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Feb. 2004, Vol. 29 No. 1
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Peter Gorham faculty bio

Arctic Impulsive Transient Antenna

Manoa Department of Physics

Neutrinos and faculty boost the Hawai'i economy

A message from UH President Evan S. Dobelle

Evan Dobelle headshot

President Dobelle

The University of Hawai'i System is more than an academic institution. It’s a key economic engine for the state of Hawai'i. Each week, a multitude of new grants, endowments or federally funded projects are announced throughout the UH System.

A fall 2003 announcement is telling. NASA confirmed that Manoa Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Peter Gorham is in the final stages of securing a five-year Explorer Program Missions grant worth approximately $35 million. When completed, this grant would become the largest single allocation of research dollars ever received by UH.

Professor Gorham’s high energy neutrino astronomy research is clearly a mainstream interest for NASA. His ANITA project (Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna) views the Antarctic ice sheet from horizon to horizon. A sophisticated array of antennas "listens" for sharp bursts of radio waves (what amounts to mini bolts of lightning) emitted by cosmic high energy neutrinos or subatomic particles that only rarely interact.

This kind of work moves us closer to understanding the nature of the building blocks of our universe.

Peter Gorham headshot

Dr. Peter Gorham

A respected faculty member, Peter Gorham is also a UH alumnus. Arriving from California more than two decades ago aboard a 44-foot sailboat, he was attracted by the university’s groundbreaking neutrino experiments and Hawai'i’s surfer-friendly climate.

His graduate degree from UH paved the way for his pioneering efforts in neutrino research and gamma-ray astrophysics on the mainland. Hawai'i was never far from his heart, however, and he returned in 2001 as a teaching faculty member at Manoa. He says returning to UH was an opportunity to give something back to the institution that helped shape his career while exploring research interests that launched the ANITA project.

Besides the direct dollars such a research program generates, Peter sees a whole range of less tangible economic benefits. Undergraduate students hired as technicians gain exposure and experience valued by employers who would otherwise look outside the state. Technologies are developed that can be licensed to local companies. University infrastructure, such as a test chamber he is developing for antenna calibration, can be used for wireless technology testing by the community outside of UH.

Dr. Gorham feels an institution is as important as the projects and people involved, and I couldn’t agree more. Research and resources invested in Hawai'i through UH are substantial and continue to grow every year because the people at the heart of this institution—individuals like Peter Gorham—make the difference.