University of Hawaii at Hilo

Natural Sciences Division

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Department of Physics and Astronomy Faculty & Staff

Kathy Cooksey (Department Chairperson)

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2009

Kathy CookseyDr. Cooksey is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy. She researches the cosmic chemical enrichment cycle by observing the large-scale, gaseous structure of the universe in absorption. Elements heavier than helium are produced in stars and dispersed to small interstellar medium) and large (intergalactic medium) scales as the stars evolve and die. By studying a range of heavy elements, like carbon and magnesium, over cosmic time (i.e., wavelengths), Dr. Cooksey traces the evolution in the abundance and distribution of the chemically enriched gas and constrains the feedback processes that move and enriched the gas. Outside of work, she enjoys being outside (running, hiking) but also cooking and crocheting.

Dr. Cooksey obtained her B.S. in Physics from Valparaiso University, Indiana, in 2003, where she also completed the humanities-based honors program and played for the women's soccer team. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz in 2005 and 2009, respectively. From 2004 to 2008, she participated in UCSC's Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators Professional Development Program, where she learned about science education and issues of diversity and equity in the sciences. She also taught a range of students, from high school to graduate, about science and pedagogy. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Kavli Institute from 2009 to 2013. For those last three years, she was a National Science Foundation Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, through which she pursued her teaching and outreach interests. She joined the UHH faculty at the beginning of 2014. You can find her web site at:

Contact Dr. Cooksey.

Philippe Binder

Ph.D., Yale University, 1989

Philippe Binder

Philippe Binder has taught at UH Hilo since 2001. He was appointed to his current rank of Professor of Physics in 2008.

Contact Prof. Binder.

John Coney

M.Ed., University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, 2012

John ConeyJohn Coney is the support staff and technician for the Physics and Astronomy department at UH Hilo and physics lab manager. He holds a B.S. in computer science and a M.Ed. in educational technology. John oversees the departments Linux and Windows labs as well as provides physics and astronomy laboratory support. He brings an oceanographic instrumentation background to the program and previously managed a scanning electron microscope facility for over twenty years. He hopes to apply this experience to the UH Hilo Educational Observatory on Mauna Kea. The UH Hilo Educational Observatory is in a state of rebuilding with a new 0.7m PlaneWave telescope and AstroHaven dome purchased and on campus, currently being fitted out, then hopefully installed soon on the Big Island. When John is not at UH Hilo, he is an avid underwater diver and photographer, loves backpacking, traveling or motorcycle riding. He really enjoys working at a place that makes science fiction a reality!

Contact John Coney.


Greg Engh

MS. in Physics, University of Utah 2017

Professor Greg EnghGreg Engh received both his BS and MS in Physics in 2010 and 2017, respectively. While an undergraduate student, he served as President of the Society of Physics Students and worked as the Astronomical Observatory Manager of the University of Utah Dept. of Physics and Astronomy campus observatory (2006-09). In 2009-10, Greg analysed data from the VERITAS observatory at Mount Hopkins, Arizona, of high energy gamma rays from Active Galactic Nuclei and constructed as well as calibrated two telescopes in Grantsville UT, called StarBase, to carry out high energy intensity interferometry. Later, in 2012-13, Greg began working in theory to integrate for Dark Matter (DM) in simulated galaxies by studying the gravitational tidal effects of widely separated binary stars orbiting within the DM halos of these galaxies. From 2007 until 2017, Greg worked as an Associate Instructor at the University of Utah and in 2015 he authored new solution manuals and lab books for all the University of Utah undergraduate physics labs. In 2016 Greg began his graduate program and shifted to cosmology, researching large scale structure formation theory with a primary focus on the assembly bias of DM halos in a ΛCDM cosmology. In addition to teaching, Greg works as a Subject Matter Specialist and Astronomy Content Author for Macmillan Publishers as well as a member of the Research Support Group at the NASA IRTF, where he is a Night Telescope Operator. In his free time Greg likes to fence, hike, and read.

Contact Greg Engh

Catherine Ishida

Ph.D., University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 2004

Professor Catherine IshidaI moved to Hilo in 2002 to work at Subaru Telescope. As a researcher, I studied how interactions among galaxies contribute to the evolution of galaxies over time, and completed my Ph. D. in Astronomy from UH Manoa in 2004. Having grown up in Tokyo, New York, and London, I was able to contribute my fluency in English, Japanese and Astronomy to the observatory’s public relations and information efforts with a specific focus on expanding the observatories' local outreach. In 2007 I interrupted my work in astronomy to become an ordained minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, a multi-religious humanist faith. Since returning to Hilo in 2011, I’ve been teaching at the UH Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department and consulting with local congregations “teaching practical philosophy and impractical physics.” I love to examine the “Big Picture,” including the contexts of astronomical inquiry in Hawaiʻi and the world, past and present, and encourage students to consider taking the course “Cosmos and Culture!"

Contact Dr. Ishida.

Heather Kaluna

Ph.D., University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 2015

Professor Heather KalunaDr. Kaluna is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy.  She is an alumni of the Physics and Astronomy program at UH Hilo, where she obtained a BA in Mathematics and Physics in 2008.  In 2015, she obtained her Ph.D. in Astronomy at UH Manoa from the Institute for Astronomy. Prior to returning to UH Hilo as a faculty member, she spent 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at UH Manoa. 

Dr. Kaluna was born and raised in Pahoa on the island of Hawai'i, and has a strong connection to water that carries into her scientific interests.  Her research combines observational astronomy with laboratory experiments to characterize water-related spectral features on various solar system bodies (e.g. the Moon, asteroids, comets).  The goal of these observations and experiments are to understand how these spectral features vary in response to the harsh environment of space. In addition to teaching, Dr. Kaluna is developing a visible and near infrared wavelength spectral laboratory at UH Hilo.  The lab will be used to characterize the spectral features of various minerals found in meteorites and to provide a basis for interpreting spectral data of asteroids and other solar system bodies.

Contact Dr. Kaluna.

R. Pierre Martin

Ph.D., Université Laval, 1992

R. Pierre MartinDr. R. Pierre Martin is an Associate Professor of Astronomy and the Director of the UH Hilo Hoku Ke'a Observatory on Mauna Kea. He earned his MS and PhD in astrophysics at Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada. He has held post-doctoral fellowship positions at Steward Observatory in Arizona, and with the European Southern Observatory New Technology Telescope in Chile. Between 1997 and 2008, Dr. Martin was a resident astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, and its Director of Science Operations for six years. Prior to joining UH Hilo, he was the Executive Director of the WIYN 3.5m telescope on Kitt Peak (Arizona) and also a consultant for the Giant Magellan Telescope project.

Dr. Martin fields of research include the chemical evolution of galaxies, massive star formation, galaxy morphology, planetary nebulae, astronomical instrumentation and the optimization of the observational process for professional observatories.

Contact Dr. Pierre Martin.

Dan O'Connor

Marc Roberts, Physics Lab Coordinator

UH Hilo Physics instructor.



Contact Dan O'Connor.

Marianne Takamiya

Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1998

Marianne TakamiyaUH Hilo Associate Professor of Astronomy. Dr. Takamiya obtained her B.Sc. in Physics and M.Sc. in Astronomy from the Universidad de Chile in 1990 and 1991, respectively, and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, from the University of Chicago, in 1992 and 1998, respectively. She carried out post-doctoral research as a Gemini Science Fellow at Gemini Observatory and subsequently as a Research Associate, with the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, at UH Hilo.

Her teaching responsibilities at UH Hilo are General Physics, General Astronomy, and Stellar Astronomy.

Contact Dr. Takamiya.

Adjunct and Affiliate Faculty

Al Conrad

Ph.D., University of California at Santa Cruz, 1994

Al Conrad

Dr. Conrad received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1994.  He then worked as software engineer and support astronomer at both Lick and Keck Observatories before moving to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy to lead the development of a next generation adaptive optics system.  Currently, as staff scientist at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, he develops systems for high angular resolution and conducts research in planetary science.

Al teaches Software Systems for Astronomy (ASTR 385) which is based on the Springer Brief he authored in 2014. As both an astronomer and a software developer, Dr. Albert Conrad has developed and used software systems for all phases of observing:  from planning the observation, to taking the data, to analyzing the data in preparation for publication. 

Possible future courses Dr. Conrad may teach include Computational Physics and Astronomy (ASTR 260), Observational Astronomy (ASTR 250), and a potential new experimental course that covers spacecraft mission support from ground-based telescopes.

Dr. Conrad’s research interests include asteroid systems and developing novel techniques to study comets, planets, and the moons of planets, in particular Jupiter’s moon Io.  His complete bibliography includes over 100 publications including 30 articles in refereed journals. These include his early software designs for the Keck Observatory, his discovery of a small moon orbiting the asteroid 41 Daphne, and applying the resolution of a 23 meter telescope (LBT) to detect variation in a lake of lava on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io.

Al’s overall mission in astronomy is to contribute to the exploration, and eventual habitation, of the nearby Solar System.  He enjoys cycling, sailing, Frisbee, and outrigger canoe paddling.

Contact Dr. Al Conrad

Laurent Drissen

Ph.D., Université de Montréal, 1990

Dr. Laurent Drissen uh hilo affiliate faculty astronomyDr. Drissen is professor at the Physics Department of Université Laval (Québec, Canada), and is on sabbatical leave at UHH in 2017 - 2018. After a Ph. D. at Université de Montréal (1990), where he studied Wolf-Rayet stars in M33, he spent five years at the Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore, Maryland) to work on massive stars, cataclysmic variables and nearby galaxies. Although his current main topic of interest is the role massive stars play in the ecology of nearby galaxies, he has also developed an interest in instrumentation. In collaboration with the Québec City-based company ABB-Analytical, he worked on imaging Fourier transform spectroscopy. After the success of a prototype, SpIOMM, attached to the Observatoire du Mont Mégantic’s 1.6-m telescope, he led the development of SITELLE, which is now one of the four instruments used at the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope.

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Richard Griffiths

Ph.D., University of Leicester, 1972

Jesse GoldmanRichard Griffiths obtained his bachelor’s degree in Physics from Imperial College of Science & Technology, University of London and his Ph.D. from the department of Physics at the University of Leicester in 1972 in the field of X-ray astronomy using rockets launched from Woomera in Australia and from the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. After a year in Paris and four years on a research fellowship at Leicester, he came to the USA in 1976 to work in the High Energy Astrophysics group at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Ma. where he worked on the analysis of data from the X-ray instruments on the HEAO-A and HEAO-B (Einstein) Space Observatories. While at CfA, Prof. Griffiths also worked on the development of charge-coupled devices (digital imagers) for X-ray astronomy and later went on to become the Instrument Scientist for the Wide-Field and Planetary Cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope. Prof. Griffiths worked on the instruments and data from the Hubble from 1983 until 1996, initially at the Space Telescope Science Institute and then as Research Professor at the Johns Hopkins University across the street.  In 1996 Prof. Griffiths left JHU to take up a full Professorship at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he continued research using the Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the XMM-Newton Multi-Mirror X-ray Telescope, for which he was Mission Scientist from 1989 until 2012. While at CMU, Prof. Griffiths taught intro and advanced-level astronomy and astrophysics. He greatly expanded the undergraduate program in astronomy and also initiated a graduate course in astrophysics. In 2008, he took a leave of absence from CMU to work at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC, where he stayed until 2013. Prof. Griffiths’ research interests have always been primarily in X-ray astronomy
(X-ray binaries, star-forming galaxies, active galactic nuclei) but he has also worked extensively on the results of deep surveys using the Hubble in visible light and these studies have concentrated on the evolution of galaxies with cosmic time. He continues to work on X-ray deep surveys and the ground-based identification and follow-up of X-ray sources. Prof. Griffiths has over 300 publications in referred journals. (CV found here)

Contact Prof. Griffiths.

John C. Hamilton

M.S., University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1980

John C. Hamilton

Affiliate faculty with the Physics & Astronomy Dept. Univ. of Hawai'i-Hilo Currently Co-Investigator on two NASA Planetary Science & Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) grants:  BASALT-Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains, Conops Development for Future Human Exploration of Mars & SUBSEA-Subsea Ultramafic and Basaltic Science and Exploration Analog. He was directly responsible for the logistics & execution for 3 NASA In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) analog field tests operated by PISCES @ UHH: 2008 Resolve mission, 2010 International (NASA/CSA/ESA) Lunar Surface Operations ISRU Utilization Test & UHH PI for 2012 Resource Prospector Lunar Polar Mission field test. He has received 3 NASA Group Achievement Awards for this work and several NASA Certificates of Appreciation for Mars analog work on Mauna Kea and judging at the NASA KSC Robotic Mining Competition. He has also run field campaigns for several Google Lunar X-Prize teams.  He served successively as Research Manager, Deputy Director and acting Director of PISCES prior to its move into DBEDT.  Hamilton had an experiment on the Skylab space station prior earning BS Physics & BA Astronomy degrees with honors at University of Texas-Austin Following his MS Astronomy degree from Univ. Hawaii Mānoa, he began a career in observational astronomy at Mees Solar Observatory and LURE Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment on Haleakalā, then moved to the premier high-altitude site of Mauna Kea. There he worked at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF-3m), Canada-France-Hawai`i Telescope (4m) and Gemini Observatory (8m, Inc. Gemini South, Cerro Pachon, Chile). While at UH-Hilo, Hamilton has taught over 27 distinct courses in Physics and Astronomy, including special topics on Space Exploration and served as department chair in 2006. He was awarded the UH system 2017 Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  A founding member of the UH-Hilo Planetary and Astrogeology & Robotics (PaAR) group, and has proposed two sites for the Mars Human Landing/Exploration Zones workshop and has priority data from MRO.  

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Carmelle Robert

Ph.D., Université de Montréal, 1992

Carmelle Robert

Dr. Carmelle Robert is a professor at the Département de physique, de génie physique et d’optique of Université Laval (Québec, Canada) since 1998. She is now on a research leave at UHH (from September 2017 to April 2018).

As a graduate student, Dr. Robert investigated the wind clumps observed in the spectrum of the Cygnus Wolf-Rayet stars (using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope). She applied this expertise on massive stars to study starburst regions in distant galaxies in the ultraviolet light, while a postdoc (1991-1994) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore, MD, USA). In 1995 she moved to Université Laval with a Women Faculty Award from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

« The main objective of my research program is to characterize the different generations of stars in galaxies and to use this information to understand the various mechanisms that drive galaxy evolution. A key element for my work is the starburst regions. These are young – a few Myr old – star-forming regions with still many massive (> 10 solar mass) and bright objects, easy to identify even in distant galaxies. Massive stars emit most of their energy
in the ultraviolet wavelength range and it is therefore very useful to study starbursts in ultraviolet light, as now possible for example with the new Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) on board ASTROSAT. The high-energy ultraviolet photons produced by massive stars are also responsible for the ionization of HII regions, easy to observe in visible light. Older stellar generations (100 Myr to Gyr) contain objects less massive that have their emission peak in visible and near-infrared light. Integral Field Spectrographs, like SITELLE at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, are then used to get millions of spectra to analyze the stellar content and ionized gas over the whole surface of nearby galaxies. Stellar population synthesis codes are being developed and applied to reproduce the observed spectral energy distribution and the spectral lines for the blended generations of stars. The age, mass, and chemical abundances of the stellar populations give important clues to study the star-forming episodes in relation to different evolutionary scenario involving galaxy interactions, gas inflows, and secular processes like galactic bars. »

Contact Professor Carmelle Robert

Department of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus and in Memoriam Page Link