Undergraduate Research and Inquiry

In the Natural Sciences (Biology and Biochemistry majors), Chaminade initiates research-like activities with inquiry based curriculum and early exposure to advanced instrumentation in the first year biology core courses (BI205 and 206) which cover students’ first two semesters. A first year seminar (BI100) showcases the ‘big questions’ and global challenges that biomedical scientists and health practitioners face. BI104, a first year Digital Biology Seminar, exposes students to the importance of computational and ‘big data/’omic’ approaches, and BI105L is a half-semester course that sharpens their basic laboratory techniques.

Scientific method, use of digital resources and primary papers, and inquiry-based approaches are enshrined in the Program Learning Outcomes and Course Learning Outcomes of most subsequent courses in their 4 year degrees. Two writing intensive ‘Science Writing I and II’ courses are taken in the junior year, with the first semester focusing on development of a research proposal and use of primary literature. The second semester focuses upon biomedical and research ethics and research conduct. A required semester of biostatistics (BI311) is a necessary complement to student exposure to research and inquiry.

Students are required to perform one full-semester research project (BI495, capstone course) and may complete a second semester of Honors Research (BI499). From sophomore year onward students are eligible for on-campus or off-campus U.S. mainland or international research internships (semester or summer) funded in full by either our program grants (INBRE, LSAMP, faculty research grants) or by external partnerships (FASEB, Endocrine Society, NSF REU, NAPIRE and others).

All students who perform an on- or off-campus research internship present their work at our in-house celebration of student scholarship (Na Liko Na’auo Symposium), the John A Burn’s School of Medicine Annual Biomedical Symposium (compulsory for INBRE funded students) and are sent to either the SACNAS or ABRCMS national undergraduate research meetings (20-22 students per year). In recent years we have also begun to send (1-3 students per year) undergraduate researchers to professional scientific meetings (Harvard Conference on Modeling of Infectious Disease, Endocrine Society Meeting, Society for Gynecologic Investigation, American Academy of Forensic Sciences).

Students from Chaminade regularly win awards at national undergraduate meetings and students are encouraged to study in faculty research laboratories for sufficient lengths of time to make significant research contributions. The latter has been successful in recent years with two first author publications for undergraduates in submission from Dr. Claire Wright’s Laboratory of Reproductive Tissue development and 6 undergraduate authorships on papers from Dr. Helen Turner’s laboratory since 2012. Dr. David Carter’s Laboratory of Forensic Microbiology has published three papers in the last year with Chaminade student authors. Dr. Mike Dohm (Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology) and Dr. Joel Kawakami (Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry) have also published papers in 2009 and 2012 with undergraduates as authors.

The Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has a dedicated faculty member, Dr. Jolene Noelani Cogbill who coordinates student research internships and a standing Internship Committee that writes letters of support and helps liaise with external programs.

Research Environment


  • Laboratory of Immunology and Signal Transduction – Dr. Helen Turner, Ph.D
  • Lab of Reproductive Tissue Development – Dr. Claire Wright, Ph.D
  • Lab of Ecological Genomics – Dr. Michael Domm, Ph.D
  • Laboratory of Cancer Biology – Dr. Joan Kuh, Ph.D
  • Laboratory of Forensic Taphonomy – Dr. David Carter, Ph.D
  • Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry¬†– Dr. Joel Kawakami, Ph.D

Other faculty research programs

  • Dr. Mark Speck is a post-doctoral fellow specializing in the use of ‘big data’ visualizations and analytics to address problems in immunology.
  • Dr. Eric Umemoto is an NIH funded lecturer with an interest in membrane dynamics of activating immune cells during microbial or viral infection
  • Dr. Michael Weichhaus studies the impact of obesity and other metabolic disorders on cancer progression.