McNair Summer Symposium highlights science experiments of student scholars

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jul 30, 2013

Dr. Andy Kaufman and Laurel Pikcunas
Dr. Andy Kaufman and Laurel Pikcunas

School may be out for summer, but not for the University of Hawaiʻi McNair Student Achievement Scholars who have spent June and July working on research projects primarily in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) under selected faculty members.  The McNair scholars--all UH Mānoa undergrads with a commitment to PhD attainment--will present the results of their projects from their respective disciplines at the annual McNair Summer Showcase on Friday, August 2, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Agricultural Sciences Building, room 219.

The current cohort of 25 McNair scholars will be joined by several McNair alumni and student researchers from the UH Mānoa Graduate Professional Access Program, who will discuss the conclusions derived from their original experiments conducted in field and laboratory settings.

“The faculty-mentored research project is significant in providing McNair scholars with an opportunity to make intellectual and creative contributions to their respective branches of STEM,” said Dr. Maile Goo, UH Mānoa McNair Director. “The research performed under this program is a major undertaking of time and effort by both our students and their faculty mentors.  It is an experience that prepares students for graduate study by solidifying the application of theory to practice."

The federally funded McNair Student Achievement Program at UH Mānoa encourages and assists first-generation to college, low-income and underrepresented students to pursue advanced degrees primarily in STEM.  The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, the African-American physicist and a member of the NASA astronaut space shuttle crew who perished in the 1986 Challenger disaster.

Like the McNair students themselves, the McNair summer projects are diverse and impossible to characterize in general terms. Many of the student endeavors could potentially yield results with applications that will help the local community.  Soon-to-be UH senior Aleka Lyman has been studying the impact of water quality on the loss of coral reef at Maunalua Bay in East Oʻahu.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Robert H. Richmond, a research professor at UH Mānoa's Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Lyman has been testing a hypothesis that suggests the coral reef loss is linked to the concrete paving of stream beds that deposit sediment and may prevent the growth of coral.  Results from this study may provide a scientific basis for better management of Hawaiʻi streams and the protection of coral reefs.

Other student projects featured in the McNair showcase span areas as diverse as the use of free electron lasers in physics to biomedical research intended for use in cancer prevention.

The McNair Student Achievement Program is administered through the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity, UH Mānoa.

Photo caption: UH Manoa alumna and McNair scholar Laurel Pikcunas, at right, with her faculty mentor, Dr. Andy Kaufman of the Department of Tropical Plant & Soil Science. Pikcunas is now a graduate student in the UH Mānoa Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

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