The prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER grants were awarded to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor Jason Kumar in physics, Assistant Professor Jennifer Small in meteorology and Associate Professor Yi Zuo in mechanical engineering. They are considered early-career faculty with promising futures in research and science education.
Kumar is examining new and emerging dark matter models to determine whether they can explain unexpected signals picked up during recent dark matter detection experiments.
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Kumar is quick to highlight the leading role that the university has played in a large number of high-profile particle physics experiments, including work at the KamLAND and Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatories.
“Hawaiʻi is one of the most isolated land-masses in the world, and many high school students have not spent much time on the mainland,” Kumar said. “I believe that a vital part of any effort to engage students in high-energy physics research is to demonstrate a connection to something they can participate in while they are here on Hawaiʻi.”
Small is investigating the effects of aerosols on clouds and precipitation. She is using data from remote sensing studies, direct observation and global climate models to analyze aerosol-cloud interactions on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Her project address the uncertainty about the overall climatic effects of fine particles in the air, both natural and man-made.
“Aerosol-cloud interactions are among the most important and least understood factors affecting climate change,” Small said. “It’s the biggest question mark.”
She plans to bring innovative multimedia teaching tools to her introductory climate courses at UH Mānoa, including classroom assignments for students to produce podcasts relating atmospheric science content to personal, real-world experiences.
Small will also organize Hawaiʻi’ first Expanding Your Horizons conference in 2014.
Zuo is studying the molecular mechanisms of lung surfactant, which is crucial to maintaining normal respiratory function in air sacs of the lung.
His NSF CAREER project goal is to help expand the use of clinical surfactants to treat various neonatal and adult respiratory diseases, including respiratory distress syndrome.
Read the UH Mānoa news release for more.