Agricultural Science 218
1955 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-8384
Fax: (808) 956-3542


*Graduate Faculty

*D. Christopher, PhD (Chair)—photosynthesis, plant biotechnology, gene regulation, genomics, protein folding
*J. P. Bingham, PhD (Graduate Chair)—peptide synthesis, marine neurotoxins
*D. Borthakur, PhD—plant-microbe interaction, plant biotechnology
*D. M. Jenkins, PhD, PE—biosensors and bioinstrumentation
*S. Khanal, PhD, PE—bioenergy and bio-based products; waste to energy heat and mass transport in chemically reacting ecosystems, energy conversion, bioremediation
*C. Kinoshita, PhD—heat and mass transport in chemically reacting systems, energy conversion, bioremediation
R. Kurasaki, MS, PE—dynamic systems modeling
*Q. Li, PhD—bioremediation, environmental biotechnology
*P. Nerurkar, PhD—carcinogen-induced metabolic disorders and biochemical mechanisms of environmental carcinogenesis
*D. Owens, PhD—plant biochemistry, enzymology, plant natural products
*G. Presting, PhD—bioinformatics
*W-W. Winston Su, PhD—biochemical engineering, cell culture engineering

Graduate Faculty in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering

All faculty of the department at the rank of assistant professor or higher are regular graduate faculty in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering.

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

R. Allsopp, PhD—stem cells, regulation of telomerase expressor in cells
J. Awaya, PhD—bodegradation and bioremediation
A. S. Bachmann, PhD—tumor growth and cell differentiation
F. R. Bellinger, PhD— selenoproteins in brain function
M. J. Berry, PhD— selenoproteins, antioxidants, and human diseases
W. A. Boisvert, PhD— cardiovascular research
S. Cao, PhD—natural products therapeutics
M. Carbone, MD, PhD—cancer biology
L. C. Chang PhD—protein Kinase inhibitors, characterization of natural bioactive compounds, traditional culture medicines
S. Chang, PhD—vaccine development, molecular immunology
M. Cooney, PhD—marine biotechnology
Y. Deng, PhD—bioinformatics, biomedical informatics, cancer, and genomics.
M. Fabbri MD, PhD—cancer biology
P. Fei MD, PhD—cancer cell biology, tumor suppression
K. Frank, PhD—Aina-based microbiology, microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial activity, microbial energetics, biogeochemical cycling (sulfur, carbon, iron)
C-E. Ha, PhD—biochemistry, human serum albumin
B. Hernandez, PhD—human papilloma virus, hepatitis virus, viral carcinogenesis, epidemiology
T. Hoang, PhD—molecular microbiology
P. R. Hoffmann, PhD—Selenoprotins in asthma and inflammation
J. Hu, PhD—plant virology
R. Jha, PhD—animal nutrition, feed evaluation, carbohydrate metabolism, gut physiology and health
S. Jun, PhD—food engineering
J. K. Kaholokula, PhD—Native Hawaiian health
P. Kaufusi, PhD—pathogenesis of West Nile virus
T. Kawamori, MD, PhD—cancer research
Y. S. Kim, PhD—animal biotechnology
C. S. Lee, MD—aquaculture
L. Le Marchand MD, PhD—epidemiology, cancer research
O. Le Saux, PhD—cell molecular biology, human developments, and developmental pathway
D. Lerner, PhD—organismic and evolutionary biology
S. Lozanoff, PhD—renal and craniofacial morphogenesis
Y. Lu, PhD—environmental health
S. M. Masutani, PhD—thermal conversion of biomass
T. Matsui, MD, PhD—cardiovascular research
A. Maunakea, PhD— biomedical science, epigenomics
M. Melzer, PhD—agrosecurity; virology
B. Mishra, PhD—reproductive physiology of domestic animals and poultry, environmental stress on reproduction, transcriptional regulation of egg formation in the laying hens, nutritional programming to increase the reproductive efficiencies.
A. K. Misra, PhD—material science, remote sensing, remote Raman, micro Raman, high Tc-superconductor, stress strain sensors, 1/f noise
S. Moisyadi, PhD—mammalian transgenesis
C. Morden, PhD—molecular systematics
L. Ndhlovu, PhD—HIV immunology
V. Nerurkar, PhD—molecular virology and epidemiology
Y. Ni, PhD—bioinformatics, tools for biomarker discovery of metabolomics in cancer research
R. A. Nichols, PhD—neuropharmacology, neuroscience and physiology
G. S. Okimoto, PhD—cancer research, predicting clinical outcomes; applied mathematics; data analysis
J. Panee, PhD—selenoproteins, and natural product as antioxidants
R. Perroy, PhD—environmental impacts, climate change
G. Poisson, PhD—cognitive informatics, bioinformatics, machine learning
J. Ramos, PhD—cancer biology
R. Richmond, PhD—invertebrate zoology, conservation biology
E. Ruby, PhD—luminous bacterial symbiosis; physiology and biochemistry; host-microbe signaling
A. Seale, PhD—osmoreception, osmoregulation an environmental adaptation of fish; physiology and endocrinology of fish
S. E. Seiferied, PhD—macromolecular interactions, transcription factor recognition of specific DNA sequences, protein subunit assembly
C. Shikuma, MD—infections disease, AIDS
B. Shiramizu, MD—pathology of HIV-associated disorders
R. Shohet, MD—molecular medicine
A. J. Stokes, PhD—biochemistry and physiology of ion channel proteins
S. Sung, PhD—bioremediation
M. Tallquist, MD—cardiovascular biology and birth defects
L. Tao, PhD—regulation of cell division; mechanisms driving formation and functions of mitotic spindle; analysis of mitotic effects of anti-cancer drugs from Hawaiian natural products
M. Tiirikainen, PhD—genotyping and gene expression profiling to cancer
J. Turkson, PhD—cancer chemotherapy
S. Q. Turn, PhD—biomass gasification
S. Verma, PhD—molecular biochemical aspects of viral disease
W. Wang, MD—study of premembrane and envelope proteins of dengue virus, virus-like particles, antibodies responses after natural infection and strategy of new vaccines against dengue virus
J. Wei, PhD—cancer metabolism, biomarker discovery; molecular mechanisms linked to metabolic disruptions in gut microbial-hostco-metabolism to metabolic disorder and gastrointestinal
H. Yang, PhD—pathogenesis of mesothelioma, a malignancy often related to asbestos exposure, find novel strategies for mesothelioma, early deduction, prevention, and therapy
J. Yang, PhD—molecular biology and animal biotechnology
J. Y. Yew, PhD—neurobiology of chemical communication in Drosophila, biochemistry of lipid pheromones, and development of mass spectrometry methods for lipid analysis
H. Yu, PhD—cancer control, population sciences, cancer epidemiology
J. Yu, PhD—bioengineering, marine bioproduct development

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

B. Fox, PhD—aquaculture
P. H. Moore, PhD—sugarcane biotechnology, and plant molecular biology
C. Rosser, MD—animal work, assessment of tissue
Y. Zhu, PhD—plant transformation, biotechnology

Degrees Offered: BS in biological engineering, BS in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, MS in molecular biosciences and bioengineering, PhD in molecular biosciences and bioengineering

The Academic Programs

The Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering (MBBE) features a multidisciplinary faculty having a broad spectrum of interests in biotechnology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and biological engineering. The department’s strong basic and applied research programs and its active, internationally recognized faculty combine to provide students with exciting learning opportunities. The department houses degree-granting programs in biological engineering (BS) and in molecular biosciences and bioengineering (MS and PhD), and molecular biosciences and biotechnology (BS).

Biological Engineering Program

The mission of the biological engineering program is to provide students a unique opportunity to study the fundamentals of engineering and biology and the application of engineering to biological systems. Example applications in biological engineering include processing of biomass for alternative energy uses or added value, bioreactor design for producing high-valued biologically-based products, bioremediation and biological treatment of wastes, and sensors and control engineering for biological systems. A strong emphasis throughout the program is placed on a systems approach to problem solving.

Undergraduate Study

BS in Biological Engineering

Undergraduates complete a comprehensive curriculum including the basic sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics), engineering mathematics, core engineering (civil, electrical, and mechanical), and fundamental and specialized biological engineering courses. Students receive integrated training in biology and engineering, culminating in a two-semester engineering design sequence.

To fulfill its mission, the BE program has two educational objectives, which describe what graduates are expected to attain within a few years after graduation.

  1. Graduates will practice engineering in professional careers that serve the needs of society in fields such as biotechnology, environmental systems, energy, or agriculture.
  2. Graduates will contribute to their communities by continuing to engage in professional development, ethical decision making, and thoughtful discourse on contemporary issues.

Students are expected to demonstrate accomplishment of the following outcomes at the time of graduation:

  1. An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. An ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
  3. An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  4. An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
  5. An ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
  6. An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  7. An ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.

The bachelor of science in biological engineering is the only undergraduate degree offered by the program. Students benefit from small class size and one-on-one interactions with faculty.


General Education Requirements, including the following:

  • ENG 100 or approved FW course (FW)
  • Two approved courses in Global and Multicultural Perspectives (FG)
  • ECON 120 or 130 or 131 (DS)
  • CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L or 171/171L or 181A/181L (DP/DY)
  • PHYS 170/170L and 272/272L (DP/DY)
  • BIOL 171/171L (DB/DY)
  • MATH 241, 242, 243, and 244 or 251A, 252A, and 253A (FS)  One Social Science course (DS)
  • Six credits Humanities, Arts, and Literatures course (DH, DA, or DL)
  • One course with focus on Contemporary Ethical Issues (E)
  • One course with focus on Hawaiian, Asian, or Pacific issues (H)
  • One course with focus on Oral Communication (O)
  • Five Writing Intensive courses (W)
  • Hawaiian or Second Language (HSL) is not required for the Biological Engineering degree

College Requirements:

  • NREM 310

Programming Requirements:

  • EE 110 or 160 or ICS 111

Science Requirements:

  • Two from the following courses: BIOL 172/172L, BIOL 275/275L, BE 120, MICR 351/351L, MICR 485. One 300+ BIOC, BIOL, MBBE, MICR course may replace one of the courses listed.*

Engineering Requirements:

  • CEE 270 and 271
  • EE 211 and ME 311
  • CEE 320 or ME 322
  • BE 260, 350, 350L, 373, 437, 481, and 482
  • At least 9 credits from courses BE 405, 410, 411, 420, 431, 460, 470.
  • At least 3 credits from a 300+ BE, CEE, EE, ME, or ORE course

*Courses not specifically listed under the science and engineering requirements must be approved by the Biological Engineering program’s curriculum committee.

A minimum of 48 credits of engineering courses must be completed (excluding programming courses). A minimum grade for the prerequisites of biological engineering courses is C- unless otherwise noted. Students must take, but not necessarily pass, the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering exam in the semester they intend to graduate.

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to programsheets/.

Graduate Study

Graduate Program in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering

The Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering Graduate Program offers both MS and PhD degrees. The MBBE research and graduate training center around understanding the biochemical, nutritional, and molecular-biological processes that underlie growth, development, bioenergy, photosynthesis, and stress, especially as related to tropical agriculture, aquaculture, plant and environmental biotechnology, and bioengineering. Many MBBE graduate students are supervised and supported by cooperating and affiliate graduate faculty from John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Queens Medical Center, Hawai‘i Agricultural Research Center, Oceanic Institute, Sea Grant College Program, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, College of Engineering, and several departments including microbiology, zoology, human nutrition, food and animal sciences, and plant and environmental protection sciences.

Entrance Requirements

  • Minimum qualifications for admittance as a regular student are an undergraduate degree from an accredited U.S. college or university or equivalent degree from a recognized foreign institution of higher learning and a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • All prospective students must submit scores from the GRE General Test. In cases where foreign students encounter difficulty in taking the examination, submission of scores may be delayed with permission from Graduate Division. Foreign students must also submit TOEFL scores (see Graduate Bulletin for exceptions.) A minimum TOEFL score of 250 in computer-based test or 100 in internet-based test is required.
  • All applicants are expected to have completed courses or equivalents in physics, chemistry, basic biology, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, and one additional upper division course in cellular or molecular biology. While not a requirement, physical chemistry is highly recommended. Students may be accepted with deficiencies in one or more of these areas, however, deficiencies must be made up during the first year as a graduate student. Such courses may not be used for graduate credit.

General Guidelines and Requirements for MS Plan A

  • Minimum course requirements: 12 credits of 600-level courses (not including MBBE 699), 6 credits of 400 level courses (not including 499), 6 credits of 699 and 6 credits of 700. Graduate students are encouraged to take one credit seminar (610 or equivalent) each academic year. They require at least one seminar credit for MS degree. The thesis proposal or defense seminar cannot be used to meet this requirement. All courses must be approved by the committee and the graduate chair.
  • Two-page proposal. Like PhD students, MS students also need to discuss with their major advisors about their research projects and write a two-page proposal within the first semester.
  • A thesis proposal seminar: MS students need to present their preliminary results and the plan of work in a proposal seminar. MS students who conduct research in laboratories outside the Manoa campus may present their proposal seminars in their laboratory locations.
  • Presentation at the CTAHR symposium. MS Plan A students must make at least one presentation in the CTAHR symposium. They are encouraged to make presentations in other national and international conferences.
  • Thesis defense. MS Plan A students must present a public presentation of work in the final semester. Students should consult with their committee and the graduate chair for a convenient date for this presentation at the middle of the final semester. (Note: Graduate Division deadlines change each year).
  • Publication. Students are encouraged to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal before defense.

General Guidelines and Requirements for MS Plan B

  • Minimum course requirements: 18 credits of 600-level courses (not including MBBE 699), 9 credits of 400 level courses (not including 499), 3 credits of 699. Graduate students are encouraged to take one credit seminar (610 or equivalent) each academic year. They require at least one seminar credit for MS degree. The final research presentation cannot be used to meet this requirement. All courses must be approved by the graduate chair.
  • Research report, final presentation and oral exam. Plan B students also do a research project for at least one semester. The results of this research should be written as a ‘research report’ and submitted to a committee composed of the research advisor, another faculty, and the graduate chair. The results also must be presented as a seminar in the final semester. At the end of the presentation, the committee will ask ask questions about the research project and other related subject. The written report should be about 10–20 pages, double space, and should contain the following sections: abstract (200–300 words), introduction (background and justification, 1-page), literature review (3–7 pages), objectives, materials and methods (3–7 pages), results and discussion (3–10 pages), and references. For graduation, a student must obtain satisfactory grades in the research report, oral presentation, and the oral exam.

General Guidelines and Requirements for PhD Degree

  • A temporary committee: graduate chair appoints a temporary committee for each PhD student. The committee comprises the student’s supervisor (major advisor), graduate chair, and a faculty member. The committee advises on course work and other academic and research related matters.
  • Course work. Students with a previous master’s degree in the biosciences are required to take a minimum of three credits of 400-level (excluding 499) and nine credits of 600-level (excluding 699) courses from the list of approved courses. Students with a master’s degree are required to take an additional two courses (three credits each of 400 and 600-level). The courses must be pre-approved by the major advisor and Graduate Chair. A minimum of 12 credits of MBBE 699 (directed research) and one credit of MBBE 800 are also required of all students. MBBE 800 is taken preferably in the final semester. Graduate students are encouraged to take one credit seminar (610 or equivalent) each academic year. They require at least two seminar credits for PhD degree. The dissertation proposal or defense seminar cannot be used to meet this requirement.
  • Two-page proposal. Students need to discuss with their major advisors about their research projects and write a two-page proposal. The proposal must be submitted to the graduate chair within the first semester. The proposal should have the following sections: (i) Introduction (background and justification), objectives, and approach. If the scope and objectives of the project are changed or modified later, the temporary committee should be informed and a copy of the revised proposal should be submitted to the graduate chair.
  • Qualifying exam: PhD students have to take a qualifying exam within the first, second, or third semester. As a part of this exam, students are asked to write a manuscript from the results obtained within the first one or two semesters.
  • Permanent committee: After completing the qualifying exam, a PhD student can form a permanent committee in consultation with his supervisor and the graduate chair. This committee will consist of five faculty members, four of which are MBBE faculty or affiliated cooperating faculty. A fifth member must be from outside the MBBE department, but the member can be an affiliated faculty. It is imperative that the PhD student consults Graduate Division website to determine if the fifth committee member is an eligible external member; failure to do so may invalidate decisions made by the committee.
  • Symposium: Students are encouraged to make a poster presentation in any research symposium organized at UH Manoa in the first year. These include Tester Symposium, Microbiology Symposium, and BioMed Symposium. They must make a presentation in the second year and should continue to make presentations in subsequent years until graduation.
  • Other presentations: Students are encouraged to make oral and poster presentations in other national and international conferences. A number of travel scholarships are available from the Graduate Student Organizations. Often the supervisors provide funds for student travel.
  • The first manuscript: Students should try to complete the manuscript that was started as a part of the qualifying exam and get it published as soon as possible.
  • Committee meetings: Students should meet at least once a year with the committee.
  • Proposal seminar: Frequent discussions are encouraged between the student and the major advisor about the progress and direction of research. When a student and the major advisor both agree that the project is going well and there are some good data, the student may be allowed to write a full proposal and then present a proposal seminar. All graduate faculty and students are invited to the proposal seminars. A proposal seminar must not be delayed beyond three years. If it is delayed beyond three years, the graduate chair will discuss with the committee and consider transferring the student to the MS program.
  • Revision of dissertation proposal. Sometimes, a project may not go as expected and run into unexpected problems. Under such a situation, the project may have to take a new direction and some of the objectives may have to be modified. The student should invite a committee meeting and present a revised proposal.
  • Comprehensive exam: It is an oral exam given by the committee and the graduate chair. The graduate chair or a representative appointed by him serves as the moderator for the exam. The committee will ensure that the student has learnt molecular biosciences or bioengineering and mastered the subject well. The comprehensive exam must not be delayed beyond three years. If it is delayed beyond three years, the graduate chair will discuss with the committee and consider transferring the student to MS program.
  • Review of literature: Students are encouraged to conduct an extensive literature review related to his or her research subject. He or she should discuss with his or her supervisor about the main focus of the “review of literature” chapter of his or her dissertation. This must be completed and forwarded to the committee within the first three years.
  • Publications: Publications are essential requirements of a PhD degree in MBBE. Students are encouraged to publish several papers in refereed journals. There must be at least one publication as the first author in a standard refereed journal. Only under an exceptional situation, where research subject is very problematic, and the supervisor assures and convinces the committee and the graduate chair that a publication is forthcoming, a student may be considered for graduation without a publication on the day of defense.
  • Submission of dissertation to the committee: Students are encouraged to write and submit the ‘Review of Literature’ chapter to the committee well in advance, preferably one year before submitting the complete dissertation. They can also write the chapters ‘Introduction’ and ‘Materials and Method’ in advance. All chapters of the dissertation must be first submitted to and corrected by the major advisor before submitting to the rest of the committee. The committee members may refuse to read the chapters if these were not previously read, corrected, and approved by the major advisor. Graduate Division has a published set of guidelines required by the university. Formatting and the contents of the manuscript must satisfy these requirements, or the dissertation will not be accepted by the university.
  • Final dissertation defense: The final dissertation defense seminar is perhaps the most important event for PhD. Therefore, a student must prepare well for this presentation. A student must get approval of the major advisor and the committee for presenting a defense seminar. Graduate Division must be notified in advance by the student through the graduate chair about the date, time, and place of dissertation defense. Graduate faculty and students must be invited to the defense seminar.

List of Approved Courses for MBBE Graduate Students

The following 400-level courses are recommended:

  • MBBE 401, 402, 405, 408, 412, 483,
  • BE 410, 420, 431, 460,
  • BIOL 407

The 600-level courses can be selected from the following list of courses. Students can select other courses after obtaining approval from the committee and the graduate chair.

  • MBBE 601, 620, 625, 650, 651, 683, 687,
  • BE 606, 622, 625, 634, 638,
  • CMB 621, 622,
  • MICR 625, 632, 671,
  • PEPS 730
  • TPSS 604, 614, 640

Financial Assistance

Most students in the MBBE program are currently supported through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships. In addition, tuition is waived for all assistantships and most fellowships. It is recommended that students interested in research assistantships contact faculty working in their area of interest regarding availability. Additional fellowship support is available from the EastWest Center, which offers scholarships to Asian, Pacific, and American students for affiliation in one of their programs.

Contact Information

Dr. Jon-Paul Bingham
Graduate Chair, Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering
University of Hawai`i at Manoa
Phone: (808) 956-4864
Fax: (808) 956-3542