RCUH Outstanding Employees

Although our annual awards luncheon was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RCUH is pleased to recognize 17 outstanding RCUH employees who made demonstrable, significant, and exemplary contributions to their projects during the past fiscal year or years.

Outstanding Researcher/Project Manager/Professional Staff

 David Cohen1st Place: David Cohen
UH College of Natural Sciences

David and his team retrofitted an old shrimp aquaculture facility to create a large-scale sea urchin hatchery at the Anuenue Fisheries Research Station. Now approaching its 10-year anniversary, this 24/7 operation has released 600,000 sea urchins in Hawaiian waters. Their release has controlled invasive seaweed in over 270 acres of reefs, allowing other native marine species to thrive. It is the single-most successful marine invasive species control project in Hawai‘i to date.


Michael von Platen2nd Place: Michael von Platen
UH John A. Burns School of Medicine

As a TCR Systems Programmer, Michael single-handedly designed and coordinated the transition and integration of a complex audio-video system for simulation-based education.  This impacted the entire JABSOM student body in preparedness for a critical national qualification examination. His forward thinking also allowed a significant portion of the curriculum to be transitioned to e-learning, which became critical during the COVID-19 work-at-home restrictions.


Outstanding Project Support Staff

Yoshitake Nabeshima1st Place: Yoshitake Nabeshima
Subaru Telescope

Few can claim that they saved their project $400,000, but Yoshitake can! When Subaru Telescope’s Cassegrain image rotator needed to be removed and repaired, the manufacturer recommended that telescope operations be shut down for two months. Yoshitake singularly came up with the idea of using dummy weights as a substitute for the rotator during the repair. This significantly reduced the repair time to three weeks and without loss of observation time.


Hope Ronco2nd Place: Hope Ronco
UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

Transporting four monk seals from the Ke Kai Ola rehabilitation hospital to Midway Atoll for release is a high-stakes mission, made even more complex and challenging during a pandemic. Hope facilitated meetings, ensured staff were trained, and developed contingency plans should the USCG need to abort the transport. Because of her contributions, this life-saving mission was carried out safely, efficiently, and with great satisfaction from all partners involved.


Outstanding Team

Maunakea Weather Station Team1st Place: Maunakea Weather Center
Tiziana Cherubini, Ryan Lyman

Because of the sustained effort by Tiziana and Ryan, MKWC astronomical weather forecasts are considered the best in the world—a result of complex global and local data gathering, the application of custom weather algorithms, and specialized insights gained from years of experience.


2nd Place: Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Hawai’i
Benjamin Jones, Joshua Levy, Ted Ralston, Aricia Argyris

This team worked with the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force to develop a delivery-and-capture system for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). They also trained Navy personnel to operate sUAS from shore and from onboard the submarine.


Honorable Mentions

Fritzie Celino-Brady – UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Serge Chastel – UH Institute for Astronomy

Stan Fichtman – Kapi’olani Community College

Mark Huber – UH Institute for Astronomy

Dawn Namahoe Sidman – UH Hilo Research Office

Mary Jo Riehm – UH Hilo Research Office

Sean Tanimoto – Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Hawai’i

Congratulations to all of the 2020 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 2020 faculty awardees and summaries of their research are presented below:

Daniel Huber

Daniel HuberDaniel Huber is an assistant astronomer at UH Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy. Huber is a world leader in the study of stars and exoplanets, combining data from NASA space missions with observations using ground-based telescopes in Hawai’i. Since 2017, he has been the principal investigator on 12 extramural grants totaling more than $1.6 million of research funding, and has advised two postdoctoral researchers as well as 10 graduate students. He has been an author on more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and in 2019, Huber was the recipient of the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship.


Qing Li

Qing Li

Qing Li is a professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH Mānoa. Li’s research addresses fundamental issues in agricultural chemistry and has greatly advanced understanding of the field. He has maintained an active research program that has been supported with $19 million in extramural grants in the past 24 years. As of February 2020, Li is ranked as the fourth most prolific author in the UH system in SciFinder. His work has resulted in about 400 peer-reviewed publications and 20 patent applications and technology disclosures.


Mari Yoshihara

Mari Yoshihara

Mari Yoshihara is a professor and chair of the Department of American Studies in UH Mānoa’s College of Arts and Humanities. She is a scholar and writer specializing in U.S. cultural history, U.S.-Asia relations, Asian American studies, women’s/gender/sexuality studies, literary and cultural studies. Much of her scholarship examines the politics of cultural encounters between the United States and East Asia, especially how the relations of race, gender, sexuality, and class shape the dynamics of those encounters and how they are expressed through cultural practices and representations. Yoshihara has also served as editor of American Quarterly since 2014.


UH Mānoa Student Excellence in Research

RCUH provided a $500 cash award to each recipient of the UH Mānoa Student Award for Excellence in Research. The three 2020 student awardees and summaries of their research are presented below:

Joy Agner

Joy Agner

Joy Agner is a doctoral student in psychology in the Community and Cultural and Developmental program. Agner’s research focuses on improving health systems and policy for marginalized populations, such as people in poverty, and those with chronic disability or severe mental illness. She has published six peer-reviewed articles, four of which feature her as first author. For her dissertation, she is using a community-based participatory approach to identify aspects of mental health clubhouses that promote well-being. Agner’s long-term goal is to establish a rigorous community-engaged research trajectory in pursuit of more efficient, equitable health systems.


Marley Aiu

Marley Aiu

Marley Aiu (they/them or she/her) is a junior majoring in English and dance with honors. Aiu is a literary editor, researcher, choreographer, dancer, poet, educator and advocate. Aiu’s research aims to understand how embodiment, dance and queerness (LGBTQIA+ identities) inform one another, exposing the ways in which singularly and collectively the body is part of movements (both political and in dance) that change our world. Aiu uses their creative research (choreography, creative writing, film, and photography) to both educate and empower local and global communities, as well as question past, present, and future ideologies, systems, and platforms.


Zhoujian Zhang 

Zhoujian Zhang

Zhoujian (ZJ) Zhang joined the Institute for Astronomy as a Ph.D. student in 2015. Zhang’s research focuses on gas-giant planets and brown dwarfs (higher-mass versions of planets) that are orbiting other stars. Using telescopes on Maunakea and Haleakalā, he has conducted the largest search to date of these objects. Zhang is using his discoveries to characterize their atmospheres and demographics in order to understand the wide diversity of exoplanetary systems. His work has spawned several scientific publications and been recognized with university and national-level prizes. Zhang is passionate about sharing his knowledge of the universe with the public.