UH Hilo alum receives endowment to pursue doctoral degree in entomology

Thomas Fezza, who earned his master’s degree at UH Hilo, is now pursuing a doctoral degree in entomology at UH Mānoa. Based in Hilo to do his research, he is a recipient of the D. Elmo Hardy Student Assistance Endowment.

Thomas Fezza in a gulch environment.
Thomas Fezza

An alumnus from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, now pursuing a doctoral degree at UH Mānoa, is a recipient of the D. Elmo Hardy Student Assistance Endowment.

In 2014, Thomas Fezza earned his master of science in conservation biology and environmental science from UH Hilo, where he studied the chemical communication of native picture-winged flies. He is now pursuing a doctoral degree in entomology in the plant and environmental protection science program at UH Mānoa with an emphasis on fruit fly pests.

“Since graduation [from UH Hilo] I have been working as a technician at the United States Department of Agriculture, working in the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, where I study invasive fruit flies,” he writes in a thank you letter to the donors of the endowment. “My research covers a wide range of duties including insect rearing and trapping, in addition to molecular work and behavioral bioassays.”

Last year he decided it was time to continue his education to better provide for his family and have a greater impact on the scientific community.

“I hope to obtain a position as a lead scientist with the USDA, where I would have the opportunity to manage a lab and develop projects with the potential to help eradicate invasive fruit fly species from agricultural fields,” he writes.

Fezza adds that the endowment has reduced his financial burden, allowing him to focus on schoolwork.

“I hope one day I will also be able to assist struggling students to reach their goals in higher education, assisting them in the same way you are helping me,” he writes.

Read the letter at the UH Foundation website.