2021 Honolulu Scholars

2021 ARCS Foundation Honolulu Chapter Scholars

The Honolulu Chapter awarded 19 scholar awards in May 2021 to doctoral students in STEM fields at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The $5,000 unrestricted grants provide resources for professional travel, computer and research equipment and materials, and educational and personal expenses.

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Erica Bufanda headshot
Erica Bufanda

2021 ARCS Scholar of the Year
George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore ARCS Award

Institute for Astronomy (Dr. Karen Meech, advisor)

Research focus: Using the chemical signature imprinted on comets and small bodies scattered outward in the early days of the solar system to test dynamic models that seek to determine whether the habitable Earth was a common outcome of planet formation or an anomaly requiring a unique set of processes during the evolution of our solar system. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Teach, conduct research, work on space missions to visit comets.
Education: BS in physics (astrophysics) with a minor in mathematics, University of California, Santa Cruz; MS in astronomy, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Institute for Astronomy Best Research Awards, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Outstanding Research Presentation Award, Soroptimist Fellowship
Interests: Watch movies, create art, swim, hike and go to the beach.

Maria Constantini holding bird
Maria Constantini

Maybelle F. Roth ARCS Award in Conservation Biology
School of Life Sciences (Zoology Graduate Program), College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Floyd Reed,  advisor)

Research focus: Understanding the factors that drive gut microbiome community assembly in wild and captive Hawaiian birds. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Work as a conservation biologist for a federal agency or non-governmental organization.
Education: BS in biology, Rowan University; MS in biology, Auburn University
Honors: Smithsonian Institute Predoctoral Fellowship, Best Graduate Speed Talk at Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference, American Ornithological Society Hesse Award, Jessie D. Kay Memorial Research Grant
Interests: Free diving, hiking, amateur botanizing, volunteering and doing almost any form of exercise.

Dillon Dodson with book
Dillon Dodson

ARCS Scholar Award
Atmospheric Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Techonology (Dr. Jennifer Griswold, advisor)

Research focus: Analyzing droplet clustering within atmospheric clouds and determining how that is related to drop size and fluid turbulent intensity to better understand precipitation formation.
GoalContinue cloud microphysics and boundary layer meteorology research in an academic, government or private institution or forecast weather and project impacts of climate change.
EducationBS in earth system science and atmospheric science, University of Wyoming; MS in atmospheric science, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: NASA Earth and Science Space Fellowship since 2017; three first-author publications.
Interests: Landscape photography, camping, hiking and exploring new locations on travels with wife Hanna.

Kaitlin Driesse Keegan headshot
Kaitlin Driesse Keegan

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Tropical Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine

Research focus: Examining antibody response to dengue and Zika viruses in pregnant women to understand the antibody profiles associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with Zika virus. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Conduct global health research to improve the health of those in regions affected by neglected tropical diseases.
Education: BA in biology with a minor in Spanish, MS in epidemiology, graduate certificates in global health studies and public health surveillance and preparedness, State of New York University at Albany
Honors: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Young Investigator Award, first-tier mention; Tropical Medicine Achievement and Minority Health Research Training awards; PhD poster 3rd prize, American Society of Microbiology Hawai‘i Branch.
Interests: Trying new recipes from other cultures, hiking, spending time with husband Jeff and cat Blossom.

Ryan Dungee headshot
Ryan Dungee

Columbia Communications ARCS Award in Astronomy
Institute for Astronomy (Dr. Mark Chun, advisor)

Research focus: Developing a method to use past measurements of the atmosphere to predict what it will do next and how it’s vertically structured in order to improve the image quality from telescopes with adaptive optics systems. Also, using time series observations to measure the rotation periods of low mass stars with known ages to benchmark the existing models used to measure a star’s age.
Goal: A professorship focused on teaching.
Education: BA and MS in physics, University of Pennsylvania; MS in astronomy, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Friends of the IfA Awards for Research Excellence; two first-author and two additional publications.
Interests: Tea, cooking, hiking, swimming.

Chiara Ferrari-Wong headshot
Chiara Ferrari-Wong

Toby Lee ARCS Award in Earth Sciences
Earth Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (Dr. Paul Lucey)

Research focus: Studying the formation and nature of organics on the Moon and developing instrumentation for Earth and Moon-based spacecraft. View her video to learn more.
Goal: A career in the space industry, designing instrumentation for spacecraft systems and bridging the gap between science and engineering.
Education: BA in astrophysics, Columbia University
Honors: Session Co-Chair, Returning to the Moon: The Science of Space Exploration, American Geophysical Union fall 2020 meeting; In Situ Science and Instrumentation Workshop for the Exploration of Europa and Ocean Worlds travel grant
Interests: Ballet, hula, graphic design, cat Marilyn

Ana Flores
Ana Flores

George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore ARCS Award
School of Life Sciences (Botany), College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Kasey Barton, advisor)

Research focus: Monitoring plant productivity and growth to gauge the response to environmental stress changes throughout key developmental stages in order to determine patterns beneficial to plant fitness.
Goal: Complete PhD.
Education: BS in Biological Sciences, Florida International University
Interests: Reading across many genres, from nature-themed non-fiction and classical literature to horror and fantasy.

Jordan Gossett headshot
Jordan Gossett

Jacqueline Maly ARCS Award in Life Sciences
School of Life Sciences (Zoology Graduate Program), College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Rebecca Chong, advisor)

Research focus: Evaluating the co-evolution of host and symbiont by sequencing and comparing the genomes of bacterial endosymbionts from planthopper populations from different lava tube caves on Hawai‘i Island. The sap-feeding insects depend on the bacteria living within their body to provide them with essential nutrients.
Goal: An academic position in evolutionary biology.
Education: BS, MS in marine biology, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
Honors: Hampton and Meredith Carson Fellowship; Elizabeth Alison Kay Endowed Award; UH Manoa Graduate Student Organization Research Award.
Interests: Hiking, yoga, laying on the beach, traveling, trying new foods/restaurants.

Jeremieh Hasley headshot
Jeremieh Hasley

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (Dr. Miaoying Tian, advisor)

Research focus: Using CRISPR/Cas gene editing technology to develop disease resistent sweet basil varieties and develop an agrobacterium-mediated gene editing system to create a model papaya crop that will allow researchers to quickly conduct research on gene function in fruiting trees. View his video to learn more.
Goal: Continue to research gene networks of plants to enhance overall function and production.
Education: BS in tropical plant and soil sciences,  MS in tropical plant pathology, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honors: Best Graduate Presentation, University of Hawai’i at Manoa CTAHR Plant Science Symposium.
Interests: Fencing, art, fashion shows, and functional interior design.

David Honsberger headshot
David Honsberger

Helen Jones Farrrar ARCS Award
Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (Dr. Mark G Wright, advisor)

Research focus: Searching for natural enemies of invasive wood boring beetles in Hawaiʻi and attempting to target the searching behavior of these parasitoids or predators toward specific invasive species or crops in order to improve their efficacy in biological control. View his video to learn more.
Goal: Conduct exploratory entomology to identify natural enemies of pest insects and plants in their native ranges for potential introduction for biological control of invasive pests affecting crops and forests.
Education: BS in mathematics, Brown University
Honors: One first-author and five additional publications.
Interests: Compressed earth block construction, sustainable and dryland agriculture, water filtration and capture systems, surfing, swimming, walking in the mountains, climbing trees, spending time with wife Maya.

Khaldoon Ishmael headshot
Khaldoon Ishmael

Frederick M. Kresser ARCS Award in Engineering
Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering (Dr. Olga Boric-Lubecke, advisor)

Research focus: Developing non-invasive physiological monitoring, including heart and respiratory rates and unique biometric indicators, using ground-based and unmanned aerial vehicle–mounted Doppler radar. Potential application relate to human performance and identification, physiological monitoring in low-visibility settings and smart building technologies. View his video to learn more.
Goal: An academic position conducting research on non-invasive physiological sensors.
Education: BS, MS in electrical engineering, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sport Clips Help a Hero and Department of Defense SMART Scholarships; three first-author publications.
Interests: Swimming, running and mentoring underclassmen, community college transfer students and veteran students.

Bryson Nakamoto headshot
Bryson Nakamoto

Sarah Ann Martin ARCS Award
Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Craig Jensen, advisor)

Research focus: Development of new methods in materials research using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. View his video to learn more.
Goal: Complete PhD in chemistry with specialization in advance inorganic and materials chemistry.
Education: BS in chemistry, BA in biology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Outstanding Teaching Assistant and Outstanding Graduate Student in Inorganic Chemistry Awards, Scheuer Travel Award.
Interests: Reading, physical fitness, repairing lab equipment.

Jessica Perelman headshot
Jessica Perelman

George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore ARCS Award
Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, advisor)

Research focus: Studying the ecology and behaviors of deep-ocean animals in a targeted deep-sea mining region to help inform the development of marine protections in this area. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Conduct conservation-focused research and educational outreach for marine and deep-sea habitats.
Education: BS in biological sciences, University of Southern California
Honors: 2019 Saildrone award, John and Anne Flanigan Oceanography award, Leonida Memorial scholarship in Fisheries Science, UH STAR achievement award.
Interests: Distance running, hiking, baking, free-diving.

Samantha Pilgrim headshot
Samantha Pilgrim

Sarah Ann Martin ARCS Award
Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Rufus Willet, advisor)

Research focus: Studying the relationship between symmetries that preserve distances and those that can be approximated by symmetries of finite sets. For instance, if we rotate a circle by an irrational angle over and over again, we never come back to our starting point, but these rotations can be approximated by rotations by a rational angle that do come back around after a finite number of rotations. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Teach and conduct research.
Education: Bachelors in mathematics, Indiana University
Interests: Running.

Alexandru Sasuclark headshot
Alexandru Sasuclark

Dr. George and Virginia Starbuck ARCS Award in Medicine
Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine (Dr. Matthew W. Pitts, advisor)

Research focus: Assessing the impact of the micronutrient selenium on the development of a specific class of neurons and the net-like structure around them which are negatively impacted in neurodevelopmental disorders. Results may provide insight into nutritional contributions that may lead to the formation of these disorders. View his video to learn more.

Goal: Refine skills and knowledge in a postdoctoral position, then work in industry to discover treatment for neurological ailments.

Education: BS in biochemistry, St. Michael’s College
Honors: Sigma Xi nominee, St. Michael’s Book Award for Academic Achievement and Social Conscience; six articles published or in review.
Interests: Ukulele, photography, choral and barbershop singing, hiking, tabletop gaming.

Jeffrey Schueler headshot
Jeffrey Schueler

H. Keith and Sue Ernst ARCS Award
Physics, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Sven Vahsen, advisors)

Research focus: Using properties of B-meson decays to test certain predictions of quantum mechanics. Generated by the international Belle II experiment at the SuperKEKB supercolider in Japan, B mesons are heavy, unstable short-lived sub-atomic particles that decay in interesting but poorly understood ways.
Goal: An industry position with continued involvement in educational outreach.
Education: BS in mathematics and physics, University of Washington; MEd in adolescent education, Pace University; MS in physics, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Outstanding Teaching Assistant award
Interests: Running, biking, hiking, cooking, educational outreach, public policy advocacy, data analysis.

Manya Singh headshot
Manya Singh

Maybelle F. Roth ARCS Award in Conservation Biology
School of Life Sciences (Botany), College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Curt Daehler, advisor)

Research focus: Whether invasive grasses modify the soil and living organisms within it in ways that impede restoration with native Hawaiian plants and how droughts will impact that dynamic as climate change progresses. View her video to learn more.
Goal: Faculty position in a teaching-focused liberal arts college.
Education: Bachelor’s in organismal biology, Scripps College
Honors: Jacquith Fellowship, Dean’s List, Center for Teaching Excellence Experienced Teaching Assistant Panel participant.
Interests: Animal rescue (volunteering with the Hawaiian Humane Society and Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California), oil painting, student advocacy.

Togia Fano Ray Harrison headshot
Harrison Togia

Bretzlaff Foundation ARCS Award
Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering (Dr. Ocean Francis, advisor)

Research focus: Combining free access data with evolving measures, open source programming and deep learning systems to engineer resilient methods for the identification of climate hazards and adaptation of coastal communities.
Goal: Build a network of like-minded coastal engineers and scientists and start a climate remediation company for coastal hazard development.
Education: BS in earth and space science, University of Washington; MS in geophysics, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Publication in Costal Environments
Interests: Participating as crew with the Friends of Hokule‘a and Hawai‘iLoa Polynesian voyaging canoes.

Nicholas Ulm headshot
Nicholas Ulm

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Ocean and Resource Engineering, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (Dr. Zhenhua Huang, advisor)

Research focus: Using an ocean-powered wave energy device–whose design was inspired by the Halona Blowhole on O‘ahu–to power unmanned underwater vehicles. Integration of the wave-driven turbine device with a stable buoy design creates an ocean observing and vehicle charging platform that can sustain longer data collection periods and reduce the cost and risk of ship-based operations when conditions are hazardous. View his video to learn more.
Goal: Start a new wave energy company that will demonstrate Hawai‘i’s unique capability to advance both wave energy and ocean observing technologies and create well-paying technical jobs on O‘ahu.
Education: BS in mechanical engineering, Johns Hopkins University; MS in ocean and resource engineering, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Winner, Department of Energy Marine Energy Discover Competition and Ocean Observing Prize Design; presentation at OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE meeting.
Interests: Surfing, freediving, scuba diving, ocean conservation.