New Faculty 2019


Christopher Muir joins the Botany Department in 2019 and starts the Quantitative Evolutionary Physiology Lab. He earned his PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Purdue University. Using leaves as a model organ for evolutionary physiology, he studies the processes that maintain physiological variation from micro-to-macroevolutionary scales using multiple empirical systems suited to address different questions.


Rosana Zenil-Ferguson

Rosana Zenil-Ferguson joins the Department of Biology in January 2019. She earned her PhD in evolutionary biology from University of Florida after completing a MSc in probability and statistics at CIMAT Mexico. Her research aims to understand how often species traits evolve and how these traits change the speciation and extinction process across the tree of life. Using a combination of mathematics, statistics, and botany, Rosana is currently studying the evolution of polyploidy, a radical mutation that doubles the amount of DNA in an organism and a key mechanism that creates opportunities for innovation and speciation in flowering plants.


Jake Ferguson

Jake Ferguson completed his PhD at the University of Florida. He works primarily in ecological statistics with a focus on understanding the mechanisms that allow complex ecological systems to persist and to provide reliable tools for the management and conservation of those systems. He also works on statistical problems at a range of different levels of biological organization through mentoring and consultations with our colleagues throughout the Biological Sciences.


New Faculty 2018


Dr. Peter Sadowski earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine, and his B.S. in Computer Science from the California Institute of Technology. His general areas of research are in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Dr. Sadowski's most recent work involves applications of deep learning in the natural sciences, including the prediction of chemical reactions and data analysis for high-energy physics. Dr. Sadowski will play an important role in the new Hawaiʻi Data Science Institute.


Dr. Tonia Sutherland earned her Ph.D. and MLIS from the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research examines the latest developments at the intersections of national infrastructures and community informatics. She studies island infrastructures with the goal of advancing global understandings of island cultures by focusing on those infrastructures that support the availability and use of information and communication technologies. Her research also engages cultural heritage preservation and management (intangible, material, and digital) as well as the unique information challenges that face island communities worldwide.


Elizabeth Gross

Elizabeth Gross joined the Department of Mathematics in 2018 from San Jose State University. She works in algebraic statistics, an interdisciplinary field that applies techniques from combinatorics, commutative algebra, and algebraic geometry to statistical problems in biology. She is skilled in nonlinear optimization problems such as parameter estimation and model selection. The main applications of her work are evolutionary biology, systems biology, network analysis, and neuroscience, all fields with increasingly larger datasets. She has worked both on the theoretical and data analytical side of the field.


Evan Gawlik was hired in 2017, but started just this fall in the Department of Mathematics as he was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego. His research interests lie in numerical analysis, with an emphasis on numerical methods for partial differential equations, geometric numerical analysis, and computational engineering.


Andrew Sale

Andrew Sale joined the Math Department in 2018 from Cornell University, having previously worked at Vanderbilt University, and the University of Rennes in France. His research is in the area of Geometric Group Theory, which uses methods from a number of different areas of mathematics to solve problems in abstract algebra.  Specifically he is skilled with automorphism groups of right-angled Artin groups, the use of homological representations, as well as algorithmic problems in group theory.


Ellinor Haglund

Ellinor Haglund joined the Chemistry Department in 2018.
Here is what she has about herself:
My research is focused on the folding event in proteins, utilizing both computational and experimental techniques to understand the molecular details of how proteins fold into biologically active molecules. Through my postdoctoral study I discovered a new class of “knot-like” motifs called pierced lasso topologies (PLTs). Interestingly, these threaded topologies exist in all kingdoms of life, and populate 18% of known protein structures containing one disulphide bridge. I am in particular interested in the pleiotropic hormone leptin, the founding member of the PLTs, and the biological relevance of its PLT in human health and disease. I am inspired by how nature works and utilize my multidisciplinary training to answer questions at the interface of chemistry, biology, and physics.

I was born and raised in Sweden, received my Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Chemistry from Umeå University, Sweden, and obtained my _Ph.D. _at Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, under the supervision of Professor Mikael Oliveberg. I joined Professor José Onuchic at University of California, San Diego, CA, and the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP), and Professor Patricia Jennings in May 2010 as a postdoctoral research associate. I moved with Professor Onuchic to Rice University, and CTBP, TX, in May 2015.


Duncan Farrah

Duncan Farrah joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Fall 2018, arriving from Virginia Tech. He works in the field of astrophysics, studying the origin and evolution of galaxies. He is also interested in using galaxies as tests of fundamental physical processes, and using molecular tracers to study star-forming regions. He applies a broad range of methods in his work, including observations, theory, and data visualization. 


New Faculty 2017


Rebecca Chong joined the Biology Department in 2018 after completing her USDA postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin. As an evolutionary biologist, her research focuses on investigating the patterns and processes that drive symbiotic interactions in multiple biological systems ranging from amphibians to insects and microbes. Specifically, she is intereted in how genetic interactions shape the relationships between animal hosts and bacterial symbionts and how this contributes to biodiversity. She uses a suite of molecular, genomic, and bioinformatic tools to investigate these questions.


Rui Sun received his B.S. degree in Chemistry in 2009 from Shandong University in China. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Texas Tech University in 2014, working with Dr. William L. Hase on studying gas phase reactions mechanism and solvent effect in condensed phase reaction with ab initio molecular dynamics simulation. He then worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Gregory A. Voth at the University of Chicago developing enhanced sampling methodology to assist biophysical simulations and biochemical reactions. During his postdoctoral appointment, Rui also collaborated with Eli Lilly and Company working on small molecule drug permeation with the support of its Scientific and Technical Advisory Board Award. Rui joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry in August 2017.


Jakub Hyvl was born and raised in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). He received an Ing. (equivalent to M.Sc.) in 2007 from University of Pardubice, where he did his diploma work with Prof. Oldrich Pytela in the area of synthesis of chiral catalysts. Jakub moved to Prague to pursue his doctoral studies from University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague. He joined research group of Dr. Jiri Srogl in the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where he worked on reactivity of organic disulfides with transition metals. After he received his Ph.D. in 2011, he worked two years in the Dr. Detlef Schroder group at the same institution in the area of mass spectrometry. After being astonished by Dick Schrock chemistry on his invited lecture, he got postdoctoral position in his research group at MIT, where he worked two years on synthesis of metathesis catalysts and ROMP polymers. In 2015, Jakub moved to Hawaiʻi to support his former colleague, Matt Cain, in his main group chemistry research. Jakub joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry in August 2017.


Kurtis Nishimura

Kurtis Nishimura joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Fall 2017. With prior experience from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and private industry, he works primarily in electronics and data acquisition, with a specialty in digital logic for field programmable gate arrays.  His work supports instrumentation development in high energy physics, radiation detection and localization, and other applications.