Previous STEMinars

Pilina Panel: Navigating networks for graduate school and beyond

Come learn the ins and outs of meaningful professional relationships through networking in college and graduate school!

The Pilina Panel is a virtual seminar that will provide insights into how to navigate professional networks for school, jobs, and more! Our panel features Dr. Mehana Vaughan, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in addition to early-stage PhD and medical students. Attend our event to hear a variety of perspectives on how to approach new people, find opportunities, and develop a network that can influence your long-term career. All are welcome to join and you are welcome to come with questions to ask our panelists!


Mehana Vaughan

Mehana is an environmental social scientist whose work focuses on indigenous and community-based natural resource management. She comes from Namahana and Kalihiwai Kauaʻi, at the intersection of the rural moku (districts) of Haleleʻa and Koʻolau. Her research, teaching and outreach are all interconnected around themes of eco-cultural restoration, ʻāina-based education, and community or collaborative management. Students in her classes participate in research projects that meet community needs, and community members help to serve as teachers.

Mehana is an associate professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. She is jointly appointed in the Sea Grant College Program under the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and Hui ʻĀina Momona, an effort to build connections between the University system and rural Hawaiʻi communities to enhance community level capacity for natural resource management.

Andie Conching

Andie Conching is a current first-year medical student at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. While she seeks to serve Hawai'i as a physician, she comes from a research-heavy background based in her strong interests in the brain and in social determinants of health. She studied mouse models of autism before spending two years at the National Institutes of Health as a Cancer Research Training fellow and an iCURE scholar. Motivated to create change in the health disparities that her Native Hawaiian community faces, she also pursued research on the biological impact of historical trauma on contemporary health outcomes. In her final year before starting school, she managed an NSF grant aimed toward building technology to predict Covid-19 prognosis. She is now involved in neurosurgery research focused on identifying disparities in neurosurgical outcomes for neighbor-island patients. Her diverse laboratory experiences has given her valuable insight into human health and disease, and she began medical school ready to advocate for her future patients and execute meaningful science that could reduce health disparities and transform care.

Thomas Lee

Thomas Lee is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. His current research work and interests are in the realms of non-earthquake seismic sources (e.g., volcanic tremor or oceanic microseism), digitization of paper seismograms, and especially the areas wherein these two topics intersect. My first exposure to seismology and work with the Ishii Group came through digitization of analog records using DigitSeis. This work helped open my eyes to the vast number of analog paper seismograms stored around the world, and moreover, their immense scientific value. These records represent a great resource covering an otherwise inaccessible time period. Since then, I have done work to open these records to modern analysis techniques (e.g., ambient noise correlation type studies) by developing methodologies to constrain relative timing inconsistencies between stations. Outside of work, Thomas enjoys cycling around the greater Boston area, cooking Sunday dinners for friends, and playing the guitar and ukulele. When back home on the Big Island, he always tries to make sure he gets out to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, and goes fishing with family.

Nathan Lee

Nathan Lee is a second year medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Since his first year, Nathan has served as the treasurer and a volunteer for the Weill Cornell Wellness Qlinic, a psychiatric care clinic dedicated to serving the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community in New York City. He is also currently helping to direct a 6-week group therapy session meant to help teach practical coping skills based on dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to some of the clinic’s patients, under the supervision of Weill Cornell residents and attendings. Over the summer, Nathan also did chart review research with the radiology department looking at the use of PET/PSMA and MRI imagining in the diagnosis and monitoring of prostate cancer. He remains open to a variety of fields of medicine and is looking forward to clinical rotations to help him narrow down potential areas of specialty. Outside of school, Nathan enjoys spending time in New York City parks during the warm months and going out with friends on weekends. He’s recently adopted Clifford (the small red beta fish) and has been spending much of the past few months trying new restaurants and making the most of what NYC has to offer. During his times at home in Hawai’i, he enjoys catching up with friends and family, hiking, and the unique joy of lazing around the house.

What is Graduate School?

Our presenters will talk about:

  1. What is graduate school & why do people do it?

  2. How do we prepare for graduate school?

  3. How do we apply to graduate programs & how do we know what program to apply to?

  4. How do we pay for graduate school?

  5. What is graduate school like?

Hiki iaʻu ke hele i ke Kula Nui: A Talk Story with Hawaiian Students on Health and STEM pathways

Our panelists will share their path, passion, and challenges they’ve faced in their STEM/Health academic and professional careers followed by a Q&A session. Whether you’re a student interested in STEM, are in a STEM career, or just interested in STEM, we invite you to come to learn about how nā po’e a Hawaii have navigated the world of STEM.

Facilitator: Dr. Lelemia Irvine (Kumu Lelemia), Assistant Professor at University of Hawaii - West Oahu

Dr. Lelemia Irvine is kupukaaina, a lineal descendant from the aboriginal families that sprouted out of the land of Waiʻanae. He earned his BS and MS degrees in Biological Engineering and MS and PhD in Civil Engineering degrees from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Notably, Dr. Irvine is the first Native Hawaiian kāne to earn a PhD in any engineering discipline at UH Mānoa. Dr. Irvine is the first appointed Physics faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi—West Oʻahu. Previously, he served as a Lecturer and Teaching Assistant in Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In recognition of his excellence and dedication to teaching, Dr. Irvine received the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2013 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. At UH West Oʻahu, Dr. Irvine is developing the physics, pre-engineering, and engineering courses within the Mathematics, Natural and Health Science Division. Dr. Irvine is a self-described rain farmer seeking to connect sky, aquifer and culture through the physics of fluid dynamics. In general, his research interests involve the Water—Indigenous Knowledge—STEM education nexus. Specifically, his research thrives on interdisciplinary collaborations with a special focus on (i) Indigenous grounded STEM-oriented Education, (ii) water sust-ʻāina-bility and (iii) natural and biological applications and implications of environmental physics. Recently, Dr. Irvine and his collaborators were awarded the prestigious Spencer Foundation Grant to study the impact of COVID-19 on the indigenous teaching practices in Hawaiʻi.


Nakoa Farrant

PhD Student, UC Santa Barbara

Nākoa Farrant is a PhD student in Environmental Science and Management at UCSB’s Bren School. He broadly seeks to improve agricultural productivity while minimizing ecological harm. He is currently exploring how ecosystems revegetate on abandoned sugarcane and pineapple lands in Hawai‘i. With a clear understanding of how vegetation patterns occur across environmental contexts, he hopes to inform future allocation of land for conservation, food production, and cultural activities among other priorities. To enhance our current understanding of these coupled human-natural systems, he applies an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates remote sensing, GIS analysis tools, and causal inference methods. Nākoa also investigates the future role of Native Hawaiian food systems to resolve food security issues locally and beyond. In his free time, Nākoa enjoys surfing, running, and biking. When he’s home in Hawai‘i, he catches up with friends, mentors, and volunteers at loko i‘a like He‘eia Fishpond or lo‘i kalo like Ho‘okua‘āina in Maunawili.

Kammie Tavares

Geospatial Analyst, UH Mānoa SOEST

Kammie Tavares is a geospatial analyst for the Coastal Geology Group at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. From there she earned a B.S. Global Environmental Science and M.S. Geology and Geophysics. It was on the beaches of her one hānau (birth sands, homeland) Waiʻanae where her love and respect for the environment grew. In an effort to preserve sandy beaches and people's relationship to places, Kammie currently works on updating the Hawaiʻi Shoreline Study to inform coastal managers on how beaches have changed and are projected to change in a future of sea level rise.

Makana Silva

PhD Candidate, Ohio State University

Makana is from Waiʻanae, Oʻahu and is currently a PhD candidate in Astrophysics at Ohio State University. His research focuses on cosmology and astrophysics. So far, he has worked on escaping atmospheres on exoplanets, lensing of primordial black holes, and weak lensing of halos with dust. He has tutored at the University of Hawaiʻi in physics and math. His passions and motivations for his career choice include the desire to advance and perpetuate educational opportunities for nā keiki of Hawaiʻi by expanding the horizons of their imaginations through STEM. He enjoys strongman workouts, playing games, and going to the beach.

Maveric Abella

Medical Student, John A. Burns School of Medicine

Maveric Abella grew up in Kapolei and graduated from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama in 2015. She went on to study Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University and is now a first-year medical student at the John A Burns School of Medicine. Maveric has participated in a breadth of research internships ranging from cancer biology to microfluidics. More recently, she co-authored three publications in PNAS detailing the radiation from bomb testing that threatens the Marshall Islands to this day. Maveric has always had an interest in serving the community and does so through her leadership at Honua Scholars while she continues to pursue a path in medicine. Maveric likes to surf, spearfish, scuba, and play basketball and volleyball. She also likes engineering projects.