The College of Engineering faculty, together with associates in other units of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and other universities around the world, periodically identify specific fields of collective interest. The College promotes these fields of interest called “research clusters.” The College invests energy to develop the College’s capabilities in these areas and uses these areas as a guide to hiring additional faculty. Currently, the College has identified eight distinct research clusters including:
AUTONOMOUS, UNMANNED SYSTEMS
The University of Hawai`i at Mānoa has nationally ranked programs in ocean and planetary science. Many of the College’s faculties are working with these programs in areas that require autonomous, unmanned system technology for space and ocean exploration applications.
BIG DATA AND CYBER SECURITY
Modern problems with large data sets present unique challenges not only because of the data size, but also because the data tends to be high dimensional and the questions asked are unlike anything before—from modeling complex and large order dependencies in biological data or sensor data with renewable sources to predicting rare and catastrophic events in non-parametric settings. As a consequence, the fifty-year old paradigm of representing and reproducing information is shifting to systematic knowledge extraction in the information sciences. This shift forms the first theme of research in this Cluster, reflected in reworking the foundations and algorithms of machine learning, information theory and statistics and therefore transforming a variety of applications in biology, finance, social networks. There is often a tension in what can be accomplished by the machine learning side versus what is desirable from a privacy/security standpoint, and this forms the second focus of the Cluster.
The University of Hawaii at Mānoa enjoys active research in its medical school and in the biological sciences. College faculty members are leveraging these programs in interdisciplinary work at the boundary of the physical, life, and medical sciences and engineering. College faculty members have active programs in bio-devices and bio-inspired design, bio-imaging, biomechanics, cellular and molecular engineering, and system biology.
As more people are moving to live in coastal communities, it is important to develop coastal infrastructure that can withstand natural hazards including hurricanes, storm surges, tsunamis, beach erosion, as well as long-term sea-level rise. The College has a tradition of working in civil infrastructure, especially in coastal structures. Faculty members are focusing their efforts on developing simulation tools for hazard prediction and improved engineering design of resilient and sustainable coastal infrastructure.
COMPUTER AND COMPUTATIONAL ENGINEERING
The computer engineering faculty have research strengths in security and networking, with emphasis on cyber security and privacy, wireless security, smart grid security, cloud security, mobile sensing, crowd-sourcing, real-time networking, broadband telecommunication networks, and survivable networks. In addition, the College has a new undergraduate degree in computer engineering in collaboration with the UH Manoa Department of Information and Computer Sciences. Computational engineering uses high performance simulations to analyze engineering systems and solve design problems. Models and theories from disciplines of engineering and sciences are utilized to understand and predict engineered and natural systems. Faculty research emphasis is on the innovative application of computational methods to cutting-edge engineering problems such as fluid-structure and fluid-particle interactions, coastal processes, remote sensing data analysis, structural design, meteorological and environmental fluid dynamics, thermal fluid transport, and micro-electro-mechanical systems.
RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ISLAND SUSTAINABILITY
An important challenge Hawai’i faces is to become self-reliant in energy, especially due to its geographic isolation and reliance on fossil fuels (oil). College faculty members are working on energy and sustainability issues ranging from renewable energy, smart grids, energy efficiency, energy harvesting, and energy storage. Faculty members collaborate across the UH Mānoa campus, the local Hawai‘i utility companies, UH community colleges, and other academic institutions. The Cluster is awaiting approval of a graduate certificate in Renewable Energy and Island Sustainability and provides many undergraduate courses in energy and sustainability. The Cluster also provides short courses in energy to the community and K-12 outreach both on campus and off campus from faculty and their students. Cluster faculty members have several research laboratories including the Smart Campus Energy Lab. and the Composites, Smart Structures, and Nanotechnology Lab.
SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL AND MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY
For Hawai‘i to be sustainable as an island-state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it must succeed in not only being self-sufficient in energy, but also in materials and manufacturing, in areas such as advanced materials, nanotechnology, recycling and remanufacturing, and environmental degradation. Advances in recycling and remanufacturing are needed to minimize dumping and the high cost of importation. For a sustainable future, materials need to be conserved and reused where possible due to impending raw materials shortages and the rising cost of energy for extraction and manufacturing. Locally, advances in remanufacturing are important for improving the effectiveness of the activities at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to maintain the naval fleet. Corrosion is also important to the Navy and Hawai’i. The Hawaiian Islands experience some of the steepest climatic gradients on Earth, generating a spatially diverse climate, making Hawai‘i a premier natural laboratory for corrosion research.
WATER, WASTE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING
Water is becoming a more and more scarce resource due to population growth, industrial development and global climate change. Island states/nations must deal with finite fresh water resources impacted by sustainable yield of ground water from basal aquifers and surface waters impacted by urban runoff. Equally, the disposal and recycling of municipal and industrial wastewaters as well as solid and hazardous wastes must be part of the dynamic in sustainable water usage. On island states these issues are even more environmentally sensitive as coastal recreation competes with waste disposal. College faculty members have a tradition of effectiveness in these areas with connections to many University, government and commercial entities.