RCUH Outstanding Employees

On October 30, 2017 nearly 200 principal investigators, project staff, and supporters gathered at Waialae Country Club to recognize 23 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

 1st Place: Tomoko Acoba
UH Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Tomoko applied methods to derive seafloor terrain metrics, improving JIMAR’s ability to evaluate the relationships between the distribution of reef fish species and various aspects of the seafloor landscape. Her findings resulted in mapping products that significantly enhanced the National Marine Fisheries Service’s management of coral species listed under the Endangered Species Act.


2nd Place: Angela Bononi
UH Cancer Center

For the past four years, Angela has regularly worked seven days a week, often till midnight or later, because as a cancer researcher, every day can make a difference. Angela’s currently working on how to counteract BAP-1 deficiency with the hope of preventing cancer in those born with the mutations. She also hopes to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy for patients who have BAP-1 mutations and are resistant to chemo.


Outstanding Project Support Staff

1st Place: Robert Goya-Smith
UH Animal and Veterinary Services

Robert is helping the UH Animal and Veterinary Services program fulfill the updated and highly intensive federal training requirements. He created the coursework himself to ensure that all required research techniques are covered and contacts staff when training is due. He also delivers the training, including personalized sessions for those unable to attend the scheduled class. Robert has gone above and beyond his required duties to ensure that training is completed with thorough oversight and facilitation of research in mind.

2nd Place: Richard Tamae
Subaru Telescope

As the facility maintenance technician, Richard is responsible for maintaining the telescope facility, which includes carrying out regular inspections, troubleshooting, and building repairs. One of Richard’s most notable accomplishments is the modification and upgrade of the telescope enclosure to accommodate the Prime Focus Spectrograph, or PFS, an instrument that will expand astronomers’ knowledge on dark energy and possibly provide some insight on the destiny of the universe.


Outstanding Team

1st Place: Grants Development Office, UH John A. Burns School of Medicine
Lori Chun, Tammy Ho, Kari Kim, Megan Kira, Susan Ordinado

Through their efforts, the Grants Development Office at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine has helped secure more than $80 million in funding, including a $21.8 million grant for RCMI Clinical and Translational Research. Many of the grant proposals which GDO has assisted with are large and complex and often require coordination of many individuals across UH, including community colleges, and other local universities. Short turnaround times are the norm, so the GDO team is constantly “on call”, working evenings, weekends, and holidays in order to get the job done.

2nd Place: Hawai’i Coral Reef Initiative, UH Social Science Research Institute
Kristine Davidson, Pamela Fujii, Charissa Minato

The Hawai‘i Coral Reef Initiative (HCRI) provides expertise in supporting research, management, and education related to our islands’ marine environment. HCRI has overcome many challenges over the years. After suffering a drastic cut in funds in 2007, from $1.5 million to $100,000, this research program has bounced back to become a sustainable, robust, and thriving organization, thanks to a core of dedicated and diligent staff.

Honorable Mentions (click on name for video)

Hanalei Abbott – UH Social Science Research Institute

Kaoru Ashimine – UH John A. Burns School of Medicine

Rebecca Beralas – UH Lyon Arboretum

Stanford Fichtman – Kapi‘olani Community College

Katharine Hind – Division of Aquatic Resources, State of Hawai‘i Department of Land & Natural Resources

Tara Holitzki – UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory

David Jackson and Max Sender – UH Department of Psychology

Daniel Leung – Kapi‘olani Community College

Jill Sommer – Pacific International Center for High Technology Research

Kimberly Swartz – UH Office of Public Health Studies

Congratulations to all of the 2017 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 2017 faculty awardees and summaries of their research are presented below:

Christoph J. Baranec

Christoph Baranec is an assistant astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy. He designs, builds and uses adaptive optics systems—instruments that overcome the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere. Baranec won an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2014 for leading the development of the world’s first automated adaptive optic system, Robo-AO. Observations from this system appear in 30 scientific publications, with many more in preparation. These include several of the largest number count adaptive optics surveys ever performed: all of the several thousands of Kepler candidate exoplanet hosts and all known stars within 80 light years observable from the northern hemisphere. Baranec currently leads the effort to deploy an upgraded version of Robo-AO to the University of Hawaiʻi 2.2-m telescope, which will achieve resolutions approaching that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

James Dean Brown

James Dean “JD” Brown has made outstanding contributions to the field of applied linguistics in the areas of language testing, language curriculum design, language research methods and teaching of connected speech. Since joining the Department of Second Language Studies, he has trained hundreds of graduate students and served on 44 doctoral committees. His 370 publications include 25 books, 23 monographs, 51 peer-reviewed articles, 74 book chapters and more, all of which have garnered nearly 12,000 citations. As a speaker, he has delivered 60 invited plenary/keynote speeches, 56 peer-reviewed conference presentations and more than 300 other invited lectures and workshops. This Fulbright Senior Scholar has earned the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Award; the International Language Testing Association Samuel Messick Award; and the College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature Excellence in Scholarship and Research Award.

Jeffrey R. Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn is an astronomer with the Institute for Astronomy. He is a physicist who joined UH in 1998 to study the sun. He is internationally recognized for improving our understanding of the global properties of the sun, its mean structure, rotation and the physics of its variability. On Haleakalā, he built a telescope that measures the weak magnetism of the sun’s outer atmosphere. This unusual instrument demonstrates how the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, now under construction on Haleakalā, will revolutionize our understanding of the inconstant sun’s effect on the Earth. He currently works on optical concepts that may someday enable large, next-generation instruments to detect signatures of life on nearby exoplanets. He is also a vocal advocate for university efforts to engage non-academic partners with academic researchers in order to create useful technologies.

UH Student Excellence in Research (Doctoral Level)

In 2017, three $500 student awards were funded by RCUH. The recipients of these awards were:

Mapuana Antonio

Mapuana Antonio is a Native Hawaiian doctoral student dedicated to advancing the health of indigenous people. Her research explores associations involving stress, coping, obesity, diabetes and general health among Native Hawaiians, especially those residing on Hawaiian Homestead Lands. For her dissertation, she validated a tool to measure resilience among Native Hawaiians and demonstrated a significant relationship between resilience and health. During her doctoral program, she served as co-investigator of the Papakōlea Hawaiian Homestead Community Health Survey and as a research assistant for the National Institutes of Health-funded PILI ʻOhana Program. Antonio also has gained international research experience as a scholar in the Māhina International Indigenous Health Research Training Program. To date, her publications catalog successful public health programs addressing the mental and physical health of indigenous adolescents and explore associations between perceived racism, obesity and overall health.

William M. Best

Following a 15-year career teaching math, physics and counseling at Punahou School, William Best joined UH Mānoa to pursue a doctorate in his lifelong passion for astronomy. He studies the properties of brown dwarfs (faint gaseous bodies with masses in between planets and stars) that reside in our neighborhood of the galaxy. He does this using the exceptional ground-based telescopes in Hawaiʻi, especially the Pan-STARRS wide-field survey telescope, which is producing a digital multi-color movie of the sky. His dissertation work is yielding new insights about how and when nearby brown dwarfs formed and also how they change over time. Best brings intellect, diligence and enthusiasm to his research and has been recognized as the 2017 ARCS (Advancing Science in America) Scholar in astronomy.

Glen M. Chew

Glen Chew has a high affinity for science and technology and brings novel constructive ideas to his PhD research project in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. His research focuses on understanding mechanisms driving immune dysfunction during chronic viral infections. As a PhD candidate, he has published a first-authored, peer-reviewed scientific manuscript on his research and also contributed to nine co-authored publications. He received the 2016 Koenig Award in Medicine from the ARCS foundation (Honolulu Chapter) and the 2015 and 2016 Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw Biomedical Research Scholarships for his research. Chew also presented his research at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in 2014 and 2017 and at the International AIDS Society in 2015. His research will lead to ways to harness the immune system to prevent, control or eliminate HIV infection and optimize quality of life outcomes.