Faculty & Staff

We have five professors, one instructor, and one support staffer as full-time Department members. We also have several affiliate faculty who work with faculty and students, on research or education activities.

Rachel E. Baker
Lecturer, Physics and Astronomy
Office: STB-212
Ph: 808-932-7181
Email rachel21@hawaii.edu
Philippe Binder
Office: STB-217
Ph: 808-932-7196
Email pbinder@hawaii.edu
John Coney
Support Staff
Office: STB-218
Ph: 808-932-7187
Email jconey@hawaii.edu
Al Conrad
Affiliate Faculty
Office: STB-212
Ph: 808-932-7028
Email aconrad@hawaii.edu
Nicole Drakos
Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Office: STB-219
Ph: 808-932-7195
Email ndrakos@hawaii.edu
Richard Griffiths
Affiliate Faculty
Office: STB-216
Ph: 808-932-7190
Email Griff2@hawaii.edu
Catherine Ishida
office: STB-216
Ph: 808-932-7190
Email cshida@hawaii.edu
John Hamilton
Affiliate Faculty
office: STB-211
Ph: 808-932-7189
Email jch@hawaii.edu
Heather Kaluna
Assistant Professor
(Department co-chair)
Office: STB-221
Ph: 808-932-7191
Email kaluna@hawaii.edu
Kathy Malone
Assistant Professor
Office: STB-216
Ph: 808-932-7190
Email kmalone@hawaii.edu
R. Pierre Martin
Associate Professor & Director, UH Hilo Educational Observatory
(Department Co-Chair)
Office: STB-222
Ph: 808-932-7028 U
Email rpm33@hawaii.edu
Dan O'Connor
Office: STB-215
Ph: 808-932-7186
Email danoc@hawaii.edu
Benito T. "Ben" Szapiro
Lecturer, Physics and Astronomy
Office: STB-212
Ph: 808-932-7181
Email bszapiro@hawaii.edu
Marianne Takamiya
(On sabbatical)
Office: STB-219
Ph: 808-932-7194
Email takamiya@hawaii.edu




Heather Kaluna (Department Co-Chairperson), Associate Professor

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

Professor Heather Kaluna

Dr. 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.

UH Hilo Stories, UH Hilo alumna, working on her PhD in Australia, inspires high school students to study STEM

Contact Dr. Kaluna.

Website: www.sites.google.com/view/hkaluna-academia

STB-221, ph: 808-932-7191, Campus Directory



R. Pierre Martin (Department Co-Chairperson), Associate Professor & Director of UH Hilo Educational Observatory

Ph.D., Université Laval, 1992

R. Pierre Martin

Dr. R. Pierre Martin is an Associate Professor of Astronomy and the Director of the UH Hilo Educational Observatory. 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 evolution of the Milky Way, massive star formation in galaxies, galaxy morphology, planetary nebulae, telescopes and instrumentation, astronomy from the Moon, and the optimization of the observational process for professional observatories. Outside of work, he is a rock music drummer and an amateur historian, and he enjoys time at home with his wife and cats.

Contact Dr. Pierre Martin.


STB-222, ph: 808-932-7028, Campus Directory



Rachel E. Baker, Lecturer

Ph.D., Caltech, 1990

Rachel Baker

Dr. Rachel Baker received her PhD in Applied Mathematics at Caltech in 1990. After receiving her degree, she worked as a spacecraft engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company (now Boeing Space Systems), where she did modeling of spacecraft dynamics in support of spacecraft design. She went into teaching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she became an Associate Professor of Aerosapce Engineering. At Embry-Riddle, she helped develop the Space option in Aerospace Engineering and taught dynamics and spacecraft design. Moving to Hawai'i in 2008 to spend more time with her two young children, she began lecturing at the University of Hawai'i, Hilo - first in Mathematics, then later switching over to Physics. She has a passion for glass art and has a fused glass studio at her home where she creates beautiful things in glass.

Contact Prof. Baker.

STB-212, Ph: 808-932-7181, Campus Directory



Philippe Binder, Professor

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.

STB-217, Ph: 808-932-7196, Campus Directory



John Coney, Support Staff

M.Ed., University of Hawai'i at Manoa, 2012

John Coney

John Coney is the support staff and technician for the Physics and Astronomy department at UH Hilo. He holds a B.S. in computer science and an 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 has previously managed a scanning electron microscope facility. He hopes to apply this experience to the UH Hilo Educational Observatory on Maunakea. 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 enjoys working at a place that makes science fiction a reality!

Contact John Coney.

www.johnpconey.com, www.hawaii.edu/~jconey

STB-218, ph: 808-932-7187, Campus Directory



Nicole Drakos

Ph.D., University of Waterloo, 2019

Visiting Professor Nicole DrakosNicole Drakos is a computational astrophysicist, who studies structure formation in the Universe. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo in 2019, where she modelled how dark matter halos evolve during mergers. She then spent four years at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a postdoctoral fellow making simulated galaxy catalogs for future high-redshift surveys with the Nancy Grace Roman Space telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. She joined the Physics & Astronomy Department at the University of Hawai’i, Hilo in 2023."

Contact Dr. Drakos.

STB-219, ph: 808-932-7195, Campus Directory



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.

STB-216, ph: 808-932-7190



Kathy Malone, Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy

Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University

Assistant Professor Kathy Malone

Dr. Kathy Malone received her PhD in Instruction and Cognition with a specialization in Physics Education and a MA in Instructional Science from Carnegie Mellon University. Her bachelor’s degrees and an MA in Science Teaching were awarded from the University of New Orleans. She had the honor of serving as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation for 2 years in the Directorate of Education and Human Resources. Her postdoctoral study occurred at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. She was an Assistant Professor of STEM education at The Ohio State University and most recently served as an Associate Professor of STEM/STEAM education at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Dr. Malone has participated in several astronomy projects with groups such as NOAO and CAPER including data collection on Kitt’s Peak. Her research focuses on the implementation of STEM and STEAM education from primary to college. Her grant funded projects have spanned the spectrum from transitioning UG STEM teaching towards more authentic practices as well as implementing physics and engineering projects at the primary school level, both in the US and abroad.

Contact Dr. Malone.

STB-216, ph: 808-932-7190, Campus Directory



Dan O'Connor, Instructor

PhD in Physics from UH Manoa in 1990

Dan O'Connor, Physics Lab Coordinator





Contact Dr. Dan O'Connor.

STB-211, ph; 808-932-7186, Campus Directory



Benito T. "Ben" Szapiro, Lecturer

Ph. D. in Physics. University of Buenos Aires, R. Argentina (1985)

Benito Szapiro

“Numerical simulations of implosions of thick shell ICF targets irradiated by lasers” • M.S. in Physics. University of Buenos Aires, R. Argentina (1980). “Cold cathode electron beam controlled CO2 laser amplifiers” Dr. Szapiro was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is married with two children and two grandchildren and currently resides in Hilo, HI. RESEARCH BACKGROUND Gas Lasers, Optics, Physics of Fluids, Plasma Diagnostic Techniques, Controlled Nuclear Fusion, High Voltage Discharges, Pulsed Power Generation, Secondary Electron Emission, Electron Beam Generation, Recombination Lasers, X-Ray Lasers, Spectroscopy, Digital Video Techniques, Nonlinear Science, Laser Materials Processing..


Contact Dr. Szapiro

STB-212, ph: 808-932-7181, Campus Directory



Marianne Takamiya (On sabbatical), Professor

Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1998

Marianne Takamiya

UH Hilo 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.

STB-220, ph: 808-932-7194, Campus Directory

Adjunct and Affiliate Faculty



Michael Bottom, Adjunct Professor

Ph.D., Caltech University, 2016

Michael Bottom

I am an experimental astrophysicist. My research interests are the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets and their host stars, and I pursue these goals by building, developing, and using new instruments. I primarily work in the field of high-contrast imaging and also have experience with radial velocity exoplanet instrumentation. Previously to joining the faculty of the IfA, I was an optical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, working on developing the WFIRST Coronagraph camera, formation flying sensors for the Starshade mission, and wavefront sensing for large ground-based telescopes. I also led small a team in developing new post-processing algorithms for exoplanet imaging. To find out more about my research, visit my group website here.

IFA faculty Directory

Contact Prof. Michael Bottom.

STB-212, Ph: 808-932-7028, Campus Directory



Al Conrad, Affiliate Faculty

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



Richard Griffiths, Affiliate Faculty

Ph.D., University of Leicester, 1972

Richard Griffiths

Richard 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.

STB-216, ph: 808-932-7190, Campus Directory

John C. Hamilton, Affiliate Faculty

M.S., University of Hawai'i 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.

Contact Mr. Hamilton.

STB-215, ph: 808-932-7189, Campus Directory

Other contact information:

  • Conference room, STB-210, 932-7185
  • Natural Science Fax: 808-932-7295
  • Observatory Control room, STB-214, 932-7188
  • Polycom conference ip:
  • STB-206 (computer lab) - 932-7959
  • STB-208 (Instrument Research) 932-7960
  • STB-223 (Physics Research) 932-7961
  • STB-224 (Optics lab) 932-7962
  • UH Hilo Security: 932-7013

We are located @

200 W. Kawili St., Hilo, Hi 96720

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