University of Hawaii at Hilo

Natural Sciences Division

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Department of Physics and Astronomy Faculty

Group photo of the physics and astronomy faculty listed below
Philippe Binder John Coney Kathy Cooksey Richard Griffiths John C. Hamilton
R. Pierre Martin Marc Roberts Marianne Takamiya (Department Chair)    
Robert A. Fox (emeritus) William D. Heacox (emeritus) Richard A. Crowe
(in Memoriam)
Norman G. Purves (in Memoriam)  

Philippe Binder

Ph.D., Yale University, 1989

Philippe Binder

Dr. Binder is currently a Professor of Physics at UH Hilo. He moved to UH Hilo in 2001 from Universidad de Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). He has taught Physics for the Liberal Arts, Quantum Mechanics for the Liberal Arts, Introductory Physics (calculus and algebra-based), Introductory Experimental Physics, General Astronomy Lab, Computational Physics and Astronomy, Modern Physics, Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics I and II, Chaos, Mathematical Physics, Electronics, Optics, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics and Foundations of Thermodynamics. During 2013-2014 he has led a project to upgrade the Department’s Freshman Physics Labs.

Dr. Binder is a referee for Chaos, the Physical Review and the American Journal of Physics. He has biographies in “Who's Who in Science and Engineering” and “Who’s Who in the World”. He was a Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Santa Barbara, California in the Summer of 2006, a Visiting Professor at the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas, Austin, in Fall of 2008, and a Fellow at the New England Complex Systems Institute in the Summer of 2013.
Dr. Binder's research broadly addresses four loosely related themes. The first is the analysis of realistic time series in search for chaos and with view to predicting and understanding natural phenomena. The second is the study of information as one of the possibly most fundamental currencies in nature. The third is the search for a general understanding of the phenomena known as complex systems. The fourth is the modeling of population-resources-environment systems, with emphasis on scenarios for the Island of Hawaii. He actively involves undergraduate students in this work as well as in research addressing physics education. He recently co-edited a book on Language as a Complex System.
Dr. Binder has been Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy for a total of four years during the periods 2009-2011, and 2013-2014. He has won the Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities (2009) and the Koichi and TaniyoTaniguchi Award for Excellence in Innovation (2013).
His training includes an M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College (Santa Fe), a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Yale University and three years of post-doctoral work at the University of Oxford (England).

Contact Prof. Binder.

John Coney

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

John ConeyJohn Coney is support staff and technician for the Physics and Astronomy department at UH Hilo. He holds a B.S. in computer science and a M.Ed. in educational technology. John brings an oceanographic instrumentation background to the progam and previously managed a scanning electron microscope facility for over twenty years. He hopes to apply this experience to the UH Hilo observatory on Mauna Kea.

Contact John Coney

Kathy Cooksey

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:


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

An Aiea High School alumni (1973) from O`ahu, John was one of 25 NASA Skylab Student Experiment finalists flying an astronomy project to obtain UV spectra from QSOs (quasi-stellar objects). He earned a B.A. in astronomy and B.S. in physics in 1977 with honors at the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master’s in astronomy at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1980.
Hamilton worked on Haleakala, Maui observing the Sun in support of the NASA Solar-Max satellite, followed by work with laser-ranging satellites at LURE (Lunar Ranging Experiment) observatory.  He then moved to Hawai`i island working as operator and observer support at the NASA Infra-Red Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, as well as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and Gemini Observatory.  He then joined the Department of Physics & Astronomy faculty at the University of  Hawai`i at Hilo as an Instructor while also working on projects such as the UHH Hoku Kea telescope on Mauna Kea, establishing the Ashra cosmic ray observatory on Mauna Loa, and joining PISCES in 2007 as Research Operations Manager, and later as acting Director (2012)
Hamilton has received the JUSTSAP Outstanding Service Award (2008), three NASA Group Achievement Awards for the In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) RESOLVE Team (2008), the ISRU Analog Demo Team (2010), and the International Lunar Surface Operations ISRU Field Test (2011).  In 2014 he received the NASA Certificate of Appreciation for the Mauna Kea/Mars analogue geology project.
Hamilton currently pursues research on rocky planetary bodies (Moon, Mars, Asteroids) and conducts field work at analog sites on island.  He has taught numerous courses on Astronomy and Physics in the department, as well as multiple projects involving students.  Complete list of courses and c.v. can be found on his home faculty page
He has been Principle Investigator on NASA grants, including the current PSTAR (Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research) grant entitled BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lave Terrains).

Hamilton currently is also on release time to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.  PISCES was legislatively transferred to the Office of Aerospace Development at DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism) in 2012, John became the Test Logistics and Education/Public Outreach Manager while still maintaining faculty status at UH-Hilo.  He has since worked with several Google Lunar X-Prize teams and projects and has been a judge at the 2013 NASA Lunabotics Competition, as well as the first 2 NASA Robotics Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center in 2014 and 2015.

Contact Mr. Hamilton.

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

Marc Roberts

Marc Roberts, Physics Lab Coordinator

UH HIlo Physics lab coordinator.






Contact Marc Roberts

Marianne Takamiya (chairman)

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 .

Robert A. Fox (Emeritus)

Ph.D., New York University, 1971

Robert A. Fox (Emeritus)

Professor Fox retired from the University in 2009, after serving for almost forty years.  During many of these years, he chaired the Physics and Astronomy Department.  He served several terms as Chair of the Faculty Senate and was Head of the Natural Sciences Division.  Dr. Fox’s professional career has taken several turns over the years.  His original research was in multiphoton ionization of alkalai metals and positron chemistry.  In 2001, he co-founded the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and served as its Deputy Director until his retirement.  More recently, Dr. Fox has become recognized as an international expert in the politics and policy of school choice having published extensively in major educational journals.  His recent book, “Proud to be Different: Ethnocentric Niche Charter Schools in America,” was published in 2014 by Rowman & Littlefield, and he is currently under contract with Wiley-Blackfield to produce a definitive “Handbook of School Choice. 

William D. Heacox (Emeritus)

Ph.D., University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1977

William D. Heacox

Professor Heacox holds degrees in Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy. He received several research, instrumentation, and training grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and private foundations. He is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the American Geophysical Union. He has held professional positions at NASA’s Goddard and Johnson Space Flight Centers, and Ames Research Center; the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona; Carter Observatory (New Zealand); the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii; and at the University of Hawaii at Hilo from 1996 until his retirement in 2012. He taught the full range of undergraduate astronomy courses and also several upper-division physics courses. 

Professor Heacox is a combat veteran of the Vietnam conflict, where he flew more than 200 reconnaissance missions. He served as a smokejumper in Montana and trained briefly as a space shuttle mission specialist candidate. His hobbies include photography and the collection and study of geological minerals.

Contact Prof. Heacox.

Richard Crowe (In Memoriam)

Ph.D., University of Toronto, Canada, 1984

Richard A. CroweDr. Richard Crowe was an astronomy professor in the Department from 1987 until his death in 2012. His teaching responsibilities included many lower and upper-division courses in both physics and astronomy.
Dr. Crowe obtained his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Astronomy from the University of Western Ontario in 1977 and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1984. Before joining the Department he was the Resident Observer for the University of Toronto 24-inch Southern Observatory at Las Campanas, Chile (1977-1978) and the Canadian Resident Astronomer for the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope (CFHT) (1984-1987), the latter with scientific and public relations duties. His research was in the areas of pulsating stars, stellar evolution and spectroscopy. He also had an interest in the area of science education and criticism of pseudoscience. Prof. Crowe was the Astronomer-in-Residence at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i since 2006, and did many planetarium presentations in that capacity.


Norman G. Purves (In Memoriam)

M.S., University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1979

Norman G. PurvesUH Hilo Instructor of Physics and Astronomy. His teaching responsibilities at UH Hilo are General Physics Laboratory, General Astronomy and Laboratory, and Physics for the Liberal Arts.