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Two people standing with beehives
Harriet Natsuyama (left)

A generous gift from University of Hawaiʻi alumna Harriet Natsuyama to UH Hilo will enable undergraduate and graduate students to pursue major research projects geared toward future careers in sustainability.

Natsuyama’s gift established the Alexa and Sean Light of Nature Research Award, aimed at assisting UH Hilo students in any major with research related to conservation, sustainability, and the regeneration of terrestrial, oceanic, or atmospheric life and well-being.

“It’s so important for undergraduate students to see the possibilities that research can create,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie D. Irwin. “We are grateful for Harriet’s forward-thinking gift that will have an impact on many students’ lives.”

The award will fund expenses related to supplies, materials, travel, and presenting research at conferences. Natsuyama, who was named a UH Distinguished Alumna in 1991, graduated from UH Mānoa with a bachelor’s in mathematics and master’s in physics. She named the fund after her two grandchildren and included light in the award’s name because it refers to the light of learning and knowledge.

Natsuyama’s connection to UH Hilo blossomed after getting involved in the campus’ collaborative Adopt-a-Beehive program with Chef Alan Wong, which promotes local solutions to sustain Hawaiʻi’s honey bee industry. During a visit to the campus, she met Bruce Mathews, associate vice-chancellor for research at UH Hilo, who introduced her to innovative research such as growing sugar cane for jet fuel. He expressed excitement about what the new fund will do.

“It will primarily fund research that’s using Hawaiʻi Island as a living laboratory,” said Mathews. “Harriet is a game changer. It gives us energy at the workplace that she wants to do good and make a difference for Hilo students.”

This is the third fund Natsuyama has established at UH Hilo. She also established the Natsuyama-Otsubo Family Initiative Fund and the Ka ʻAno ʻAno Fund.

For more go to UH Foundation website.

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