Undergraduate Research Opportunities at UH Hilo

Why Research?

Getting involved in research gives you an opportunity to ...

Advance Your Academic Knowledge

student doing research underwater

two students with a professor standing in front of a display board featuring their research

student in a lab examining rocks

Conducting faculty-mentored research or creative work is an opportunity for you to expand your academic knowledge by applying what you learned in classrooms and from textbooks to make an inquiry-based discovery or a creative contribution. Engaging in a hands-on, real-life process can simultaneously test and advance your academic knowledge.

“This was my first research experience. Just trying to get the data for my project was valuable because I had never compiled data from different sources as I did in this program.” - Briana Noll, Computer Science major

“This was an exciting project to work on. I learned a lot about what goes into virtual reality application development, and doing this as a real-world program for the public made it every bit more interesting." - Michael Dodge, Pre-Engineering major

Build Life Skills

Conducting faculty-mentored research can enhance your real-life skills like communication, teamwork, organization, project management, problem-solving, and critical thinking that are difficult to acquire solely from textbooks. These transferable skills are valuable in the workplace.

“Attending and listening to talks is one thing, but preparing for your own presentation -- even if it’s only a poster presentation-- at a conference is a completely different ballgame, and having that first-hand experience early will make later experiences less stressful.” - Tino Wells, Astronomy & Physics major

Work with Experts in Your Field

Faculty mentors guide and challenge you throughout the research process. They will often provide you access to new resources, field experts, and other insights you need to conduct research in your field. Conducting research opens up the opportunity to work with and learn from world-renowned faculty members in their field.

"Very few indigenous people...do this kind of museum work. The work that we are doing in this humble lab at UH Hilo could be a gateway to a career.” - Tarisi Vunidilo, Anthropology professor

“One great thing about studying astronomy here is that Hawaiʻi has more women astronomers than anywhere else in the world. This is a really cool and interesting field at the moment, because of the recently launched probe and [the Maui solar telescope] nearing completion. There will be much to learn in the upcoming years about the behavior of the solar atmosphere, and (this program) gave me great exposure to the field.” - Chantelle Kiessner, Physics & Astronomy major

“I am beyond grateful for my advisors for all of their support and trust throughout my time at UH Hilo. They truly gave me the tools and the confidence to grab every opportunity to grow as a scientist and develop my research interests. The experiences and lessons I have from UH Hilo will travel with me indefinitely as I pursue my graduate studies and a career in ocean engineering.” - Alexa Runyan, Marine Science major

“I would not be in this position now if it were not for the faculty in the geology and mathematics departments here at UH Hilo. I would have been lost as an undergraduate at a large university. I came in with a lot of uncertainty in myself, but because of the genuine support and encouragement I got from my professors, in addition to all of the amazing things that they have taught me about rocks, numbers, and so much more, I will be leaving with strength and confidence in myself and my future.” - Alice Martin, Geology & Math major

Receive Financial and Programmatic Support

Conducting research can be time consuming and expensive, and requires commitment and dedication. Funding provided through some research programs is intended to make research accessible and allow you to focus on your research by enabling you to purchase materials/supplies, support travel, and receive an hourly wage. Many of the research programs offer programmatic support, including building a community with other students, workshops and seminars, and travel to professional conferences.

“I really could not be in the position I’m in today without the courses, faculty, and additional opportunities UH Hilo has provided. The courses were essential, and working one-on-one with faculty was invaluable. The sheer amount of resources and opportunities for students at UH Hilo allows students to find exactly what fits for them." - Tino Wells, Astronomy & Physics major

Contribute to Our History and Our Future

Are you passionate about climate change? Sustainability? Social justice? Health and well-being? Regardless of your interests, research projects are a rewarding experience that involve creating new knowledge, addressing real life problems, and presenting new solutions that contribute positively to our future.

“My hope is that this will be used for education on the health and protection of coral, not just here in Hawaiʻi but globally." - Briana Noll, Computer Science major, on designing a “virtual museum” that allows users to experience coral reefs without ever donning a swimsuit

“It is exciting to see the boxes labeled ‘Kohala sites’ holding different artifacts. I’m starting off learning small skills like identifying shards of shells and fish bones, and building on that to get that education. Then I’ll be able to start to look for the place where my ancestors used to live in Kohala.” - James Papa, Anthropology major, on researching artifacts in the Anthropology lab

“An observed biochemical process occurring on anything other than Earth has the greatest and most profound implications for our understanding of life on Earth, and life as a concept. Being able to participate in the scientific process...was an incredible and humbling experience. It is my sincerest hope that further observations will allow for greater exploration of Venusian clouds and everything beyond.” - E'Lisa Lee, Astronomy major

“My work is related to the field as it helps to understand how our universe works. I see this as sort of like a puzzle: you have to put the small pieces together in order to see the big picture. That is essentially what the end goal of researching astronomy is.” - Austin Jennings, Astronomy major

"I wanted to share my research for something that could help the school and help the students. As a student who lives on-campus, I feel that this is a subject that should be addressed, especially by Student Housing, so it’s actually to get the message out there and also to help the university to help students.” - Pelenatate Leilua, Business Administration major, on her project examining transportation for students on campus

Enhance Your Credentials

Are you looking to find a job or want to pursue a graduate or a professional degree after graduation? Your research experiences will make your resume stand out from the crowd.

“I learned about classes I can take in undergrad so that I may be able to apply for graduate schools in biostatistics whilst still finishing my marine science major." - Carson Green, Marine Science major


Conducting research is a process that involves not just you and your faculty mentor. Instead, it often involves a community of student researchers and experts in your field with whom you share advice, knowledge, and experience. Additionally, the opportunity to present your research at venues such as conferences allows you to meet the experts and stakeholders in your field who can enhance your career.

"On top of the intense amount of knowledge I gained, this program gave me many opportunities to network with faculty, grad students, and peers alike which I am extremely grateful for.” - Carson Green, Marine Science major

“I feel lucky that I was able to participate in this program. This project not only gave me valuable experience with (computer) coding, but it gave me connections with people in the solar physics community that will help me further my career in graduate school.” - Chantelle Kiessner, Physics & Astronomy major

Learn Teamwork

Doing research often involves working with other students who have similar academic interests, and with a faculty mentor or a group of experts. This environment provides students an opportunity to develop communication, collaboration, and time management skills.

“Collaboration...is essential and learning to work with a team of people is a really important skill to have. Each person brings their own sets of skills, approaches, ways of thinking, and experience to the table and that is really important for problem solving.” - Patrice Smith, Astronomy major

“It is so great to be supported and to be surrounded by such a diverse community where I get to learn multiple perspectives and interpretations of what goes on in the world. I don’t think I would have gotten that at any other school.” - Chantelle Kiessner, Physics & Astronomy major

Confirm/Validate Your Future Career

If you want to confirm or validate your future career, doing research is one way to do so. Being able to place yourself in the setting of your potential career is an opportunity to confirm your interest and career path.

“UH Hilo is where it all began for me, and (to) this day and forever, I regard my marine science education at UH Hilo ever so highly, because it laid the great foundation for me on my journey towards a career in marine science and conservation.” - Louisa Ponnanpalam, Marine Science major

“Before the internship I was sure I would aim for a PhD in astrophysics, but now I’m deciding between that or a PhD in solar physics or space physics because I was able to learn about those fields this past summer.” - Chantelle Kiessner, Physics & Astronomy major

Reward Yourself and Have Fun!

Students say that the process of expanding their knowledge through research is rewarding, stimulating, and an enjoyable process. Additionally, students often travel to other regions to meet new people and work in fields ranging from music to sciences to business. Students have written novels, conducted cross-cultural studies, and designed micro-robots. These life-changing experiences not only enriched their sense of purpose and lifelong learning, but were also fun!

“I didn’t know anything about the ocean. I didn’t want to snorkel on lab days. I didn’t know how to use the flippers. I was not a good swimmer. The ocean was in my backyard but I never got out. My teacher saw I was scared, and told me she would hold my hand and swim out with me. Once I swam out deeper I saw the coral and fish and was like ‘Woah!’ It is a whole new world out there.” - Sabrina Bejang, Marine Science major