tsuzuki Educational Group’s 60th anniversary during our trip. This is the English version:
During our trip, Carolyn Ma and I visited the different campuses and pharmacy facilities to look at ways we could establish and expand research exchanges and collaborations.
The pharmacy schools in Japan are researching traditional medicines, which dovetails nicely with the research being done on natural products at our pharmacy college.
Three campuses in Japan are working on business and economic issues—faculty there are very interested in the impact of Japanese tourism and are doing innovative work on economic development. Our new dean of the College of Business and Economics, Drew Martin, will be traveling to Japan to discuss different opportunities to collaborate on programs of benefit to both Japan and Hawai‘i.
Another area of shared interest is with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for data collection—we can share strategies for approaching challenges such as natural disaster response, collecting geographic data, and mapping areas such as agricultural lands and conservation areas.
I’m excited about the education and research opportunities this partnership will bring as we work together through collaborations with faculty and students to create a better future of mutual benefit for both the people of Japan and Hawai‘i.