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

 Tomoko Acoba Profile1st 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.


Angela Bononi Profile2nd 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

Robert Goya Profile1st 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.

Richard Tamae Profile2nd 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

Jabsom Gdo Profile1st 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.

HCRI Profile2nd 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 two 2018 faculty awardees and summaries of their research are presented below:

Samir K. Khanal

Samir Khanal Profile

Samir Khanal is an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Khanal is a leading researcher in the field of anaerobic digestion, bioenergy, waste-to-resources and environmental biotechnology. He is also an associate editor of Bioresource Technology and has published more than 90 papers in international journals. In 2016, Khanal published a bioenergy textbook and was a recipient of the CTAHR Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. He has supervised 13 Ph.D., 17 masters, 17 undergraduate and 12 high school students, 13 postdocs and 14 visiting scholars.

Bo Qiu

Bo Qiu Profile

Bo Qiu is a professor in the Department of Oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. His scientific interests include large-scale ocean circulation variability, midlatitude air-sea interaction, geophysical fluid dynamics and satellite oceanography. He has published more than 120 articles in peer-reviewed journals and was a contributing author to both the 4th and 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports. Qiu was a recipient of the Okada Prize from the Oceanographic Society of Japan, as well as the New Investigators Award from NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth Program.


UH Student Excellence in Research

In 2018, three $500 student awards were funded by RCUH. The recipients of these awards were:

Samuel Grunblatt

Sam Grunblatt Profile

Samuel Grunblatt joined UH Mānoa in 2013 to obtain a Ph.D. in astronomy. Grunblatt studies exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) orbiting distant red giant stars, which are future versions of our Sun. Combining data from the NASA K2 Mission, world-class telescopes on Maunakea and novel analysis techniques, Grunblatt has discovered two new planets orbiting such stars, shedding new light on the mechanism responsible for the formation of these exotic systems. He has led multiple first-author publications and presented his research in talks at major international conferences including NASA’s Ames Research Center.


Zhibin Liang

Zhibin Liang Profile

Zhibin (Ben) Liang is pursuing his doctorate in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). He is passionate about neurosciences and conducts innovative investigations on Alzheimer’s drug discovery. Liang has been using novel biomedical technologies in his dissertation research, resulting in the development of new inhibitors as promising neuroprotective agents for Alzheimer’s treatment. In the past two years, he published three lead-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals and received numerous awards including the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Young Investigator Scholarship.


Nathaniel Wehr

Nathaniel Wehr Profile

Nathaniel Wehr is pursuing a master of science in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM) in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). His thesis research examines the ecological relationship between feral pigs and soil microbial and macroinvertebrate communities, relationships that have been largely undescribed and represent important knowledge gaps in the management of invasive species, as well as public health in the Pacific Islands. This work earned him the Watson T. Yoshimoto Fellowship in the Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate Specialization.