2016 Scholars

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2016 Honolulu ARCS Scholars

Benjamin BJ Fulton headshot
Benjamin “BJ” Fulton
Columbia ARCS Award in Astronomy and 2016 Scholar of the Year
Institute for Astronomy
BS in physics (minor in astronomy) University of California at Santa Barbara

Fulton developed software to robotically hunt for sub-Neptune mass planets around 51 nearby stars using the Automated Planet Finder telescope at the Lick observatory in California. He has already found two on the way to developing a census of small planets orbiting Sun-like stars within about 100 light-years of Earth. Fulton has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and UH Manoa’s Student Excellence in Research Award. He has been published five times in as many years. He enjoys digital photography and autocross racing in his sports car.

Lindsey Benjamin headshot
Lindsey Benjamin
Helen Jones Farrar Award in Oceanography
Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
BS in global environmental science, BS in physics, MS in Oceanography, UH Manoa

Meteotsunami are tsunami-like waves generated when rapid changes in barometric pressure cause displacement in a body of water. Benjamin examines time series to look for evidence of such tsunami in shallow waters at Penguin Bank off O‘ahu’s Kokohead. More local than seismic tsunami, they can cause flooding and significant damage. Benjamin's paper on high frequency Doppler radio observations and current simulations modeling was published this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. She enjoys running, reading and cooking.

Marla Chassels headshot
Marla Chassels
Maybelle Roth Award in Conservation Biology
Anthropology, College of Social Sciences
BS in environmental studies (marine sciences), minor in anthropology, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; MS in environmental sciences, Washington State University

Chassels examines human-tiger relationships in Thailand—how tiger conservation projects affect people living in and around protected areas (national parks, wildlife reserves, etc) and whether programs could be improved to better meet both the interests of local peoples and the objectives of tiger conservation.

Glen Chew headshot
Glen Chew
Ellen M. Koenig Foundation Award in Medicine
Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, John A. Burns School of Medicine
BS in biology (microbiology), San Francisco State University

Dysfunctional lymphocytes can keep the immune system from eliminating infections and cancers. Chew investigates receptors on the surface of certain lymphocytes that keep them from killing HIV-infected cells. He wants to block the inhibitory receptors, essentially keeping lymphocytes “switched on” to better control HIV infection. The work was published in PLOS Pathogens in January. Chew plans to pursue a research career in immunology and infectious disease. In addition to exploring technologies behind the science, Chew enjoys working on cars and walking his dog.

Emily First headshot
Emily First
Toby Lee Award in Geology and Geophysics
Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
BS in geology and BA in French, University of Georgia; MS in geology and geophysics, UH Manoa

First conducts small-scale laboratory experiments at high pressure and temperature related to the eruptive style of volcanoes. She makes tiny bits of homemade rock under precisely controlled conditions and compares them to samples from Volcan Quizapu, an Andean volcano in southern Chile to study the processes that determine whether eruptions are explosive or non-explosive. First hopes to become a professor, run her own laboratory or work for a U.S. Geological Service volcano observatory. She  plays saxaphone and competes in ocean swims. This is her second ARCS Scholar Award.

Jamal Hassan Haidar headshot
Jamal H. Hassan Haidar
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Mathematics
Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences
BS in mathematics, University of California at Santa Barbara

Complex multiplication fields have a lot of applications in number theory and have been harnessed by the likes of Microsoft. Haidar examines the behavior of the ideal class number, which essentially measures the failure to obtain a unique decomposition of an element into its smallest pieces. Haidar’s work involves computing various statistical aspects that model the growth rates of these objects. He enjoys teaching mathematics, cooking and hiking and other outdoor activities.

Amy Hruska headshot
Amy Marie Hruska
Maybelle Roth Award in Conservation Biology
Botany, College of Natural Sciences
BS in environmental biology, certificate in Geographical Information Systems, University of Dayton; MS in biology, West Virginia University

On remote islands, plants and animals develop very specific relationships. But what happens to native plants when the population of native birds that disperse their seeds dwindles? Hruska will examine factors related to native plant survival, test techniques to encourage native plant growth and try to determine whether some non-native birds can be serve as substitute seed dispersers. She enjoys running, hiking, biking and participating in restoration projects.

Melia Iwamoto headshot
Melia Iwamoto
Shelagh Kresser Award in Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of  Engineering
BS, MS in civil engineering, UH Manoa

With steep, densely vegetated volcanic terrain and high rainfall, Hawai‘i is primed for landslides. Working with the state Department of Transportation, Iwamoto collects GPS, geotechnical and hydrological data on slopes along O‘ahu’s Pali and Likelike Highways to developing a physically based early warning system that would allow officials to predict when rainfall could create a risk of landslides and warn the public or close the roads. Iwamoto plans to become a licensed geotechnical engineer and professor. She enjoys doing yoga, playing volleyball, fishing, hiking, dancing hula and teaching Sunday school.

Amanda Lee headshot
Amanda Lee
Starbuck ARCS Award in Medicine
Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine
BS in microbiology, UH Manoa

Buildup of urine caused by an obstruction in the ureter is a leading cause of kidney disease in newborns. Lee uses a mouse model to understand when and why the blockages occur during embryonic development. Characterizing changes they have observed in the cells of the urinary tract of mice with the obstruction could lead to potential therapeutics. Amanda received the 2015 Best Graduate Student Presentation at JABSOM’s Biomedical Sciences and Health Disparities Symposium.

Robert Nakata headshot
Robert Nakata
Bretzlaff Foundation Award in Engineering
Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering
BS in electrical engineering, MS in electrical engineering/computer science, MIT; MBA, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are an ideal platform for rapidly deployed remote sensing for security and post-disaster recovery operations. Nakata investigates sensors and feedback stabilization techniques to make signals more reliable. He recently received a patent for a motion capture virtual reality system he likens to a “GPS of the body,” which he built with an off-the-shelf processor and custom antenna. Nakata’s interests include entrepreneurship, mountain biking and amateur radio.

Andrew Turner headshot
Andrew Turner
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Chemistry
Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences
BS in chemistry, DePauw University; master’s in chemistry education, Indiana University

Turner simulates interstellar conditions in the laboratory to identify possible extraterrestrial sources of organic compounds needed for life on Earth. He studies the reactions of phosphine, water, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons in an attempt to explain the formation of alkylphosphonic acids, which are the only phosphorus-containing organic compounds that have been discovered on meteorites. Interested in teaching at the undergraduate level, Turner twice received the University of Hawai‘i Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

William Wright
William “Bill” Wright
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Information and Computer Science
Information and Computer Science, College of Natural Sciences
BS in mathematics and computer science, Grove City College, Pennsylvania: MS in computer science, The George Washington University

Wright looks for clues about personality in people’s writing, such as what word choices and grammar structures say about how extraverted a person is. Potential benefits range from timely adjustments in teaching strategies and improved technology interfaces to diagnosis and treatment of stroke and autism spectrum disorder and detection of criminal or terroristic activities. His broad range of interests include gardening, scuba and sky diving, trains and helping people with disabilities enjoy the ocean.