Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences Graduate Program

TPSS Graduate Students

Here is a list of our current graduate students! Visit our TPSS Photo and Video Gallery to see the students in action.

Graduate Student


Research Project

Caple, Adam


Adam has traveled all the way from Naples, Florida in order to study tissue culture in Dr. Kheng Cheah’s lab. His research for his MS degree is being conducted to discover a commercial cost-effective method of using bioreactors compared to solid media in tissue culture production. He is working with several commercially important crops, which include Cacao, Coffee, Banana, and Peach Palm. Adam is also one of the teaching assistant in the TPSS program.

Caraballo, Jeffrey 


Jeffrey is a TPSS Ph.D. candidate from Puerto Rico that has worked on cacao and coffee. He completed this bachelors degree in Agricultural Sciences in the University of Puerto Rico. Now, he is evaluating the use of shade trees in coffee fields helps the fungus, Beauveria bassiana, control more coffee berry borers (cbb), which is the main pest in the coffee industry worldwide because it attacks the coffee berry itself. The shade tree should provide a more favorable micro environment for the fungus. Mainly by increasing the relative humidity and protecting it from the sun's harmful Ultra Violet rays. Hopefully, this research can provide coffee farmers with a new tools to manage the cbb pest in their fields and improve the quality of the coffee produced.


Gangaiah, Chandrappa


Chandrappa is working with Dr. Radovich on a research project focused on the efficient use of locally available invasive algae biomass for crop production in Hawaii. The use of an invasive algal biomass as an organic fertilizer may address the problems of reliance on expensive chemical fertilizers and improve crop health and productivity. His research ultilizes greenhouse and field experiments to evaluate the impact of these invasive algae species on yield and plant nutrition on Pak Choi and other vegetable crops. Chandrappa received his M.S. in Horticulture from Kansas State University.

Falinski, Kim


Kim Falinski is a PhD candidate and is studying how erosion in Hawaiian watersheds is connected to sedimentation in the coastal zone. She has lived and worked in Hawaii for the last 7 years, and originally came to study microalgae cultivation for aquaculture at Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo, before becoming interested in how land-based source pollutants can affect Hawaii's ecosystems. Her dissertation will try to understand which best management practices might be good for preventing erosion in tropical stream systems. Kim has a MSc in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University, and a BS from MIT in Electrical Engineering. In her spare time, she also works with Nalo Meli, a honey company that sells at farmer's markets on Oahu.

Hoover, Gregory


Greg is a Master student working to bring new traits into papaya via hybridization with wild papaya relatives of the Vasconcellea genus under Dr. Richard Manshardt. These species possess valuable traits including resistance to important diseases, as well as potential fruit quality traits. He received a Bachelor's in Horticulture from Penn State.

Johnson, Nolan


Under the direction of Dr. Andrew Kaufman, Nolan's research revolves around methods to improve the high mortality rates often seen in an urban forestry system. By studying different root treatments at time of outplanting and proper nursery root production management strategies, he hopes to standardize planting protocols to decrease annual mortality rates and extend the mean life expectancy of our municipal forests.

Krueger, Nicholas


Nick was born and raised in central Missouri before moving to Hilo where he received a Bachelor's in Agriculture. He later attended University of Florida where he completed a Master's in Agronomy. Nick is PhD student under Dr. Yost, working with pastures for dairy cattle in Hawaii. His research interests include prescribed grazing, multi-species grazing, tropical forages, and intensive/alternative grazing management.

Loo, Mitchel 


Born and raised in Hawai‘i Mitchell Loo is a MS candidate studying in the field of soil science under his mentor Dr. Jonathan Deenik. He is currently working on a project to help local farmers improve water and nitrogen use efficiency. Understanding the importance of nitrogen to the environment and all living organisms, his focus is looking at methods of soil analysis that could improve nitrogen fertilizer management. A critical component of his project entails building a nitrogen mineralization database for key agricultural soils of Hawaii using biological indices.

Myers, Jason


Jason Myers is an MS candidate in TPSS working with Dr. HC Bittenbender. He currently researches growth and production of Theobroma cacao in Hawaii. Jason's interest are diverse regarding plant production management, and include but are not limited to variety analysis, secondary product development, tissue culture, plant pathology, flavor chemistry and biochemistry. He is supported by his loving family, including wife and daughter.

Perez, Kauahi


Kauahi is studying plant breeding and genetics under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Manshardt. Her research projects are involved with assessing the genetic relationships of Plumeria species and breeding of Plumerias to create novel flower varieties for Hawaii’s floriculture industry. She is currently evaluating molecular markers to distinguish and validate Plumeria species, in addition to developing breeding strategies to introduce pest and disease resistance into cultivated Plumeria varieties.   

Rocha, Tony


António J. Rocha, born in Chimoio, Mozambique, received in B.Sc. in Agrarian Science from the Catholic University of Mozambique and his M.Sc. in Sustainable Soils Resources Management from Nairobi University. Currently, Antonio is conducting research in Mozambique to improve production of common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, in production systems in the District of Gurué, Zambezia Province, Mozambique. His goal is to help famers enhance crop productivity and guarantee food security in the country.

Silvasy, Tia


Tiare is specializing in sustainable and organic farming. Her current research involves using local fertilizers for organic vegetable production with Dr. Ted Radovich. Tiare received her B.S. from the University of Central Florida in Environmental Science, is an ISA Certified Arborist and recently completed her Permaculture Teacher Training in Australia. Her agricultural roots come from her family’s farm in Pittsburgh, PA. She is involved with the Student Organic Farm Training site and works part-time as an Agricultural Instructor at Windward Community College. Check out a YouTube video made by Tia showing her analyzing water samples!

Teng, Emily


In 2002, with no experience in horticulture, and a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of South Carolina, Emily quit her job at one of the world’s largest global consulting firms and took a job installing landscape flower beds, then moved to Hawai‘i to pursue a master’s degree in TPSS.  For eight years since graduation, she has been the grower at Pang’s Nursery, a wholesale nursery growing a wide variety of container ornamentals. In 2013, Emily returned to TPSS to pursue a Ph.D. and her research studies the variation in pigmentation of white and pink poinsettias to help breeders in creating a “whiter” white and a brighter pink.

Toves, Peter 


Peter works in the orchid and anthurium breeding program, under the direction of Dr. Teresita Amore.  His work involves maintenance of anthurium germplasm both in the shade house and in vitro as well as hybridization and development of new cultivars for the anthurium industry in the state of Hawai‘i.  His research is focused on the development of transgenic anthurium for novel spathe color.

Uyehara, Aimee


Aimee Uyehara is working with Dr. Michael Muszynski in plant signaling, development, and growth. Born and raised in Hawai'i, Aimee earned her B.S. in biology from Santa Clara University. Her current research explores the impact of the plant hormone jasmonic acid on the growth and development of wild type maize seedlings. Through her research, she hopes to shed light on the jasmonic acid pathway and its interactions with other plant hormones.



TPSS Student Organic Farming Training (SOFT) is a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students who share common interests in growing food sustainably and having fun. SOFT was initiated in 2007 and the SOFT Student Farm began in the spring of 2008 with a handful of students and faculty dedicated to creating a place for student exploration and leadership in agriculture. Since then, the farm has flourished, producing wonderful things to eat and a great community of lively students.



Every year, graduate students are elected for the TPSS Graduate Student Oganization (GSO). For the 2015 - 2016 school year, the TPSS GSO officers are:

  • Kauahi Perez - President
  • Tia Silvasy - Vice President
  • Greg Hoover ​- Secretary​
  • Aimee Uyehara - Treasurer​

The TPSS GSO strives to enrich the graduate student experience in our department by orchestrating social events and activities. The goal of these events is not only to provide camaraderie among students outside of the classroom and laboratory, but also to bring the entire department together, including faculty and staff, for informal events.

Annual Waffle Party

Before the start of the Fall semester, Dr. Ania Wieczorek, the TPSS Graduate Program Chairman, hosts a waffle breakfast for the TPSS graduate department to introduce incoming new graduate students and faculty members. It's a time to sit, eat and get to know new and old faces. And enjoy delicious waffles made by the graduate program chairman!