Current Scholars

The Honolulu Chapter presented 18 ARCS Scholar Awards in May 2024 to doctoral students in STEM fields at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The chapter kicked off it's 50th anniversary year by increasing ARCS Scholar Award funding to $6,000 for each scholar this year. The unrestricted grants provide resources for professional travel, computer and research equipment and materials, and educational and personal expenses at the recipient's discretion.

Two $1,000 ARCS Scholar of the Year Awards were announced at the May 6 ARCS Scholar Awards Banquet. Mason Russo, who investigates hala scale and coconut rhinoceros beetles, and Nicholas Saunders, who has discovered more than 10 exoplanets, were selected for the clarity of their presentations and explanation of the background, context and importance of their research at the Honolulu ARCS Scholar Symposium.

View photos of the event

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Thomas Ken Awamura headshot
Thomas Ken Awamura

Guy Moulton Yates Award
Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, Dr. Juwon Park, advisor
View his video

Research: Impact of Metformin on Immune Recovery in People Living with HIV on Antiretroviral Therapy
T-cells serve as reservoirs for HIV. Ken examines three related proteins to determine if the diabetes drug metaformin might offer effective treatment. He also looks for alterations in immune cells to identify risk factors for development of long-COVID.

Education: BS in Biology, Graduate certificate and MS in Tropical Medicine, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: cooking/baking, Pokemon, sharing enthusiasm for infectious diseases 


Ariana Bunnell headshot
Arianna R. Bunnell

Sarah Ann Martin Award
Information and Computer Science, Dr. Peter Sadowski, advisor
View her video

Research: Application of AI to Breast Cancer for Hawaiʻi and the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands
An effective artificial intelligence–enabled, hand-held ultrasound device could improve access to mammography in a region with high rates advanced-stage breast cancer. Arianna is developing and testing a model to improve sensitivity and efficiency.

Education: BS in Computer Science, BS in Statistics, Utah State University; MS in Computer Science, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: embroidery, baking, weightlifting 

Saige Dacuycuy headshot
Saige J. Dacuycuy

Bretzlaff Foundation Award
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Wayne Shiroma, Dr. Aaron Ohta, advisors
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Research: Liquid-Metal-Based Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces for Wireless Communications
In a 6-G wireless network, signals will reflect off surfaces to detect and follow users. Saige works on liquid-metal–based reconfigurable intelligent surfaces to redirect signals and  improve reception. His efforts build on the work of ARCS Scholars Ryan Gough (2013) and Richard Ordonez (2014).

Education: BS in Physics, Coloado Mesa University; MS Electrical Engineering, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 

Interests: fishing, foley art, listening to audiobooks 

ARCS Scholar Julia K. Douglas
Julia K. Douglas

Sarah Ann Martin Award
Botany, Dr. Tamara Ticktin, advisor

Research: The Biocultural Story of ‘La Monjita' (Prosthechea karwinskii) in Zaachila, Oaxaca: Traditional Use, Sustainable Management, and Experimental Translocation
Climate change, deforestation, and over harvesting stress populations of a fragrant native orchid important in native Mexican village celebrations. Julia works closely with the community to assess restoration efforts. She also studies the impact of rainfall on epiphyte plants living in the crowns of O‘ahu’s cloud forest.

Education: BA in Environmental Studies, University of Montana

Interests: hiking, botanizing, camping, tree climbing, ceramics, surfing, immersive backcountry trips

Honolulu ARCS Scholar Ellison Lucas
Lucas Ellison

Toby Lee Award
Earth Sciences, Dr. Sloan Coats, advisor
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Research: What Drives Droughts in Climate Models?
Lucas explores the causes and impacts of drought events in climate change simulations in order to determine the predictability of drought events in climate models. He has compared data from the 2012–13 drought in the central and western United States to the results of 570 simulations using 19 climate models (sifting through 5 terabytes of data) to improve the framework for future simulations.

Education: BS in Earth System Science, McGill University; MS in Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: golf, running, watching baseball

James Fumo headsnhot
James T. Fumo

H. Keith and Sue Ernst Award
Marine Biology, Dr. Alison Sherwood, advisor
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Research: Searching for the red alga Chondria tumulosa
In 2016 a previously unknown alga—possibly a hitchhiker on marine debris—arrived in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It grows in 8-inch thick mats that devastate native limu and forms trails that can be seen from space. Jimmy searches for its origin in the hope that understanding how it grows in its native habit-at will yield clues to controlling it in Hawai‘i.

Education: BS in Marine Biology, University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Interests: diving, camping, cooking, baking, reading, exploring

Jordie Ho headshot
Jordie Ho

Ellen M. Koenig Award
Tropical Plant Pathology, Dr. Michael Melzer, advisor
View her introduction video or watch her presentation

Research: Ecology, evolution, and emergence of plant pathogenic viruses with a focus on Higrevirus waimanalo
Jordie refines techniques for examining the mechanisms and interactions of unique, emerging Breviplpus, mite-transmitted viruses that threaten agricultural and natural ecosystems, costing millions of dollars in  control expenses and economic impacts.

Education: MS in Entomology, MS in Tropical Plant Pathology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: reading, running, anime,

Jonathan Itokazu headshot
Jonathan H. Itokazu

Frederick M. Kresser Award
Electrical Engineering, Dr. Victor Lubecke, advisor
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Research: Polarimetric Radar for Contactless Physiological Sensing
Like echo location, doppler radar detects tiny electromagnetic waves, with potential for medical monitoring and ID authentication without intrusive physical or visual input. Jon uses polarimetric radar to improve signatures and provide information on bodies in motion.

Education: BS, MS in Electrical Engineering, Electromagnetics and Power Electronics, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Interests: tinkering with electronics, rhythm games, spending time with family and friends

Christopher A. Kang headshot
Christopher A. Kang

Ellen M. Koenig Award
Chemistry, Dr. Rui Sun, advisor
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Research: Molecular Dynamics Simulations in Drug Discovery
To be effective, oral medication must pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream. Chris used simulation methodologies to examine six drugs with various chemical properties for permeability through cell membranes. Identifying molecules that could be added to improve permeability aids in development of new drugs, such as diabetes therapies that don’t require injection.

Education: BS in Biochemistry, MS in Chemistry, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: video games, cooking, fishing

Melanie Kui Keliipuleole headshot
Melanie K. "Ku‘i" Keliipuleole

George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore Award
Zoology, Dr. Rosie Alegado, advisor
View her video

Research: Ōpae ē, ʻōpae hoʻi: Ecosystem controls on anchialine pool shrimp species' presence and behaviors in North Kona, Hawaiʻi
Hawaiians used small endemic shrimp living in landlocked coastal pools as bait for ʻōpelu fishing. Partnering with local communities, Ku‘i studies environmental and microbial factors in order to develop resource management for sustainable harvesting and fishing practices.

Education: AS in Life Science, Kapi‘olani Communityu College; BS in Global Environmental Science, MS in Marine  Biology, Univeristy of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: tide pooling, hiking, snorkeling

Zachary Menzo headshot
Zachary M. Menzo

Ellen M. Koenig Award
Atmospheric Science, Dr. Cristina Karamperidou, advisor
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Research: Impacts of El Niño Diversity on Humid Heat under Different Warming Scenarios
Heat related fatalities are a leading cause of death during extreme weather events world-wide. Zachary studies the influence of El Niño on humid-heat and other extreme events under various warming scenarios to predict the impact of climate change.

Education: BS in Geological Science, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor; Master of Advanced Studies in Climate Science and Policy, Scripps

Institution of Oceanography University of California - San Diego

Interests: piano, writing, hiking, kayaking

Andrew Meyer headshot
Andrew M. Meyer

Dr. Jacqueline Maly Award Name
Physics, Dr. Jelena Mericic, advisor
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Research: Measurement of the Absolute Flux of Reactor Antineutrinos
Determining the number and energies of antineutrinos emitted by uranium decays could help resolve discrepancies between theoretical models and observations in nuclear reactors. Andrew works to improve detection and efficiency of measurements as part of the PROSPECT collaboration at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—work that could contribute to development of reactor monitoring for non-proliferation purposes.

Education: BS in Physics, University of Washington

Drew Polakowski headshot
Drew M. Polakowski

George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore Award
Mathematics, Dr. Asaf Hadari, advisor
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Research: Play Billiards Like a Mathematician: Trajectories on Flat Surfaces
Topology studies the properties of geometric objects that can bend, stretch, twist, even crumble but never tear, attach, or close up. Without boundaries, a pool ball travels on a surface trajectory that can be envisioned as a continuous path around a donut. Drew studies the dynamics of loops that wind around this and more complex surfaces.

Education: BS in Mathematics, Univeristy of Massachusetts Amherst; MS in Mathematics, Universithy of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: painting, writing, chess

Mason Russo headshot
Mason H. Russo

Maybelle F. Roth Award in Conservation Biology
Jane and Dan Katayama ARCS Scholar of the Year Award

Entomology, Dr. Zhiqiang Cheng, advisor
View his video

Research: Evaluating the impacts of the invasive hala scale on native hala forest regeneration in the Hawaiian Islands
Hala scale is an invasive insect that damages the native hala tree used for weaving, lei-making and landscape in poor soils. Mason is working to determine distribution of the scale in the islands and identify chemical control methods. He also studies the invasive and destructive coconut rhinoceros beetle.

Education: BS in Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida; MS in Entomology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Interests: hiking, free diving, surfing

ARCS Scholar Nicholas Saunders headshot
Nicholas K. Saunders

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

Astronomy, Dr. Daniel Huber, advisor
View his video

Research: The Fate of Planets Orbiting Old Stars
Using data from the TESS Space Telescope and Keck observatory, Nick investigates how planetary systems evolve and eventually die. The NSF Graduate Research Fellow has discovered more than 10 planets orbiting evolved stars, providing evidence to test planet formation theories and hinting at trends related to whether planetary orbits are aligned with their stars’ rotation.

Education: BS in Astronomy and Physics, BA in Comparative Literature, University of Washington; MS in Astronomy, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Interests: violin, guitar, film, cooking

Blake Stoner-Osborne headshot
Blake R. Stoner-Osborne

George Orton and Mona Marie Elmore Award
Oceanography, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, Dr. Brian Popp, advisors
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Research: Studying the Island Mass Effect Using Compound-Specific Stable Isotope Analysis of Amino Acids on Hawaiian Zooplankton

Blake uses molecular tools to analyze the diet of small fish, shrimp, and squids that migrate up from depth at night to feed. He seeks to understand biological connections between island-associated reefs and open ocean in relation to food chains that support species important to food, sport fishing, and tourism.

Education: BS in Molecular Environmental Biology, BA in Marine Science, University of Caliornia, Berkeley 

Interests: hiking, traveling, diving

Benjamin Wiseman headshot
Benjamin J. Wiseman

Helen Jones Farrar Award
Plant and Environmental Protection Science, Dr. Koon-Hui Wang, advisor
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Research: Healthy Soil and Pest Management in Organic Sweet Potato Cultivation
Sweet potato is an important crop in Hawai‘i and globally. Seeking sustainable, effective organic pest management, Ben uses both quantitative data and qualitative feedback from farmers to gauge the use of velvet beans as a cover crop to control soil-borne nematode pests in sweet potato fields.

Education: BS in Biology, Whitworth University; MS in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Interests: student government, volunteer work, paddling, running

Hongwen Wu headshot
Hongwen Wu

Honolulu Chapter Award
Developmental and Reproducitve Biology, Dr. W. Steven Ward, advisor
View her video

Research: Oocyte Specific EXOC5 Deletion: Implications for Folliculogensis, Egg Quality, and Ovarian Aging Acceleration
Fusing cutting-edge research with clinical expertise, Hongwen uses mice to investigate folliculogenesis, ovarian development and aging, and oocyte cumulus cell communica–tion in order to advance women’s health care.

Education: Clinical Medicine. Zunyi Medical University; Master of Medicine. Chongqing Medical University

Interests: swimming, singing, hiking, snorkeling