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Student Research Takes Center Stage

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 12/31/2008 More stories >>

student at the symposium

Sandro Jube (left) won first place in the Best PhD Student Poster Presentation category. Sandro is a student in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering. (Photos: Miles Hakoda)

Hawai‘i’s geographic isolation has created an unsurpassed natural laboratory for many CTAHR students. However, long distances and high travel costs can make it difficult for students to participate in professional conferences where scientists present their findings and exchange ideas. To recreate that valuable experience, CTAHR faculty developed the annual Student Research Symposium.

In the symposium’s supportive setting, undergraduate and graduate students share their research results through a written abstract, an oral or poster presentation, and a question-and-answer session with faculty judges who assess their work for quality, clarity, rigor, and impact. Student participants are recognized at the annual CTAHR Awards Banquet, many earn college-wide or departmental awards, and the top graduate students receive travel grants to fund their participation in a national or international conference.

This year marked CTAHR’s 20th Student Research Symposium. Nearly 100 students from the college’s six departments took part, up from fewer than 30 at the first symposium. The diverse presentations highlighted basic and applied research in agriculture, engineering, environmental science, food science, and a range of biological and social sciences. Sumptuous meals by CTAHR’s own Chef Mark Segobiano added to the festivities.

student at the symposium

Kaori Caraway (third from left) received the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management Best Undergraduate Presentation award.

Reflecting our cosmopolitan student body, 2008’s top six prizewinners— Michael Melzer, Sandro Jube, Daniel Adamski, Hongfei He, Jannai Yafuso, and Henry Cheng—have roots in Canada, Brazil, the U.S. mainland, China, and Hawai‘i. Each of the students used DNA technology in their respective research projects to develop viral resistance in citrus, eliminate a toxin from a potential source of animal forage, assess evolutionary relationships among koa and related native trees, measure the activity of a potentially fatal human pathogen in acidic foods, locate proteins that transmit signals within plant cells, and fabricate inexpensive biosensors to detect a plant pathogen that is subject to quarantine. Mahalo to the students who brought their hard-won knowledge to the symposium, and mahalo to the faculty and staff who have nurtured this event for a generation.