Seizing earthquake risk exploration

Greg Moore in front of model of D/V Chikyu at JAMSTEC. Photo by John Suppe.

The year was 1944.  The place: Tonankai, near the south coast of western Honshu.  The event: A historic 8.1 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 1,200 people and destroyed more than 73,000 homes.  This catastrophic event spurred scientists to research why part of the seafloor near the southwest coast of Japan is particularly prone to generating devastating tsunamis. 

The Nankai Trough, located south of Honshu, Japan, is in a subduction zone also known as an area where two tectonic plates are colliding, pushing one plate down below the other. The grinding of one plate over the other in subduction zone leads to some of the world’s largest earthquakes. To date, the Nankai Trough subduction zone may be the most studied subduction zone in the world.   

At UH Mānoa, leading the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (NanTroSEIZE) is Marine Geophysics Professor Gregory Moore.   NanTroSEIZE is a large international effort using many kinds of oceanographic studies to understand the region within the Nankai Trough that has a 2,000 year recorded history of very large earthquakes and tsunamis.  The behavior of the Nankai Trough is very similar to regions off Sumatra and northeast Honshu where recent devastating earthquakes have occurred, and is also similar to the region offshore of Oregon and Washington where scientists expect a very large earthquake to occur in the future.

The project has characterized the region and local structure of the rocks and sediments with this zone.  Thus far, the international group has used a new Japanese drilling ship to drill several holes and obtain samples from the upper mile below the seafloor. The current phase involves drilling a deep hole into the region to a depth of about 4.5 miles below the seafloor, which is 1.5 miles deep (so the total depth below the sea surface is about 6 miles).  

“We will characterize the physical properties of the rocks within the zone that generates earthquakes and will leave a system of instruments that will continuously monitor the temperature, pressure and stress around the borehole to try to understand how the rocks are being deformed during the time leading up to the next large earthquake,” noted Moore.

Moore has been involved since 1987 in characterizing the features of this submarine region, including leading a project with a petroleum industry ship that collected 3-dimensional seismic reflection data around their current drilling area in 2006 (3D seismic data is a very large CAT scan).  

He joined the first drilling expedition in 2007 with D/V Chikyu in the NanTroSEIZE area, and has been involved in preparation for the subsequent drilling expeditions and in analyzing the data from those expeditions.  Stage 2 of NanTroSEIZE took place during June-October 2009, and Stage 3 began in 2010 and is scheduled to continue in 2012. Moore plans to participate in one or two of the upcoming deep drilling expeditions.   

The work offshore Japan is part of a regional early-warning system that gives the Japanese a few minutes warning of approaching earthquake waves and tsunamis.  According to Moore, such instrumentation has not yet been deployed around the United States, but their work will help this development.     

Further related UH Mānoa research projects include a Tohoku University colleague arriving from Japan to study correlating earthquake locations with features observed on seismic reflection records  for six weeks and two of Moore’s graduate students participating in a Japanese research expedition to help make images of the region of the March 2011 earthquake off Tohoku.    

The findings from the NanTroSEIZE experiment will help to explain what causes these types of earthquakes, how to better effectively plan for their occurrence, and to help scientists assess the risk of giant tsunamis in other regions of the world. In essence, it’s earth-shaking research.

Top photo: Petroleum industry ship used to collect 3D seismic data.

Mining the deep blue sea

In today’s progressively developing world, consumption of energy and materials is at an all-time high, prompting an increase in demand for minerals, metals and fossil fuels. The high cost and infrastructure associated with mining these vast deposits often hamper efforts to obtain these valuable resources. According to the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, almost 3/4 of the global mineral resources are in, or under, the sea and are virtually undeveloped.

At the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), faculty members Drs. Gary McMurtry and John Wiltshire have been studying marine minerals in different capacities over the course of 30 plus years. McMurtry is an associate professor in the Department of Oceanography and Wiltshire is associate chairman of the Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering in the Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering (ORE). SOEST is a leading institution of multidisciplinary research and education on the ocean, earth and atmosphere. Within SOEST, ORE’s mission is to educate top quality ocean and resource engineers to meet the needs of Hawai‘i, the nation and the engineering profession, as well as conduct and disseminate research in the field of Ocean and Resources Engineering.

While Wiltshire’s expertise lies in marine mineral deposits, marine mining and processing, submersible technology and one of McMurtry’s areas of expertise is in marine mineral formation and resources, they have jointly taught classes on marine mineral resources engineering and mineral and energy resources of the sea.  The marine mineral resources engineering course familiarizes students with the mineral resources of the ocean and the engineering challenges faced to exploit them.  The course in mineral and energy resources of the sea exposes students to the various types of marine minerals, mode of formation and its geological and economic importance.

Three major marine mineral deposits from L-R: sulfide, nodule, manganese crust.

There are three major marine mineral deposits: sulfides, nodules and crusts.  Sulfides, usually found in shallow water anywhere from 800-2,500 meters deep, are rich in gold, silver, lead and zinc.  Nodules are rich in copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese and are found in deep waters.  Crusts are rich in platinum, cobalt, nickel and manganese.

Another type of deep-sea element being studied at UH Mānoa is rare earth elements, which ironically, are not all that rare and are considered to be relatively abundant. The recent discovery of huge deposits of rare earth elements found in the deep sea near Hawai‘i presents an array of possibilities.  That is, if countries are willing to shell out millions or billions of dollars to mine them.  Rare earth elements are most commonly found in hybrid cars, photovoltaic panels, cell phone batteries and used in semiconductor industries.

McMurtry, who has studied rare earth elements since the 1980’s, notes that deep below 5,000 meters of water, the deposits are loaded with rare earth metals, which are sometimes also rich in phosphorites. Phosphate rock is most often utilized in the agricultural industry.  Almost all fertilizers contain marine phosphate, which when added to soil, provides crucial nutrients essential for plant growth. 

China is currently the leader in producing the world’s supply of rare earth elements from its mineral deposits. In fact, according to the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, in July 2011, China surpassed current U.S. capabilities to explore mineral resources on the ocean floor by sending a submersible to over 5,000 meters, which equates to over 70 percent of the ocean floor. China’s funding and existing infrastructure enable them to dominate the world market.

Much of SOEST’s research into ocean mineralization takes place through the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) of which Wiltshire is the director.  HURL is one of six national laboratories comprising the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Undersea Research Program.  Its mission is to study deep water marine processes in the Pacific Ocean.

HURL operates two deep diving (2,000 m) submersibles, the PISCES IV and PISCES V, and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The ROV and submersibles operate off the 225-foot research vessel, Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa, obtained for the university and largely supported by HURL. The submersibles, ROV and their mothership conduct a wide range of engineering and science research activities focusing on deep-sea geology and ecosystems and their contribution to global climatic and ecosystem changes. In addition, many students in the ORE program find thesis projects, financial support and advisors studying various aspects of the dynamics of submersible and ROV operations as well as new instrumentation, control and equipment applications. Future HURL research projects include the geology and biology of emerging and subsiding islands, marine product and fishery assessments, and processes of submarine mineral accumulations on seamounts, volcanoes, and islands.

The Department of ORE also maintains research facilities at Kewalo Basin and Snug Harbor for field work and in-ocean experiments. The field research facilities support study of ocean and coastal structures and materials, wave dynamics and sediment transport.

UH Mānoa continues to be a leading force– conducting and sharing research in the field of Ocean and Resources Engineering, as well as serving as the “go-to” source for national and international colleagues through opportunities such as seminars, conferences, consulting, work with government agencies and professional societies.

For more information, visit:  

Top photo: HURL Pisces submersible

Marine Mineral Deposits Worldwide. Source: Underwater Mining Institute.

Testing tsunami loads

Yuriy Mikhaylov

Civil and environmental engineering doctoral student Yuriy Mikhaylov’s research on tsunami-resistant structures is now more important than ever given the destruction of this year’s devastating tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  

Mikhaylov first became interested in design of structures during his undergraduate studies at UH Mānoa. At first, his interest was in structural dynamics and how the structures behaved under seismic loading.  However, after expressing interest in graduate school, Professor Dr. Ian Robertson persuaded Mikhaylov to pursue work on tsunami loading on coastal structures. 

“I found this proposal interesting because it meant that I would not have to spend countless hours in a laboratory analyzing strings of numbers that may or may not be useful,” recalled Mikhaylov.

Mikhaylov’s research involves the design of six prototypical buildings, per the International Building Code 2006, in several locations of varying seismicity and soil types. The buildings will be subjected to tsunami loads in modeling studies that consider eight kinds of forces, including height and velocity of waves and debris damming, to analyze the behavior of the structures.  The idea is to find out how tsunami-resistant the structures are per the current building code, and if they aren’t, then research what else is required to ensure that they are.

Said Mikhaylov, “It’s an unusual opportunity in the doctoral program to work on a topic that a layman can understand.  I feel lucky to be involved in this project because I am not only studying something that is interesting to me, but am also learning valuable design experience.”

The parameters required for calculating tsunami loads, such as water height and velocity, are not measured or recorded anywhere; however, with advanced technology, the March 2011 tsunami in Japan has left lots of video footage and physical evidence. 

Currently, Robertson and Mikhaylov are analyzing some of this evidence to get a better understanding of what happened to the structures in Japan during the tsunami. Their research will provide a snapshot of what can be expected if a similar event were to occur on the west coast of the United States.  By having a clearer understanding, a set of guidelines for tsunami-resistant designs can be established and incorporated into building codes to help ensure that everyone is better prepared if and when the next tsunami comes.

Mikhaylov received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UH Mānoa and is currently working as a structural designer for Baldridge and Associates Structural Engineering. In his spare time, he plays violin for the University of Hawai‘i Symphony and at various functions statewide.


People spending the night in the subway on March 11, 2011, in Tokyo, Japan, after a destructive 9.0 earthquake hit off the northeastern coast of Japan.
People spending the night in the subway on March 11, 2011, in Tokyo, Japan, after a destructive 9.0 earthquake hit off the northeastern coast of Japan.

Top photo: Tsunami from the March 11 Japan earthquake causes severe damage to a small craft in Maalea Harbor in Maui.

Charting new space frontiers

Using an ion microprobe, HIGP scientists seek to understand the earliest events in our Solar System by studying the isotopic composition of meteorites.

Although NASA’s space shuttle program may have come to an end, the excitement has not dwindled for researchers and faculty at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who have been actively involved in the exploration of the Solar System for more than 30 years.  The planetary and remote sensing programs within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) have had a long history in working with NASA to send robotic spacecraft to explore the planets, including missions to Mercury, Moon and Mars.

Seven HIGP faculty members are currently members of the science teams of spacecraft in orbit around Mercury, the Moon and Mars.  For example, Jeffrey Gillis-Davis is a member of the MESSENGER Team exploring Mercury as well as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter radar team investigating the Moon.  Jeffrey Taylor, an expert on the geochemistry of planets, compares compositional differences of Mars and the Moon in order to see how these worlds differ from the Earth.  Paul Lucey studies the Moon using thermal infrared data to not only search for differences in rock compositions but also studies the temperature differences of the surface between the day- and night-sides of the Moon. Computer models and laboratory experiments involving lava flows are the particular interests of Sarah Fagents.


“The researchers search for signs of former water on the surface of the Red Planet, investigate the geologic processes in the earliest parts of the history of the planet Mercury, and map impact craters and volcanic rocks on the Moon,” said HIGP Director Peter Mouginis-Mark.  “HIGP is actively involved in designing new instruments that might fly to the Moon within the next decade, as well as fly instruments in Earth orbit to study analog terrains.”  Venus is another planetary target of great interest to HIGP, with faculty members conducting research that would bring new measurement techniques for spacecraft that might one day land on the surface, as well as map the surface from orbit in unprecedented detail.

One of HIGP's star planetary scientists, G. Jeffrey Taylor, recently won the prestigious Shoemaker Award from NASA for his outstanding contributions to lunar petrology and geochemistry.

Graduate students of the HIGP program have also made a mark for themselves in planetary research. “Former HIGP students are now in charge of instruments in orbit around Saturn, an ultra-high-resolution camera in orbit around the Moon, and the cameras on the robotic vehicles driving over the surface of Mars,” shared Mouginis-Mark.  “Our former graduate students have been instrumental in studying asteroids from the NEAR and Dawn missions, and they are targeting cameras on lunar spacecraft to identify the most interesting volcanic features and impact craters!”


The planetary program at HIGP offers a wide range of courses, ranging from an introduction to the Solar System for freshmen undergraduates to specific courses on the geochemistry and physics of the planets.  Field analysis of analog sites for the Moon and Mars is particularly popular with the students.  Because the active Kilauea volcano is one of the most similar volcanoes on Earth to the ones that are found on Mars, HIGP routinely runs workshops on the Big Island to introduce students to the ways that lava flows and craters form, and how they appear in satellite data that are comparable to the measurements made from spacecraft in orbit around Mars, the Moon and the moon of Jupiter called Io.

Central to HIGP’s planetary mission is the ability to study rocks from space.  Using world-class facilities in the W.M. Keck Foundation’s Cosmochemistry Laboratory, faculty and students study the isotopic composition of meteorites from the asteroids and Mars.  “They search for minerals found during the very first few million years of Solar System history, not only to understand how the planets formed, but also to search for materials that originated from other stars and that were then included within the rocks that we now study on Earth,” explained Mouginis-Mark.  Particles from the Sun are also investigated by HIGP faculty and students through their detailed analysis of particles returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft.


Finding meteorites is another aspect of HIGP’s planetary research.  Over the years, more than a dozen faculty members, post-docs and graduate students have traveled to Antarctica, camping for up to six weeks on the frozen continent so that they can search for rocks from space.  HIGP members have found hundreds of meteorites over the last two decades, adding not only to our own research, but also contributing significantly to the national collection of samples from space.

Mouginis-Mark is excited for the future of planetary exploration. “NASA has just put the Dawn spacecraft into orbit around the asteroid Vesta, the Mars rover ‘Opportunity’ is perched on the rim of a big meteorite crater, and amazing things are being found on the Moon with the high resolution camera,” said Mouginis-Mark.  “All of these opportunities will significantly help further build HIGP’s planetary research.”

Looking to the future, HIGP is working with colleagues in Canada and England to get a new mission to the Moon funded.  HIGP would play a major role in the science goals of this mission, as well as instrument development and the landing of the spacecraft.

For more information on planetary space missions and the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, visit

Top photo: Kilauea volcano provides an outstanding opportunity for students to learn about volcanic processes that have also shaped the Moon, Mars and Venus.



Fueled by a cell

Rick E. Rocheleau, HNEI Director
Imagine powering your car with a fuel that doesn’t pollute and will never be depleted.  In a state-of-the-art test lab in downtown Honolulu, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa researchers are turning such a dream into a revved-up reality.

The Hawai‘i Fuel Cell Test Facility (HFCTF), operated by the Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) on the Mānoa campus, opened its doors in 2003 to help turn the 50th State into a world leader in hydrogen power. Today, the secure 4,000-square-foot facility ranks among the best academic laboratories in the nation—concentrating on the testing of fuel cells for commercial and military applications, in keeping with its mission to accelerate their acceptance and deployment.

A fuel cell, according to HNEI Director Rick Rocheleau, is an electrochemical energy conversion device that directly converts chemical energy into electricity without the need for combustion.  “Fuel cells are similar in many ways to a battery,” explains Rocheleau.  “In both, electrons generated at one electrode, circulate in an external circuit to the other producing electrical power which can drive, for example, an electric motor.  However, while battery electrodes are consumed in the process, the fuel and oxidant for fuel cells are supplied from an external source.”

HFCTF primarily focuses its efforts on the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which operates on hydrogen and air or oxygen.  PEM fuel cells can be used for automobiles, for small stationary applications such as back-up power, and defense applications that include unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles.

HFCTF has continued to expand its facilities and capabilities with funding support from its partners, including the Office of Naval Research, the US Department of Energy, and a variety of industry partners..  The test facility started with two test stands in 2003 and now houses a dozen test stands including several for testing of small stacks (ca 5kW).  It also boasts a host of supporting equipment including on-site hydrogen generation, on-line high resolution gas analysis, and sophisticated spatial performance measurements. These advanced capabilities allow for long-term life testing and cell performance characterization over a wide range of operating conditions.

Researchers at HNEI have just completed a large project to understand the impact of fuel contaminants on fuel cell performance, and another to detect and understand the impact of localized non-uniformities in membrane electrode assemblies originating from manufacturing variations. They are now currently working on the effects of contaminants from different sources (in atmospheric air or released from fuel cell system materials) on fuel cell performance and degradation.  Other projects in the works include an evaluation to understand the performance of PEM fuel cell power plants for unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles fed with oxygen/nitrogen mixtures, as well as exploring the use of fuel cell technology to separate helium from helium/hydrogen mixtures, in partnership with NASA and Sierra Lobo.

If that’s not enough, future projects for HFCTF researchers also include more fundamental research on catalyst development to increase the expensive platinum catalyst utilization and new techniques to understand the transport of reactants within the porous electrodes of the fuel cell.  In support of this work, HFCTF is acquiring additional testing equipment, including a rotating ring/disc electrode system that precisely controls hydrodynamic conditions and allows the extraction of the intrinsic catalyst performance, and a unique tracer system to precisely measure the amount of product liquid water in flow field channels and gas diffusion electrodes.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye is credited for helping to jump-start the facility as part of his position with the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Over the years, he has continued to back the program along with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, both of whom are instrumental in supporting the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research to allow funding of these valuable research efforts.

The facility continues to seek new projects to advance fuel cell technology for commercial applications and support integration of these technologies in Hawai‘i and beyond. “Commercial interest worldwide for transportation applications and U.S. Department of Defense interest appears very strong,” says Rocheleau.  “In the U.S., General Motors and others in the industry remain very positive about the opportunity for fuel cells to contribute in the energy and transportation sectors.”

For more information on the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility, visit

Top photo:The Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility in downtown Honolulu, where fuel cells for military and commercial applications are tested.

The HFCTF testing area.

Trash talk, or charting marine debris

Snapshots from the model projections for the trajectory of the floating tsunami debris. Red indicates highest debris concentration, light purple, least.

When a huge tsunami triggered by the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2001, destroyed coastal towns near Sendai in Japan—washing houses and cars into the swirling sea—the amount of marine debris generated from the catastrophic event was comparable to a full-year input from the entire North Pacific. Projections of where this debris might head have been made by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s International Pacific Research Center.  Their research is now a central part of a multiagency effort, led by the Environmental Protection Agency, to respond to issues arising from the tsunami-generated debris.

Maximenko has developed a model based on the behavior of drifting buoys deployed over years in the ocean for scientific purposes.  Model simulations suggest that the majority of land- and sea-based debris, which survive multi-year travel in the North Pacific, drifts toward an area between Hawai‘i and California. The pattern of time-averaged surface currents in this “patch” corresponds to a large spiraling vortex, rotating clockwise. The model predicts that the debris will spread eastward from the Japan Coast in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

In a year, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument will see pieces washing up on its shores; in two years, the remaining Hawaiian Islands will see some effects; in three years, the plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska and Baja California. The debris will then drift into the famous North Pacific Garbage Patch, where it will wander around and break into smaller and smaller pieces. In five years, Hawai‘i shores can expect to see another barrage of debris that is stronger and longer-lasting than the first one. Much of the debris leaving the North Pacific Garbage Patch ends up on Hawai‘i’s reefs and beaches.

Even before the March 11 tsunami, the world ocean was a dump for rubbish flowing in from rivers, washed off beaches, and jettisoned from oil and gas platforms and from fishing, tourist and merchant vessels.  Marine debris has become a serious problem for marine ecosystems, fisheries and shipping.

Maximenko’s long-standing work on ocean currents and transports predicted that there are five major regions in the world ocean where debris collects if it is not washed up on shores or sinks to the ocean bottom, deteriorates, or is ingested by marine organisms. These regions turn out to be “garbage patches.” The North Pacific Garbage Patch was recognized in the late 1990’s, the North Atlantic Patch was fixed some years ago, and the South Atlantic, South Indian Ocean, and South Pacific patches have just been found, guided by the map of Maximenko’s model that shows where floating marine debris should collect.

These model projections will help guide clean-up and tracking operations. Tracking will be important in determining what happens to different materials in the tsunami debris, for example, how the composition of the debris plume changes with time, and how the winds and currents separate objects drifting at different speeds.

To view a simulation of the debris from the March 11 tsunami, click on the animation link. For more information, visit:

Top photo: The mass of debris stretches for miles off the Honshu Coast. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

All things Hawaiian

Dean Maenette Ah Nee-Benham
Dean Maenette Ah Nee-Benham
When UH Mānoa Dean Maenette Ah Nee-Benham is asked about her vision for Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, she says she looks no further than Ka Papa Loʻi O Kānewai, the loʻi or taro patch, located a stone’s throw away from Hawaiian Studies.

“At any given time, there are many people, all kinds of people—from na keiki (children) all the way up to kūpuna (elderly)—working at the loʻi,” she said. “Of course, we are also a university so we host classes from different disciplines like ethnobotany and soil science.”

The hā (breadth) and hohonu (depth) of people who utilize Ka Papa Loʻi O Kānewai parallels Benham’s mission for the school. As its inaugural dean, she set the school’s direction on a mission to pursue, perpetuate, research and revitalize all areas and forms of Hawaiian knowledge. This encompasses its language, origins, history, arts, sciences, literature, religion, education, laws and society, and political, medicinal and cultural practices.

Hawai‘inuiākea has the national distinction as being the only school of indigenous studies at a Research I institution. It is also UH Mānoa’s youngest school, established in 2007 by placing the Hawaiian Studies Department and Hawaiian Language Department in one college.

Both academic units offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees that serve an estimated 200 students major in Hawaiian language with the same number majoring in Hawaiian Studies. An additional 1,600 students take classes within the program to fulfill general requirements for other majors.

The Hawaiʻianuiakea Logo
Each block in Hawai‘inuiākea’s graphic element represents the balance and structure of each department within the school.
“Our school is unique in that we engage Kanaka Maoli (indigenous people) and non-Kanaka Maoli scholars, practitioners, policymakers community leaders, traditional/cultural leaders to focus their wisdom and skill sets on pressing dilemmas with response to Kanaka Maoli principles and contemporary sensibilities,” says Benham. “This indigenous world-view is rooted in the ʻāina and life pathways of our people (both traditional as well as neo-traditional and contemporary) and frames the context and content, the form and flow of how we educate and empower to ensure our sovereignty of spirit, people and place.”

In four short years, there’s no question Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge has made great strides boosting the school’s extramural fund to $3 million in contracts and grants. Benham and staff also greatly increased the number of community engagement activities, including Educational ‘Auwai, which builds pathways for Native Hawaiian students to think of UH Mānoa as their destination of choice.

“We want our Native Hawaiian children to feel like this is their place,” said Benham. “UH Manoa is their home.”

Top Photo: The juxtaposition of Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge location next to the loʻi is key to the success of its mission.

Battling a deadly cancer

Mesothelioma Cells
Mesothelioma (cells featured in picture above) line the chest and abdominal cavities. It is one of the most aggressive and difficult cancers to treat.
A generous gift to the UH Cancer Center is helping researchers uncover clues to one of the world’s deadliest cancer. Mesothelioma, whose cells line the chest and abdominal cavities, is also one of the most aggressive and difficult cancers to treat. The current median survival from diagnosis is just 12 months.

Prevention and early intervention are soon to become a reality, thanks to a $3.58 million gift to the UH Cancer Center from an anonymous donor to support the mesothelioma research of Director Michele Carbone. He and colleagues, who include Drs. Haining Yang and Giovanni Gaudino, have made a series of recent scientific breakthroughs that will lead to new ways to prevent and treat the disease. “This generous gift is critical to support our efforts to generate discoveries that will aid in the prevention of mesothelioma and the development of more effective therapies,” acknowledges Dr. Carbone.

He has studied mesothelioma for more than a decade, with significant findings having come from studies conducted in the villages of Capadoccia, a region of Turkey. Dubbed “death villages,” nearly 50 percent of the area’s residents develop and die of mesothelioma. The epidemic is caused by exposure to a mineral fiber called erionite, which is even more potent than asbestos in causing mesothelioma. Erionite is a naturally occurring mineral found in rock formations and homes built of rock material in the region. The team’s findings led to a response from the Turkish government that included building the villagers new homes and a regional health center to conduct screening and treatment for mesothelioma.

Dr. Carbone and collaborators will conduct a clinical trial co-sponsored by the Early Detection Research Network of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the Turkish Ministry of Health to validate serum biomarkers they discovered for the early detection of mesothelioma.

This past winter, Carbone reported new findings describing potential erionite exposure in the U.S. (Nature, Dec. 16, 2010). Collaborating with scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, they found evidence of erionite in rock materials used to pave roads in North Dakota and other states. Public health concerns have been raised and the team’s examination continues in partnership with the EPA. Findings from a new detailed study were presented at a recent scientific meeting and have been published in the July 25, 2011 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a leading scientific journal. The National Institutes of Health has planned a conference this fall to discuss potential public health issues related to erionite exposure.

The UH Cancer Center is currently constructing a world-class research facility in Honolulu, scheduled to open in early 2013. It has launched efforts to raise private support for the development and expansion of its research expertise and programs.

To learn more about the UH Cancer Center, visit

Top photo: Dr. Michele Carbone, director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, has studied mesothelioma for more than 14 years.

Feature: Mastering business in Vietnam

Tra My Nguyen
Tra My Nguyen
On Tra My Nguyen’s desk is a photo of her cradling the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Vietnam executive MBA diploma that she holds dear to her heart. “I am very proud of this photo,” she says. “It is a sign of success for me.” Shortly after graduation, the 2007 Shidler College of Business alumna founded CSC JSC, a joint-stock company headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen and her team have engaged CSC in a host of successful activities from finance mining to financial and real estate investments.

Shidler’s Vietnam executive MBA program, in partnership with Hanoi School of Business, has provided business executives with the skills and abilities to succeed in a range of leadership positions. It is the youngest of three UH country-specific MBA programs:

• The Japan-focused MBA program started in 1990. Students spend 18 months in business courses at UH Mānoa and language and cultural training at the Japan-America Institute of Management Science, followed by a three-month internship with a company in Japan.
• The China international MBA program opened in 2007, built on the foundation of the China-focused executive MBA program offered 1997-2006. Students spend a year on core coursework at UH Mānoa, followed by nine months of elective coursework at Sun Yat-Sen University School of Business in Guangzhou.
• The Vietnam MBA program was launched in 2001. All classes are taught in Vietnam by Shidler College of Business professors in a two-year executive format that allows students to maintain full-time positions while earning their degrees.

The Vietnam program is the only executive MBA program in that country accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Accreditation assures students of a high quality, relevant and internationally recognized education. And it has attracted excellent students, says William R. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing Dana Alden, faculty director of several former VEMBA cohorts in Hanoi. “We have consistently graduated top-level managers from well-known companies in Vietnam.”

In a recent survey reported in NDN Money, the Vietnamese equivalent of Money magazine, 55 percent of Vietnam executive MBA (VEMBA) graduates hold the chair, president or chief operating officer post in top corporations.

Christine Tran
Christine Tran
Alden, who originally spearheaded the Hanoi program, recalls an incredible spirit of cooperation in each class. “We’ve built an alumni network that remains strong and supportive of our graduates in Vietnam,” he adds. “Alumni dinners in Hanoi attract many former and current students. The camaraderie is great.” The Vietnam executive MBA was a perfect fit for graduate Christine , a Vietnamese-American San Francisco native who had relocated to Vietnam because of her job. Tran says she had no interest in going to a top 10 business school on the East Coast to land a job on Wall Street, but “wanted to continue working in Vietnam while applying classroom lessons to my workplace.”

Now a senior researcher at a consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay area, Tran praises the Shidler faculty. “They demonstrated real dedication to our learning and understood the challenges students have juggling full-time management positions with coursework,” she says. “My classmates were amazing. I was floored by their generosity, enthusiasm and contributions in the classroom.”

In 2007, the college extended the Vietnam executive MBA to Ho Chi Minh City. The country’s largest city is, like Hanoi, a mecca for young entrepreneurs, overseas investors and young Vietnamese eager to make it big.

Ho Chi Minh City produces 25 percent of Vietnam’s gross domestic product and is predicted to increase its population of 7 million by 50 percent in the near future, notes Shidler Dean Vance Roley. The literacy rate is high—90 percent—and English is the preferred second-language. Ambitious Vietnamese managers and executives are eager to enroll in the program, he adds.

They include alumnus Jonathan Kuba, who moved from Hawaiʻi to Ho Chi Minh City to work for a venture capital fund.

Jonathan Kuba
Jonathan Kuba
The president of IFB Holdings and manager of private investments in two start-up companies sought knowledge on managing and growing businesses to become a better leader and investor.

“The faculty was wonderful and the material was relevant,” Kuba says. “The program confirmed some practical business lessons that I learned in the past and put them into a structured context.”

“We have a clear educational mission in Vietnam,” says Tung Bui, VEMBA program director and Matson Navigation Company Endowed Chair of Global Business. “We want to educate a new generation of business leaders and we hope that our alumni will significantly contribute to the economic welfare of their countrymen through their leadership positions.”

He expects the MBA education market to become more competitive with an influx of other foreign and national universities. Still, he pledges, “we will continue to improve our curriculum and recruitment so that we remain the most respected program in the country.”

This article appeared in the most recent issue of Mālamalama. Visit

VEMBA Class of 2011
VEMBA’s eighth cohort graduated in July, with its alumni added to the Who’s Who of top business executives in Vietnam. In middle of graduates are VEMBA Director Tung Bui, Jay Shidler, and Shidler College of Business Dean V. Vance Roley.

Linking genomes to biomes

New technologies such as the autonomous underwater sea glider collect data on microbial activities. Photo courtesy of Mālamalama.

It may be one of the “newer kids on the block,” but the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology has already established itself as a leader in designing and conducting novel research. C-MORE is one of only 17 National Science Foundation-sponsored Science and Technology Centers across the nation, and the first to focus on microbes.

Established in 2006, C-MORE facilitates additional comprehensive understanding of the biological and ecological diversity of marine microorganisms, ranging from the genetic basis of marine microbial biogeochemistry including the metabolic regulation and environmental controls of gene expression, to the processes that underpin the fluxes of carbon, related bioelements and energy in the marine environment.

C-MORE Hale, the newest research facility to join C-MORE, was dedicated in 2010 and houses 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art scientific equipment that will be used in conjunction with an existing modern fleet of research vessels to study the vital role that marine microbes play in sustaining planetary habitability.  The merger of the new land-based laboratory with world-class sea-going support vessels will help position UH Mānoa on the world map as a leader in oceanographic research.

As a global research information center working across disciplines, C-MORE brings together teams of experts—scientists, educators and community members—who usually have little opportunity to interact, facilitating the creation and dissemination of a new understanding of the critically important role of marine microbes in global habitability. Research at C-MORE is organized around four interconnected themes: (Theme I) microbial biodiversity, (Theme II) metabolism and C-N-P-energy flow, (Theme III) remote and continuous sensing and links to climate variability, and (Theme IV) ecosystem modeling, simulation and prediction, with the primary mission of linking genomes to biomes.

Another integral component of C-MORE is its implementation of educational and outreach programs. Educational programs focus on pre-college curriculum enhancements, in service teacher training and formal undergraduate/graduate and post-doctoral programs to prepare the next generation of microbial oceanographers. C-MORE also has plans to maintain creative outreach programs to help diffuse the new knowledge gained into society at large including policymakers. All of C-MORE’s activities will be dispersed among five partner institutions: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, University of California at Santa Cruz and Oregon State University.

For more information on C-MORE, visit:

Top photo: Exterior shot of C-MORE Hale