RCUH Outstanding Employees

On October 28, 2019 more than 130 principal investigators, project staff, and supporters gathered at Waialae Country Club to recognize 29 outstanding RCUH employees who made demonstrable, significant, and exemplary contributions to their projects during the past fiscal year or years (click on name for video).

Outstanding Researcher/Project Manager/Professional Staff

 Ning Li1st Place: Ning Li
UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

As an Ocean Wave Model Systems Specialist, Ning analyzes data from 15 buoys deployed around the Pacific and works closely with project partners, like the National Weather Service to improve wave forecast models. Ning’s work impacts a number of stakeholders where accurate predictions of ocean conditions are critical for daily living, safety, and budget plans.


Justin Hite2nd Place: Justin Hite
UH Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit

Justin has made saving the endangered ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e his highest priority at the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project. Thanks to his tireless efforts, the project has safely collected eggs from 32 ‘Akikiki and 10 ‘Akeke‘e nests, resulting in flocks of 45 and 10 birds, respectively. This technique also allowed KFBRP to band several chicks from the nest, which will allow the project to study juvenile survival for the first time.



Outstanding Team

AVS Team1st Place: UH Animal and Veterinary Services
Jeff Hall, Tereso Dace, Bob Post, Diana Blanco, Ying Zhang

More than 50 principal investigators rely on the UH Animal and Veterinary Services team to operate and maintain three animal vivariums. They care for up to 12,500 mice, 365 days a year to ensure uninterrupted operations for animal biomedical research at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine and UH Cancer Center.


ASIAA team2nd Place (tie): ASIAA
Geoffrey Bower, Philippe Raffin, Susan O’Neal, Derek Kubo, Peter Oshiro

In 2018, ASIAA joined the Event Horizon Telescope, an international consortium that captured the first image of a black hole. Moving forward, their Greenland Telescope will play a critical role in studying black hole physics from the Arctic Circle.


EAO Team2nd Place (tie): East Asian Observatory
Harriet Parsons, Izumi Mizuno, Steven Mairs, Graham Bell, Daniel Bintley

This EAO team has been critical in maintaining the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. EAO used data from JCMT to help capture the first image of a black hole with the Event Horizon Telescope.


Honorable Mentions (click on name for video)

Danielle Hull – UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

Crissy Kawamoto – UH Cancer Center

Kiaina Schubert – Subaru Telescope

Rob Weryk – UH Institute for Astronomy

Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership – UH Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit

Pacific Islands Deep Sea Coral and Sponge Initiative – UH Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Congratulations to all of the 2019 honorees!


UH Faculty Excellence in Research

RCUH provided a $5,000 cash award to each recipient of the UH Regents Medal for Excellence in Research. The three 2019 faculty awardees and summaries of their research are presented below:

Tim Li

Tim Li is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. He is one of the most influential scientists in tropical climate dynamics worldwide. Li has published 290 professionally referred research papers and a book during his 20 years of teaching and research at UH Mānoa. As a principal investigator, he brought in $6 million of research grants to UH. He served as an advisor to 25 Ph.D. students and 42 postdoctoral research fellows and visiting scientists in the past 20 years.


Craig Smith

Regents’ medal for excellence in research award winner Craig Smith

Craig Smith is a professor in the Department of Oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. His research on biodiversity, ecosystem function, climate change and conservation in seafloor ecosystems ranges from Hawaiian mangrove communities to abyssal habitats targeted for seafloor mining. One of his major accomplishments includes the design and implementation of a network of marine protected areas covering 1.44 million km2 to protect the biodiversity of abyssal ecosystems in the face of deep-sea mining. At UH, Smith has led 66 oceanographic research expeditions to sites spanning equatorial waters and received 52 grants totaling about $14 million.


Robert Toonen

Regents’ medal for excellence in reearch award winner Robert J. Toonen

Robert Toonen is a professor at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. He joined the faculty in 2003 and formed a joint laboratory with Brian Bowen, affectionately known as the “ToBo” lab. His research interests are diverse and touch on many aspects of marine biology. During his time at UH Mānoa, Toonen has been an author on more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and has served as a principal investigator on more than 50 extramural grants totaling more than $25 million.


UH Student Excellence in Research

In 2019, three $500 student awards were funded by RCUH. The recipients of these awards were:

Matthew Abplanalp

Student excellence in research award winner Mathew Abplanalp

Matthew Abplanalp is pursuing a PhD in chemistry with a focus on astrochemistry – the chemistry occurring throughout the harsh environments of space – and the related physical chemistry processes. His implementation of a tunable ‘soft’ photoionization technique coupled with a state-of-the-art ultra-high vacuum apparatus has led to multiple novel discoveries that have been reflected in multiple peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences and reported on by the general media. Abplanalp’s collaboration with other scientists has led to 13 additional co-author publications to date.


Daniel Coffey

Student excellence in research award winner Daniel Coffey

Daniel Coffey is pursuing a PhD in marine biology and is expected to graduate in 2019. His research at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology focuses on the biology of large marine fishes such as tuna and sharks. Coffey’s dissertation has explored the behavior and physiological ecology of a deep water shark in its natural habitat in Hawaiian waters. He designed and deployed sophisticated instrument packages that are attached to the shark and measure depth, temperature and its movements. He was the first to use and publish a fish-borne device to measure in situ oxygen concentrations experienced by the animal.


Rachael Wade 

Rachael Wade will be graduating with a PhD in botany in spring 2019. She studies the biodiversity of siphonous green algae in the Hawaiian Islands, and has developed a tool for analyzing the smallest and most diverse forms of these algae by studying the chloroplasts captured by sap-sucking sea slugs. Wade has made critical contributions to understanding several Hawaiian invasive seaweed species. She has published eight papers and was awarded multiple prizes for her talks at scientific conferences. Wade’s research has also been highlighted by the local media on several occasions.