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Gabriel Gutierrez

Photo of Keaholoa Student Gabriel Gutierrez
Inquisitive, Introspective, Energetic

Volcano, Hawaii, HI

Fields of Study:

Career Plans:
PhD in Physics

Expected Graduation Date:
Spring, 2020

Mainland-born, I grew up in Hawaii and developed a strong connection with environment through guardianship of Hawaii's endemic ecosystems. I saw how special and unique my home actually is after having wonderful opportunities to travel and live in Europe, Africa, and North America. My passion for science and research sparked in high school and since my sophomore year I have been involved in research projects. Originally pursuing chemistry/biochemistry, my work has stretched from genomic sequencing of nematodes to antibacterial detection for developing countries. Now as a physics major, I hope to expand my understanding of physics, which I believe to be the foundation of natural science, to tackle problems in biochemistry and conservation.

I am working with Dr. Kealoha Kinney (USFS) to map coral health using traditional Hawaiian canoes. Specifically, I'm focusing on studying the absorption of light in water to produce a more effective and complete data model.

Incorporating Hawaiian canoes into scientific inquiry is a fantastic way this research project bridges the gap between science and culture. Furthermore, mapping coral health and collecting better underwater data models will demonstrate exactly where ocean reefs are dying or surviving. Sharing our findings with the people of Hawaii is foremost because they--in many ways more than others--act as Hawaii's Caretakers, providing a high-level quality of care for our home through a special shared connection with community and the 'āina.

I believe research should always be approached through a lens of the culture tied to that region of study. Not only is respect crucial, but understanding the connection between region and people also offers insight to the research itself, elucidating ways in which that research could be best utilized.

My long-term goals lead to earning a PhD in physics and developing real-world solutions to conservation and human health.

"As a new Keaholoa member, I look forward to developing research specific to Hawaii. I am especially excited to tackle STEM projects that are culturally considerate and built upon strong Hawaiian foundations."