28 Apr 2023

Women in Data Science Hawai‘i 2023


Women in Data Science (WiDS) aims to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, ​and to support women in the field. Hawai‘i’s 2023 virtual event will be held on Friday, April 28, 2023 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. HST and will feature local data scientists, professionals in data-informed fields, and also students aspiring towards careers in related fields.

A virtual lunch is provided to participants in the form of a coupon book to McDonalds. The coupon book supports Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawai‘i and can only be used in Hawai‘i. A pizza lunch is also possible for K-12 classrooms with a teacher sponsor who will show WiDS during lunch. Registration must be completed by April 17 to receive the RMHC-Hawai‘i or pizza virtual lunch

Register: https://tinyurl.com/widshawaii2023



Dr. Helen Turner, Professor of Biology and UN CIFAL Center Research Director

Dr. Helen Turner is a biologist and data scientist at Chaminade University. Her research interests are in the application of biophysical and data analytics techniques to understanding the interactions between human cells and exogenous inputs such as noxious small molecules, environmental toxins and emerging novel materials. She leads a portfolio of NSF, DOD and NIH funding focused on this research, capacity building for Data Science education and training, and STEM equity and inclusion. She is Principal Investigator of the NSF INCLUDES ALL-SPICE Alliance and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute ‘Inclusive Excellence’ Program, and leads NSF S-STEM and the Hoʻoulu STEM Scholars programs. After serving as Dean of Natural Sciences at Chaminade for 12 years and 4 years’ service as the university’s Vice President for Strategy and Innovation, she was recently appointed as the Research Director of Chaminade’s new United Nations CIFAL Center focused on sustainable development goals in Hawaii and the Indo-Pacific region. She loves walking, traveling to Japan and her new 4-month-old daughter Harriet Alice.

Leilani Reich, Student, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Leilani Reich is a senior Computer Science student, currently pursuing a B.S. in the Data Science track at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with an expected graduation in Spring 2023. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Virginia, Leilani was always fascinated with robots, which sparked her interest in programming. She moved to Hawaii after being awarded a scholarship and has been actively involved in the computer science community ever since. Aside from her studies, Leilani is a member of various clubs and organizations at the University of Hawaii, including the Manoa’s Scholars Club, where she participates in community activities like food drives and beach clean-ups. As a member of ICSpark, a student organization at UH, she helps mentor 6th – 12th grade students in web development with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Leilani also works as a Learning Assistant for ICS 211, a Java-based data structures course, where she advises students in lab and open office hours. Outside of UH activities, Leilani is currently an intern at HMSA’s Health Data Integration and Analytics Department. She is working on various healthcare projects, contributing to different business units and developing her knowledge of the industry. Additionally, Leilani recently started a micro-internship as part of the BIONIC project: RedDawn student team, where she helps research and identify key companies whose technologies can be utilized to combat the spread of misinformation/disinformation and counter malign influence. After graduation, Leilani aspires to be a full-time data scientist, but she is also interested in pursuing other areas of computer science, including mobile app development.

Blanca Polo, Professor of Information and Computer Sciences, Leeward Community College

Dr. Blanca Polo worked as a test engineer at Adtech before becoming a full time instructor at UHM.  She is currently a professor of information and computer science at Leeward Community College.  Her background includes programming, networking, human-computer interaction and mobile applications design and development. She can be seen teaching programming and networking courses on cable TV across the state of Hawaiʻi.

Beverly Rice, Graduate Student, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Beverly Rice is a second-generation Asian-American who was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She obtained a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California San Diego in 2010. She then received an Air Force Officer commission and supported alternative fuels research and soot emissions analysis for various aircraft. Her career expanded to encompass globally distributed military operations, which included a two-year assignment to South Korea where she worked with international partners. Beverly became interested in data science, particularly in the visualization, statistical analysis, and predictive analytics competencies and so pursued roles that allowed her to advance skills in these areas. She left the Department of Defense to apply the skills she gained towards advancing research in health and medicine.

Currently, Beverly is a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her current research focuses on network pharmacology as it relates to traditional medicine systems around the world. She is particularly interested in the mechanism of action and synergistic effects of multi-ingredient formulas and their respective chemical compounds. She is developing a machine learning platform to identify bioactive components and predict their single protein targets and associated biopathways within the human body. With her research, she hopes to identify alternative sources for medically important phytochemicals to increase accessibility to its associated therapeutic effects and to discover new and cost-effective medicines with minimal side effects.

When not focused on research, Beverly enjoys traveling and spending time with her family. She is married to a Space Force Officer, Dennis, and they have two boys, Benjamin and Samuel.

Elizabeth Gross, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

Dr. Elizabeth Gross is an interdisciplinary mathematician working in the field of algebraic statistics, an exciting and growing area at the intersection of statistics, algebraic geometry, combinatorics, and biology. Her research focuses on developing new mathematical tools to extract meaningful information from complex datasets, with applications ranging from evolutionary biology and ecology to social networks. Dr. Gross received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013 and joined the Department of Mathematics at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2018, where she is now an Associate Professor. She has quickly established herself as a leading researcher in her field, with numerous publications in top-tier journals and prestigious awards, including an NSF CAREER award and a teaching award from the Mathematical Association of America’s Golden Section. Dr. Gross’s journey to becoming a professor was untraditional. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Chico. After graduation, she worked for several years as a program coordinator at a local museum, where she honed her skills in communication, outreach, and public engagement. She then returned to graduate school, earning her master’s degree in mathematics from San Francisco State University before enrolling in the PhD program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Gross’s diverse background and interdisciplinary training have equipped her with a unique perspective and skillset that she brings to her research, teaching, and mentoring. She is a devoted teacher and mentor, with a strong commitment to supporting the next generation of mathematicians and data scientists.

Hanae Hara, President, Hitokuchi Consulting

Hanae Hara has built a career creating the art of the possible. She is honored to have served for over 15 years as a civilian with the US Navy. In a traditionally male-dominated field, Hanae is a highly successful subject matter expert for enterprise policy and program management in cybersecurity. As the president of Hitokuchi Consulting, she has pivoted to developing the next generation of cyber professionals from traditionally underrepresented communities. Hailing from Silicon Valley with an international childhood, Ms. Hara has a proven track record of translating geek into plain speak. Hanae began her career in commercial sales and took a chance as a project assistant with the Navy Modeling and Simulation Office. Over her career, she strategically raised her hand to learn and hone skills in policy development, conflict resolution, network security, cybersecurity, and program management. With a tiny-but-mighty team of three, she is proud to have led the cyber services that drove approval for the Navy Research & Development Establishment (NRDE) cloud, the Navy’s first research cloud and containerization deployment and 26 other network projects across Naval Information Warfare Center, Pacific. Recognizing a gap in workforce skills on cloud development, Hanae served as the Director for Organizational Development, cultivating on-demand training across technical and soft skills for a 5,400-person government workforce. Never one to sit by dispassionately, you will most likely find Ms. Hara connecting unlikely stakeholders together to create new opportunities for innovative solutions. As a minority woman in IT, Hanae understands the importance – and challenges – of diversity and inclusivity in every workplace. She has actively led initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality in the IT workspace and is an enthusiastic mentor of IT professionals across the color and gender sphere. When not strategizing the next big thing, Hanae can be found knitting, wandering Disneyland, or reading/listening to a book (or sometimes at the same time!). A committed supporter of causes that ensure basic nutrition for all in San Diego, Hanae is an avid supporter of Mama’s Kitchen, Kiku Gardens, and turning food donated by military families changing duty stations into meals to feed downtown San Diego’s most in need.

Tishya Chhabra, Research Intern, Arizona State University

Tishya is currently taking a gap year after graduating from Corona del Sol High School, planning to attend university for Computer Science in the fall. She’s always had a deep passion for the field. Currently, Tishya is a research intern with the Self-Organizing Particle Systems Lab at Arizona State University, where she works on algorithmic theory for programmable matter. She has co-authored two papers. The first was about using Voronoi diagrams to optimize the search for missing people, published at the International Conference on Distributed Computing (ICDCN) 2021. The second related to leader election in a 3D system of particles, which was published in ICDCN 2022. Beyond that, she has worked on the lab’s particle simulator, called AmoebotSim, and a Dynamic Networks Simulator. Tishya has also started a project with Peter Washington at UH Manoa, working on implementing Artificial Intelligence in the All of Us Database created by the NIH. During high school, Tishya was the first female president of AZTECH Robotics (FRC Team 6479), leading a 50-member team through all aspects of a season, like building, wiring, and programming the robot, teaching new members, planning competitions, and writing grants. She was formerly the Operational Director, where she led a team of seven through the Global Innovation Challenge. Together, they came up with an auto-adjusting basketball hoop, coupled with an app and website, to aid in special education students’ motor skill development; out of 883 international teams, they landed as a top-20 finalist with the innovative idea. Tishya recognizes the importance of spreading STEM, especially programming and tech. She started a hackathon for all the schools in her school district, which in its inaugural year, had over 60 participants and $2,600+ in prizes. The foundation she laid was used again for this year’s hackathon, and will continue to be used in the years to come. She also started a Girls Who Code club in her school, developing a curriculum to teach 16 members Python. Finally, Tishya also worked with Codepioneers, a non-profit where she also taught Python to over 40 middle schoolers. Tishya wants to continue working in computer science, because she believes it can be leveraged in any field to make things better.


Kim Binsted, Professor of Information and Computer Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Kim Binsted received her BSc in Physics at McGill (1991), and her PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh (1996). She then went to Japan, where she conducted research at Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories on human-computer interfaces, and started a company, I-Chara KK, which developed social software agents for mobile phones. In 2002, she joined the faculty of the Information and Computer Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii, where she is now a full professor, and does research on AI, astrobiology and long-duration human space exploration. She also completed a MS in Planetary Geology in 2015, attempting to characterize the deuterium-hydrogen ratio in the primitive Earth mantle. Dr. Binsted was a NASA Summer Faculty Fellow at Ames Research Center in 2003 and 2004, where she worked on sub-vocal speech recognition technology in the Neuroengineering Lab. She was Chief Scientist on the FMARS 2007 Long Duration Mission, a four-month Mars exploration analogue on Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic. In 2009/10, she spent her sabbatical as a visiting scientist at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She was a co-investigator at the UH-NASA Astrobiology Institute (2003-2014). She spent the summers of 2016 and 2017 at the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow on a Fulbright award. In 2018-19, she was an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow in Senator Whitehouse’s office in Washington DC. Dr. Binsted is the principal investigator on the NASA-funded HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, hi-seas.org) project, which conducts long-duration space exploration simulations at an isolated habitat on Mauna Loa. Her hobbies include flying, diving, kayaking, cooking and improvisational comedy. For a list of publications and other information, see http://www2.hawaii.edu/~binsted.

Martha E. Crosby, Professor of Information and Computer Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Dr. Martha E. Crosby is a Professor in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She has a background in mathematics, computer science and educational psychology and has consistently worked on the leading edge of computer applications. Her methods and programs for prediction of the ionosphere’s characteristics from a very early stage of the computer age were adopted for international use by the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva Switzerland and have been in use for long-distance short-wave radio communication and are a back-up for the military when satellite communication is interrupted. Dr. Crosby is one of the first researchers to use eye movements to investigate the cognitive processes by which people understand algorithms, a methodology that has now become highly influential, with the greater availability of eye-tracking technology. She has extended this work to the use of other physiological measures, such as heart rate, seeking to understand the basis for differences in performance and to integrate an understanding of individual differences in the development of adaptive software so as to better meet individual needs. She received a patent, with Dr. Curtis Ikehara, for an input device to continuously detect biometrics or a “pressure mouse.” In addition to the importance of continuous authentication for security applications, this technology can predict peoples’ cognitive load giving researchers an ability to understand differences in their performance. Understanding peoples’ individual perception of task difficulty is a step toward the goal of building adaptive software to better meet individual needs.

Karen Meech, Astronomer, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaiʻi

Karen Meech is an astronomer/astrobiologist who investigates how habitable worlds form, exploring the bigger picture of whether there is life elsewhere. She uses the left-over pieces from our solar system’s formation to provide information to test our understanding of how planetary systems are assembled and habitable worlds form. Her work has embraced the power of interdisciplinary science and she is combining geological field work, geochemistry, astronomical observations, theory and space mission concepts to address fundamental questions about how Earth got its water. She first got interested in astronomy in elementary school, camping outside in the backyard with her dad in the summer, looking up at the stars, and was determined to make astronomy her career when Star Trek came out on TV in 1967. She began her career in physics and astronomy, with an undergraduate degree in Space Physics from Rice University and a Ph.D. in planetary physics from MIT in 1987 studying comets, after which she joined the faculty at the University of Hawai’i. She has served as the Graduate chair and the Interim Director for the IfA. She was Co-Investigator on three comet missions: Deep Impact, EPOXI and Stardust-NeXT. She has been leading the development of a space mission to study icy material in the asteroid belt, and lead the team to characterize the first interstellar object that was discovered passing through our solar system. She has won many awards for her work including the Heaps Prize in Physics, the Annie Jump Cannon Award, the Harold C. Urey Prize, the William Tylor Olcott Distinguished Service Award of the AAVSO, the IfA Director’s Research Excellence Award, the UH Regent’s Medal for Research Excellence and ARCS Scientist of the year, two NASA Group Achievement Awards for work on the EPOXI and Stardust-NExT missions, and most recently the Dannie Heineman Prize of the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics.

Laura Tipton, Assistant Professor of Data Science, Chaminade University of Honolulu

Dr. Tipton is an assistant professor of data science at Chaminade University of Honolulu. Her research focuses on interactions, usually microbe-microbe interactions within a microbiome, but she dabbles in human-computer interactions and human-human interactions through digital humanities. She teaches courses in AI/machine learning, modeling, and digital humanities. This is her second year as a professor and being involved with Women in Data Science. Laura can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in science and math but will never forget falling in love with statistics in high school. It felt like math that had to make sense in the real world! She has applied that love of statistics and making numbers make sense to everything she’s done since. After high school, Laura majored in biostatistics as an undergraduate at University of Virginia, and went to work at George Washington University Biostatistics Center as a research assistant analyzing data from clinical trials. While there she earned a master’s in statistics and was introduced to microbiomes, the collection of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes and their abiotic factors that make up a community. Deciding this is what she wanted to research, she moved to Pittsburgh to pursue a PhD in the joint Carnegie Mellon University – University of Pittsburgh Computational Biology program. Her dissertation focused on quantitatively analyzing the human lung microbiome. Realizing how little was known about the fungi present, and fungi in general, she sought out a fungal research group in which to do a post-doc, which landed her in Hawaii at UH Manoa where she researched the fungi in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa Observatory. Having fallen in love with Hawaii, Laura is now at Chaminade University of Honolulu and sharing her love of analysis by teaching data science.

Thanh Truc Nguyen


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