Current Scholars

2020 ARCS Foundation Honolulu Chapter Scholars

The Honolulu Chapter awarded 16 scholar awards in May 2020 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 educational expenses.

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Gagandeep Anand headshot
Gagandeep "Deep" Anand

ARCS Honolulu Award
Institute for Astronomy (Dr. Brent Tully, advisor)

Research focus: Determining accurate distances to nearby galaxies using Hubble Space Telescope imaging to investigate the distribution of matter and evolution of galaxy groups and clusters
Goal: Position as a research astronomer or data scientist
Education: MA in astronomy, Boston University; MS in astronomy, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: IPAC Visiting Graduate Student Fellowship
Interests: Basketball, science fiction novels, cooking

Anamica Bedi de Silva headshot
Anamica Bedi de Silva

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

Research focus: Viral immunity in microbes, developing resistant strains of a single-cell algae for experimental evolution in the laboratory to determine if there are fitness costs to viral resistance
Goal: Complete PhD
Education: BA in Biology, New College of Florida
Honors: 2019 Department of Biology Best Paper
Interests: Yoga, hip-hop and salsa dance, pencil drawing and research on indigenous ancestry

Travis Berger headshot
Travis A. Berger

Columbia Communications Award in Astronomy
Institute for Astronomy (Dr. Daniel Huber, advisor)

Research focus: Planet formation and evolution using stellar distances as measured by the Gaia space observatory of stars and exoplanets observed by the Kepler space telescope
Goal: Position as an astronomical researcher/astronomy professor
Education BS in physics (astrophysics option), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Honors: NASA FINESST Future Investigator, executive secretary for NASA Exoplanet Research Program proposal review
Interests: Outdoor activities, video games, sampling craft beers

Luke Campillo headshot
Luke Campillo

Sarah Ann Martin Award in Natural Sciences
Zoology, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Robert C. Thompson, advisor)

Research focus: DNA sequencing of Hawaiian birds to study the impact of limited contact with other populations and competition for limited resources on speciation on island archipelagos
Goal: Teaching and mentoring graduate students
Education: BS in biology, Drake University; MS in ecology and evolutionary biology, University of Kansas
Honors: American Ornithological Society Hesse Award, American Museum of Natural History Frank M. Chapman Memorial Fund
Interests: Outdoor activities, birds, food and traveling

Lauren Ching headsht
Lauren L. Ching

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, John A. Burns School of Medicine (Dr. Vivek R. Neurkar, advisor)

Research focus: Immunopathogenesis of Kawasaki disease, the leading cause of pediatric acquired heart disease in the developed world, to identify novel therapeutics that can ameliorate changes to coronary arteries
Goal: Improve global health though basic science research
Education: BS in Biology, Boston College
Honors: American Society for Virology Travel Award, invited speaker at the 2018 Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting
Interests: Hiking, running, crafting

Allexa Dow headshot
Allexa Dow

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Microbiology, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Sladjana Prisic, advisor)

Research focus: Mechanisms employed by the deadly Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogen to survive severe zinc depletion in the host, a necessary step for disease transmission
Goal: Using microbial genetics in a synthetic biology approach to solving environmental problems in a university faculty research position
Education: BS in biology, MS in molecular bioscience and bioengineering, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Three first-author publications, 2018 ARCS Scholar Award
Interests: Outdoor activities, cooking and sewing related to sustainable, wholesome living

Douglas Ellman headshot
Douglas A. Ellman

Bretzlaff Foundation Award in Engineering
Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering (Dr. Yuanzhang Xiao, advisor)

Research focus: Using optimization and machine learning to study how distributed energy resources, such as solar batteries, electric vehicles and smart appliances, can be used to improve the operation of the electric grid
Goal: A career in teaching and improving the sustainability of the electric power system
Education: BA in physics, Princeton University; MS in technology ad policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Honors: Best Thesis finalist, MIT Technology and Policy Program; two first-author papers
Interests: Surfing, hiking, ukulele, bonsai

Brien Haun headshot
Brien K. Haun

Ellen M. Koenig ARCS Award
Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine (Dr. Axel Lehrer, advisor)

Research focus: Hacking the immune system to uncover protective responses to emerging infectious viruses
Education: AA in biomedical Science, St. Petersburg College; BS in molecular cell biology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Young Investigator Award, American Society for Microbiology 1st Place Poster, IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Research Experience Award, University Research Opportunities Program Research Experience Award
Interests: Reading, photography and beach barbecues

Michael Honda headshot
Michael David Honda

Kai Bowden ARCS Award
Molecular Biosciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (Dr. Dulal Borthakur, advisor)

Research focus: Determining the mechanism of iron uptake in giant leucaena, which is used as a nutritious fodder-legume for farm animals
Goal: Full-time researcher and senior scientist
Education BS in biology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Best Graduate Student Presentation in Food Systems, Security and Sustainability and Best Oral Presentation awards, CTAHR Student Research Symposium; Best PhD Presentation, CTAHR Three-Minute Elevator Pitch (3MEP) Competition; six first-author publications
Interests: Reading about history, athletic activities, watching comedy shows

Aileen Li headshot
Aileen S. W. Li

Starbuck ARCS Award in Medicine
Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology, John A. Burns School of Medicine (Dr. Yusuke Marikawa, advisor)

Research focus: Using in vitro model systems to understand the mechanisms of gastrulation, the foremost, crucial and sensitive stage of embryo development, and exposure to tetratogens, agents that can cause birth defects
Goal: Teaching and performing meaningful research
Education: BS in biology, University of Colorado Denver
Honors: American Association for Anatomy Student Travel Award, Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching nomination, Society of Developmental Biology Travel Award, two first-author publications
Interests: Cooking, crafting, video games, jigsaw puzzles, playing with dog Dai Dai

Marlsa McDonald headshot
Marisa S. McDonald

Maybelle Roth ARCS Award in Conservation Biology
Marine Biology, School of Life Sciences (Dr. Megan Porter, advisor)

Research focus: Understanding vision in larval mantis shrimp, focusing on ultraviolet vision function and use
Goal: An academic career as a research professor
EducationBS, University of Miami
Honors: Crustacean Society Third Place Student Oral Presentation, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Conference; Best Paper Honorable Mention, 44th Annual Testers Symposium, fist-author publication
Interests: Scuba diving, rock climbing, hiking

Ashley McGuigan headshot
Ashley A. McGuigan

ARCS Honolulu Award
Botany, School of Life Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Tamara Ticktin, advisor)

Research focus: The connection between agroforest biodiversity and dietary nutrition in Fiji and the ways agroforestry helps people recover from major cyclone disturbances
Goal: Postdoctoral position followed by a professorship
Education: BS in biology, ecology, evolution and conservation concentration, North Carolina University
Honors: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Fulbright Student Research Fellowship, US Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship
Interests: Songwriting, ukulele, biking, hiking

Trista McKenzie headshot
Trista A. McKenzie

Toby Lee ARCS Award in Earth Sciences
Earth Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (Dr. Henrietta Dulai, advisor)

Research focus: Groundwater pollution and discharge dynamics using a combination of field, lab and machine-learning approaches
Goal: Do high-impact research relevant to both scientific and local communities in a tenure-track academic position
Education: BS in geology and geophysics, MS in geology and geophysics, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Best Rapid-Fire Presentation, Tester Symposium; Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Research Exchange Fellowship; Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant with Outstanding Mention; three first-author publications
Interests: Powerlifting, hiking, ocean recreation, painting

Brenden Minei headshot
Brenden M. Minei

Frederick M. Kresser Award in Engineering
Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering (Dr. Mehrdad Ghasemi Nejhad, advisor)

Research focus: Develop a novel ceramic based Nano-Paste that can be both 3D printed and molded to optimize and develop ceramic nanocomposite parts with armor as well as space structure and optical applications
Goal: Continue research as a postdoc and develop Flux, a business that take ideas from conceptualization through design, simulation, prototyping and testing to mass manufacturing
Education University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Three first-author publications, two patents, advisor to several senior design projects that have won national awards, combat and other military awards
Interests: Automotive fabrication, racing and invention, motorcycle and off-road vehicles, building and overclocking computers

Jack Runburg headshot
John E. Runburg

Sarah Ann Martin Award in Natural Sciences
Physics, College of Natural Sciences (Dr. Jason Kumar, advisor)

Research focus: Studying theoretical models and devising other methods to learn more about dark matter, the most common, but invisible, form of matter in the universe
Education: BS in physics, University of Southern California
Honors: Two peer reviewed publications, USC Renaissance Scholarship for students demonstrating great interdisciplinary study (philosophy and physics)
Interests: Paddling, gardening, trail running, rock climbing, philosophy, labor organizaing, science communication

Priscilla Seabourn headshot
Priscilla S. Seabourn

Helen Jones Farrar Award
Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (Dr. Matthew Medeiros and Dr. Helen Spafford, advisors)

Research focus: Using DNA sequencing to characterize the microbiome and understand how environmental and ecological factors influence its diversity in Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, a commonly occurring insect that serves as a vector for Dengue and Chikungunya viruses with an eye to improving strategies for disease prevention
Goal: A faculty position that stresses science literacy, emphasizes teaching and training and provides research opportunities
EducationBS in biology with a minor in chemistry, University of Central Oklahoma; MS in biomedical science, tropical medicine, medical microbiology and pharmacology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Honors: Soroptimist Founder Region Fellowship; Best Graduate Presentation, College of Tropical Agriculture and  Human Resources; Biology of Vector Borne Disease Travel Scholarship
Interests: Adventures with her daughter, including hiking, swimming and beach days