Monday, June 26, 2017

Associate Professor of Chemistry Receives Research Grant

Associate Professor of Chemistry Yongli Chen, Ph.D., was awarded a nearly $50,000 grant from the Victoria S. and Bradley L. Geist Foundation. Chen’s research focuses on the functional modulation of two neurotransmitter receptors, the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and the type A gamma-amino butyl acid (GABAA) receptors. She is exploring how small molecules modulate ion channels that are involved in various degenerative disorders of the brain.

Chen’s latest research endeavor studies the biologically active components of the Pacific islands plant, kava. The plants aqueous root extracts have shown to safely reduce anxiety and depression in human clinical trials. Furthermore, in an animal model, the aqueous root extracts enhanced the anticonvulsant activity of diazepam, a drug to treat anxiety disorders. The major active constituents of kava beverages are six kavalactones.    

The GABAA receptors are the major inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the mammalian central nervous system.  They are also major targets of pharmacological agents including sedatives, anesthetics, anticonvulsants, antiepileptics, and anxiolytics.  As such, modulation of the GABAA receptors has been investigated as a mechanism by which kava elicits biological activities.

The aims of Chen’s study are to characterize the mechanism of action of kavalactones on the GABAA receptors and the long-term effects on the GABAA receptor cell surface expression level. The identification and understanding of the molecular targets/mechanism of kavalactones will demystify and promote Hawai‘i’s popular and medicinal drink and benefit the people of Hawai‘i.

Chen is a member of the HPU IDeA Network of Biomedical Research (INBRE) Laboratories team. INBRE, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health in partnership with the University of Hawai‘i and Chaminade University, supports instructional lab courses, increases undergraduate and graduate research opportunities, expands facilities for federally-funded biology, chemistry and biochemistry research projects, and enhances outreach to local schools. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Oceanic Institute of HPU Receives Hawaii Community Foundation Grant

A Citizen Science Environmental DNA (eDNA) Coastal Species Characterization Program at Kua o ka Lā New Century Public Charter School in Hilo, Milolii, and Puna

Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University (OI) announces a $25,000 grant award from the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Hawaii STEM Learning Partnership for a one year program.  The funding will be used to conduct an environmental DNA (eDNA) citizen science program with Kua o ka Lā (KOKL) New Century Public Charter School in Hilo, Milolii, and Puna on the Island of Hawaii.  Through the program the students and teachers of KOKL will learn about emerging technology where eDNA and high-throughput sequencing is used to detect species in aquatic environments using the DNA they leave behind via their waste, mucous, skin, and/or other cells.

Usually assessments of coastal organisms in Hawaii are primarily done using methods that depend on the ability to capture or see and recognize specific species.  Traditional methods involve a variety of techniques including electrofishing and/or transect observations.  eDNA assays offer methods that can identify species not seen or captured and that reduces misidentification.  Species leave genetic signatures in the environment they inhabit, which can be analyzed to determine species identification for an aquatic ecosystem.  eDNA methods do not rely on a species being present at the time of collection and can include vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and other organisms from benthic, mid water column and surface waters.  The value of this method is the quick and benign sampling of what has been or is present in a particular area including invasive, threatened, endangered, or pathogenic species.  Identifying species is only limited by the primers which are quite extensive and, if not available, can be developed as needed.

The participants in this citizen science project will add to information on coastal species richness.  Students and teachers will be trained to collect and preserve coastal water samples from designated areas at or nearby KOKL campuses for eDNA processing (extraction, amplification, sequencing, and identification) at OI.  A website will be established by the students and teachers to present the information gained from this program including a database and ArcGIS map with the location, date, time, and species found.  Because the sampling will take place monthly, the website will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.  This program brings education into practice by allowing teachers and students to participate in data collection and to contribute to knowledge about Hawaii’s coastal environment and its inhabitants.  The information gathered will add to the community’s ability to better make decisions about their natural resources, stimulate further investigations, and/or use the data in other projects.

The Hawaii STEM Learning Partnership is made possible by:
·         Anderson-Beck Kokua Ulu Fund
·         Deviants from the Norm Fund
·         Hokuli‘a Community Fund
·         Jack’s Fund
·         Kuki‘o Community Fund
·         Maunakea Fund
·         Pahiki Nui Fund
·         THINK Fund at HCF
·         Richard Smart Fund

Friday, June 2, 2017

HPU Partners with Sig Zane

Hawai‘i Pacific University: John Y. Gotanda President Announcement
to the University ‘Ohana

HPU President John Gotanda and Sig Zane 
You may have noticed a familiar face at Aloha Tower yesterday. None other than Sig Zane himself, celebrated Hawai‘i artist and clothing designer, visited Hawai‘i Pacific University with his design team in preparation for an exciting partnership I am delighted to share with you today.

Born and raised in Hawai‘i, Sig is best known for his unique design sensibility that honors the land and Native Hawaiian culture. Over the years, he has worked to translate heritage and worldview into iconic brands for companies across the islands like Hawaiian Airlines, Ward Village and now HPU.

Beginning this summer, Sig will play a key role in helping us – collectively and with the input from our entire community – create a visual identity for HPU that reflects who we are today and what we stand for as a community.  I believe there is no one better qualified to shape HPU’s story and intent into something tangible, memorable and, yes, wearable. Please join me in welcoming Sig Zane to HPU, and stay tuned for details on how you can share the core values about our University that resonate deeply with you. Together, we will develop an authentically HPU brand that speaks to us all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Congratulations, Spring 2017 HPU Graduates!

Hawai‘i Pacific University held its Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 11. The University proudly and warmly welcomes its newest graduates into its global network of alumni, comprising more than 45,000 individuals.

Mahalo to the valedictory speakers, Wesley Chai (BS Criminal Justice) and Louis C. Hare III (MA in Communication), for representing the graduating class with their thoughtful remarks. (Pictured left Hare and right Chai with HPU's mascot Sharky)

HPU Board of Trustee and alumnus Ray Vara (BSBA ’93), who delivered the Commencement keynote speech, was presented with an honorary doctorate degree in recognition of his professional accomplishments, commitment to community causes, and the advancement of higher education.

Alumna Naomi Hazelton (MA in Communication ’05), publisher of Pacific Edge magazine, Green magazine, and Las Vegas Bound magazine, lead the graduates in the recitation of the HPU Alumni Pledge. The pledge signifies the official welcome of the Spring 2017 graduates to the HPU alumni community.

Professor Horgen Named Teacher of the Year

2016 Teacher of the Year Margo Bare presents David Horgen, Ph.D.,
the 2017 Teacher of the Year award

Annually in the spring, HPU graduating students are asked to nominate candidates for the Teacher of the Year award. Professor of Chemistry David Horgen, Ph.D., was named the 2017 HPU Teacher of the Year. He was presented the award by 2016 HPU Teacher of the Year Margo Bare, retired professor of social work.

Horgen, who is the chair of the chemistry and biochemistry program, joined HPU in 2000. His major research interest is in marine natural products chemistry. He is the head of HPU’s Shared Instrumentation Facility, which has been funded by the National Institute of Health since 2002. One of the research team’s accomplishments is the discovery of new biological activity for a naturally occurring marine compound, waixenicin A, which is produced by a soft coral that grows only in Hawai‘i. It may be a resource for finding new therapies for cancer and stroke.

Additionally, these biomedical research laboratories — known as INBRE — support instructional lab courses and increase undergraduate and graduate student research opportunities. Under the mentorship of this year’s teacher of the year and his biomedical faculty colleagues, nearly 100 students have participated in INBRE research projects and 40 undergraduates have coauthored scholarly presentations and manuscripts.

One of the participants in the student instrumentation-mentoring program that Horgen organizes said, “Programs like this have given students like myself not only a remarkable opportunity to get involved in what the Chemistry department has to offer, but the ability to make ourselves marketable in our field, with experience many other schools cannot offer their students.” This graduating senior has been accepted to a competitive summer research experience program at a graduate school of biomedical sciences, and she thanks Horgen for his support. This student is one of the many students he has impacted.