Anica Ancheta
Anica Ancheta

Fourteen-year-old Anica Ancheta is off to a running start in her pursuit to study the complex cosmos. Guided by the University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), Ancheta’s research on active galactic nuclei (AGN) earned her four exemplary awards at the 2021 Maui County District Science and Engineering Fair.

“Anica is a brilliant young astrophysicist who always blows me away with her astute scientist’s eye and tenacity in tackling big questions,” said IfA graduate student Anna Payne. “It is truly the best part of my job to be able to take part in working with Anica, whose outstanding research is unraveling some of the most extraordinary secrets of the universe.”

Payne mentors the Baldwin High School freshman under HI STAR (Hawaiʻi Student/Teacher Astronomy Research), an IfA program. Ancheta has been part of HI STAR since 2019 and uses data from the Las Cumbres Observatories to research AGNs, regions at the center of a galaxy that are much brighter than normal. This year, the Maui teen’s research has netted the Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering award, first place for Senior Division of Theoretical Sciences, third place for Senior Division Grand and the Air Force award. Ancheta is thankful for the opportunity to work with astronomers through IfA’s mentorship program because it has helped her to better grasp major astronomical concepts.

“Since HI STAR is made up of people who are full of passion for astronomy, I can talk about astronomy without reservation and am inspired to further pursue astronomy,” Ancheta explained.

Ancheta will explore other sciences in school but aspires to major in physics in college to lay a good foundation to further study astronomy.

More HI STAR students awarded

  • Edward Divin (HI STAR 2019–20) won the Hawaiian Electric award, Maui Economic Development Board Senior Research award, second place for Senior Division of Theoretical Sciences, and Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering award.
  • Luke Berrigan (HI STAR 2018, 2020) captured the Mu Alpha Theta award for mathematics.
  • Holden Suzuki (HI STAR 2018–20) and Wilson Chau (HI STAR 2019–20) teamed up and took first place for the Junior Division in Theoretical Science and the Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering award.
  • Esken Guarin (HI STAR 2019–20) earned third place for the Senior Division in Theoretical Science.

The HI STAR program is in its 14th year. Program team members are comprised of IfA staff, faculty and grad students from Maui, Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island, with HI STAR alumni participating as program support.

This outreach is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF) two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.