Past Honolulu Chapter Scholars

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2012 Honolulu ARCS Scholars

Bryson PadasaoBryson Padasdao
Bretzlaff Foundation Award in Engineering
Department of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering
BS, UH Manoa

Bryson Padasdao is adapting a tiny motor to run on energy generated by the motion of the chest wall when breathing. That would eliminate the need to change, recharge or dispose of batteries in “smart clothing,” garments that can sense physiological data such as heart and respiratory rates and transmit that data to a remote device such as a wristwatch or smart phone.

Christopher Beaumont headshotChristopher Beaumont
2012 Scholar of the Year
Columbia Communications Award in Astronomy
Institute for Astronomy
BS, Calvin College; MS UH Manoa

Developing new techniques to tease information about star formation out of molecular clouds, Chris Beaumont uses radio telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea to study discrepancies in the level of star formation spawned by the gravitational collapse of dense pockets within the vast, predominantly hydrogen gas clouds. He received a Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Predoctoral Fellowship.

Joseph Bramante headshotJoseph Bramante
Robert and Doris Pulley Award in Physics
Department of Physics, College of Natural Sciences
BA, Sarah Lawrence College

Joseph Bramante seeks evidence of a new elementary particle in the photon distribution of what’s called the “cosmic microwave background,” which might be responsible for the rapid expansion of the universe in the earliest period of inflation following the “big bang. He also puzzles over old cards and a German card game called Sheepshead.

April Darrow headshotApril Darrow
Starbuck Award in Medicine
Cell and Molecular Biology Program, John A. Burns School of Medicine
BA, Wellesley College

Studying the relationship between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, April Darrow has identified a protein called galectin-3 that might play a protective role against the cardiovascular complications that can result from Type II diabetes. She has filed a provisional patent on use of the protein, which could serve as a biomarker to predict who is likely to develop the complications and perhaps yield a treatment.

Rachael Gonzales headshotRachael Gonzales
Koenig Foundation Award in Medicine
Biomedical Sciences, John A. Burns School of Medicine
BA, MS UH Manoa

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Rachel Gonzales documents microstructural alterations in brain tissue among regular marijuana users. A Native Hawaiian, she hopes a better understanding of neurological damage from cannabis use will aid in education, prevention and care in Hawaii (where it is second only to methamphetamine as the primary drug used by individuals admitted to drug rehabilitation programs) and elsewhere.

Robert Lewis headshotRobert Lewis
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Chemistry
Department of Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences
BS, University of California, Santa Barbara

Working to synthesize anticancer compounds, Robert Lewis is particularly interested in promising chemicals derived from guava trees and an Indian shrub that exhibit activity against liver and breast cancer cell lines. He is developing new technology to synthesize the compounds in quantities needed for studies of their therapeutic potential.

Jonathan Mita headshotJonathan Mita
Shelagh Kresser Award in Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
BS, MS, UH Manoa

Jonathan Mita works on optimal spacing and positioning of micro pin fins in development of water-cooled transistor chips for computers. Less efficient air cooled systems now in use restrict the number of transistors that can be put into each chips, thus limiting processing power. Mita has eclectic interests, from piano and sewing to motorcycling and cowboy action shooting.

Geoffrey Patterson headshot Geoffrey Patterson
Robert and Doris Pulley Award in Mathematics,
Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences
BS, Grand Valley State University

In a collaborative project with the Institute for Astronomy, Geoffrey Patterson uses geometric control theory to identify optimum trajectories that would allow spacecraft to intercept temporarily captured objects—asteroids and the like caught in Earth orbit for a short time. He received his department’s 2011 Graduate Excellence in Teaching Award.

Hollie Putnam headshotHollie Putnam
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Zoology
Department of Zoology, College of Natural Sciences
BS University of Wisconsin, Superior; MS California State University, Northridge

To research potential mechanisms and consequences of coral acclimatization to global stress, Hollie Putnam exposes cauliflower coral exposed to different temperature and carbon dioxide levels to gauge physiological and molecular changes in the adults and their offspring. She has published eight manuscripts and mentored four undergraduate students.

Yoshimi Rii headshotYoshimi Rii
Helen Jones Farrar Award in Oceanography
Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Bachelors, University of California, Los Angeles; Master’s, UH Manoa

Yoshimi Rii works to identify picoeukaryotes, which are very small phytosynthetic phytoplankton that form the basis of the food web in the nutrient-poor ocean gyres. She has acquired several awards and 10 publications. Rii is a paddler, runner and Special Olympics Hawaii coach.

Christie Wilcox headshotChristie Wilcox
Maybelle Roth Award in Conservation Biology
Cell and Molecular Biology Program, College of Natural Sciences
BS, Eckerd College

Christie Wilcox works to identify a toxin in roi and other groupers that might account for false positives in ciguatera testing. Unlike ciguatoxin, scorapaenitoxin isn’t toxic when ingested, so better testing tools could expand island fisheries while work on the genes responsible for toxin production sheds light on evolution of novel traits in species. She blogs for Scientific American at

Jarred Yasuhara-Bell headshotJarred Yasuhara-Bell
Helen Jones Farrar Award in Tropical Agriculture
Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
BS, Oregon State University; MS UH Manoa

Jarred Yasuhara-Bell works on a new economical, user friendly field test to provide timely and reliable detection of a bacteria that poses a serious threat to the world’s $56 billion tomato industry. He fights a different kind of foe as a competitor and assistant instructor of Muay Thai, a form of martial arts.

2011 Honolulu ARCS Scholars

Jason Higa headshotJason Higa
Scholar of the Year Award and Ellen M. Koenig Award in Medicine
Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine
BS in biology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; MS in biology, University of San Francisco

Jason Higa is exploring potential anti-inflammatory therapeutic applications of an extract from Phyllostachys edulis, a fast-growing bamboo species used for furniture, construction and food. The extract inhibited tumor development in rats and in vitro with little toxic affect to normal tissue. A 1999 UH Regents Scholar and 2008 Keystone Symposia Underrepresented Minority Scholarship recipient, he enjoys computer programming, snowboarding and financial planning.

Courtney Angelo headshotCourtney Angelo
Maybelle Roth Award in Conservation Biology
Department of Botany, College of Natural Sciences
BS in plant science biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

After studying the restoration of California grasslands and trying to predict invasive species ranges there, Courtney Angelo turned her attention to the grasses in Hawai‘i. Her dissertation combines her interests in invasive species biology and global climate change. She has established a strong correlation between distibution of grasses and temperature at all elevations on three islands, documenting an upward shift toward invasive species of grasses as the dominant cover at highter elevations.

Siobhan Burns headshotSiobhán Burns
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Microbiology
Department of Microbiology, College of Natural Sciences
BS in biology, Western Washington University; MPA in environmental science and policy, Columbia University

Siobhán Burns is conducting the first comprehensive study of bacteria on octocorals in dark, cold waters of the Hawaiian archipelago. The baseline data is needed to detect effects of environmental stressors, such as ocean warming and acidification, that pose threats to coral. Before returning to graduate school, she worked as an environmental educator, laboratory supervisor and environmental health specialist in the communicable disease division of a local health department.

William DeMeo headshotWilliam DeMeo
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Mathematics
Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences
BA in economics, University of Virginia; MS in mathematics, New York University

Initially studying mathematics to better understand economics, William DeMeo became hooked. He explores whether every finite lattice is the convergence of a finite lattice—knowledge essential to understanding the mathematics underlying more complex models of the real world. Previous work applying math to music won him the Best Paper Prize at the 2004 International Symposium of Musical Acoustics in Japan, and he developed new algorithms for processing images captured by telescopes.

Corey Fugate, headshotCorey Fugate
Robert and Doris Pulley Award in Chemistry
Department of Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences
BS in chemistry, Washington State University

Corey Fugate uses isotope studies and an electron paramagnetic resonance instrument to study the biosynthesis of biotin, the essential vitamin known as B7. Humans recycle biotin with help from intestinal bacteria, but bacteria must make their own. Interfere with that process, and you can kill the tuberculosis pathogen responsible for the world’s seventh leading cause of death. Fugate hopes in the future to work on practical applications of enzymology, including development of antibiotics. He enjoys web design, running and rock climbing.

Katie Kamelamela headshotKatie Kamelamela
Isabella Aiona Abbott Award in Botany, sponsored by ARCS Honolulu and HMSA
Department of Botany, College of Natural Sciences
BA in Hawaiian studies, MS in botany, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Katie Kamelamela will conduct research relevant to the preservation of Native Hawaiian plants and people’s interactions with plants in perpetuation of cultural practices in indigenous communities. Her master’s work identified how current practices evolved, with a focus on food preparation techniques and Native Hawaiian wellbeing. She studied plant materials gathered for and cooked in the underground ovens known as imu and how access to resources have changed over time.

Jacque Kelly headshotJacque Kelly
ARCS Honolulu Award in Geology and Geophysics
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
BS summa cum laude in geoscience, Northland College; MS in geology, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Submarine groundwater discharge from the five large spring complexes that empty into Pearl Harbor influence nutrient flux in harbor waters. Using aerial thermal infrared mapping Jacque Kelly maps the colder groundwater floating at the surface, and she samples water at different depths to trace the movement and chemical composition of the flow. In addition to her studies, Kelly is a volunteer member of the Honolulu Community Concert Band.

Yurly Mikhaylov headshotYuriy Mikhaylov
Bretzlaff Foundation Award in Engineering
Department of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering
BS and MS in civil and environmental engineering, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Designing tsunami-resistant structures requires a good understanding of  tsunami loads and how they affect coastal structures. Yuriy Mikhaylov uses modeling studies to test the design of six prototypical buildings in locations with varied seismicity and soil types. The buildings are subjected to tsunami loads that consider eight kinds of forces, including the height and velocity of waves and debris damming, to analyze the behavior of the structures. Mikhaylov works as a structural engineer and plays violin in the university symphony.

Lisa Miller headshotLisa Miller
Sarah Ann Martin Award in Information Science
Department of Information and Computer Science, College of Natural Sciences
AA, Hawai‘i Community College; BA in French, BS in computer science, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Pushing the boundaries of natural and artificial intelligence, Lisa Miller's research combines behavioral learning with robotics. She uses information theoretic methods to understand cognitive processes in natural and artificial systems in an effort to develop a new algorithm for evolutionary robot learning. A non-traditional student, the single mother is a 2004 UH Presidential Scholar, member of Phi Beta Kappa and assistant in the UH–NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Margaret Ruzicka headshotMargaret Ruzicka
Helen Jones Farrar Award in Tropical Agriculture
Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
BS in plant and environmental biotechnology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa


Interested in structure-function relationships in enzymes that can be used in environmentally safe industrial processes, Margaret Ruzicka is characterizing a stable and active peroxidase from palm trees that could be used in food safety biosensors, conductive plastic synthesis and improved diagnostic tools. She recevied the UH Student Research Symposium Best Student PhD Oral Presention, was an Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence fellow and participated in International Genetically Engineered Machine competition.

Vivian U headshotVivian U
Columbia Communications Award in Astronomy
University of Hawai‘i Institute for Astronmy
BS in astrophysics, California Institute of Technology

Galaxies interact and merge under the influence of gravity, leading to star formation, feeding supermassive black holes and triggering release of gravitational energy. Vivian U examines the kinematics of the molecular gas fueling these processes in nearby merging galaxy systems. She received NASA–Harriett G. Jenkins and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Predoctoral Fellowships and awards from the American Astronomical Society and Sigma Xi Foundation. She enjoys language-learning, travel and food.

David Yaylali headshotDavid Yaylali
Robert and Doris Pulley Award in Physics
Department of Physics, College of Natural Sciences
BA in physics, Reed College

Inspired by Carl Sagan’s series Cosmos, David Yaylali majored in physics, researching the Korteweg De-Vries Equation, a formula that describes water waves, for his senior theses. After two years working as an engineer for a scientific instruments company and travelling the American west, he now studies high-energy particle physics. His research focuses on the missing puzzle pieces that account for the 80 percent of matter in the universe not described in the Standard Model of Physics. He is particularly interested in the X boson.