HPU offers a rigorous chemistry and biochemistry education that prepares students for graduate and health professional schools, as well as direct entry into the scientific workforce, through both conventional pathways and pre-health professions concentrations. Our chemistry program is modeled after the American Chemical Society (ACS) guidelines for undergraduate chemistry education while our biochemistry program is based on guidelines from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). All our students develop the intellectual, experimental, and communication skills needed to become effective scientific professionals. Our dedicated faculty work directly with students in hands-on experiences through undergraduate research and in our laboratory courses that are rich, relevant, and reflective of academic, industrial, and government laboratories.



Chemistry is the study of matter which makes up everything in the universe, including ourselves and our planet. As such, chemistry is central to the natural sciences, serving as a foundation for all other disciplines – biochemistry, biology, genetics, environmental and marine sciences, engineering, and even astronomy. Chemistry is also an excellent foundation for all of the health professions including medical, pharmacy, dental, and veterinary sciences. 

By studying chemistry, students develop an understanding of how the universe works at the fundamental molecular level. A strong background in chemistry can prepare students not only for service directly in the chemical arena (e.g. education, biotech companies, analytical chemistry, pharmaceutical research, synthesis, material sciences, quality control, etc.), but also for careers in many related disciplines (e.g. medical fields, environmental services, alternative fuels, etc.).

There is a wide range of career paths for students who major in chemistry. For more ideas, check out the American Chemical Society’s College to Career page, explore their Chemistry Careers, and view Chemist Profiles to get started in building your own unique career path. If you’ve already decided that chemistry might be a good fit for your goals, see Why Study Chemistry at HPU for more on how we can help you take the next step along your path.




Biochemistry is the study of the molecules and chemical reactions inside all living things. It is the discipline at the intersection of chemistry and biology that explores how thousands of different biomolecules organize into tens of thousands of biological functions that give rise to millions of different life forms. In short, biochemists use chemical knowledge and techniques to answer biological questions.

There are a wide range of career options for students who major in biochemistry. Because biological molecules are so fundamental to the function and interactions of organisms, biochemists study life at all levels – from individual molecules to entire ecosystems – making it an integral part of fields such as medicine, biomedical research, genetics, forensics, ecology, microbiology, plant sciences, zoology, and more. At the same time, training in biochemistry also develops transferable skills that allow biochemists to work in fields outside the sciences including law, cosmetic and food industries, manufacturing, publishing, sales/marketing, and many others. For more ideas, check out the Biochemical Society’s career guide as well as the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s "Exploring careers in biochemistry and molecular biology." These publications provide a great perspective on both the field and the types of career paths graduates can pursue with a biochemistry degree.



HPU offers:

  • Rigorous Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry through which our students develop the intellectual, experimental, and communication skills needed to become effective scientific professionals
  • A chemistry program built upon the American Chemical Society (ACS) guidelines for undergraduate chemistry education
  • A biochemistry program built upon the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) guidelines for undergraduate biochemistry education
  • Small class sizes and dedicated faculty who work directly with students in hands-on experiences in research and in laboratory courses
  • Lab courses that are rich, relevant, and reflective of academic, industrial, and government laboratories
  • Research labs that are highly accessible, well-equipped, and well-supported, including funding from the National Institutes of Health
  • Our conventional chemistry and conventional biochemistry pathways prepare students for graduate schools and direct entry into the scientific workforce while our pre-health chemistry and pre-health biochemistry concentrationsprepare students for entry into medical, pharmacy, veterinary, and dental schools



Pre-Health ProfessionsOur Pre-Health Professions Concentration trains students in the most essential chemistry curriculum while preparing them for entrance into professional schools in the health professions. With the support of our Pre-Health Professions Specialist, our graduates are well prepared for entry into health professions schools. Admissions exams like the MCAT have substantial components covering general, organic, and biochemistry.  These topics, along with math, become core areas of strength for chemistry majors who take the MCAT. At the same time, students in this concentration also take the biology courses needed for admissions to medical, pharmacy, and dental schools. The program’s unrestricted electives allow students to further tailor their degree plan to complete the required and recommended courses for the professional schools of choice. See our sample degree plans for our Pre-Health Professions Concentration in Chemistry or Pre-Health Professions Concentration in Biochemistry.




Gideon Berger, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Synthetic Organic Chemistry


Yongli Chen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor



Jiasong Fang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor



F. David Horgen, Ph.D.

Natural Products Chemistry

Christine Morales, Ph.D.

Christine Morales, Ph.D.

Physical Chemistry


Lei Wang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor




Cedric Kuo

Cedric Kuo, D.O.
From Minnesota and Serbia

B.S. Biochemistry/
B.S. Biology 2009

Doctor of Osteopathy,
Rocky Vista University 2015,
University of Hawaiʻi Family Medicine

Allyssia Boelk

Allyssia Boelk
Originally from Texas

B.S. Biochemistry 2012

Laboratory Technician National Institutes of Health

Kelly Galbraith

Kelly Galbraith, M.S.
Grew up in Japan and Hawaiʻi

B.S. Biochemistry 2011

M.S. Biochemistry, Kyoto University 2015
Ph.D. student, Neurobiology, Kyoto University

Chih Wei Chang

Chih-Wei Chang, M.D.
Originally from Taiwan, high school in Hilo, Hawaiʻi

B.S. Biochemistry/
B.S. Biology 2011
HPU Valedictorian

John A. Burns School of Medicine 2016

Leo Phuc Nguyen

Leo Phuc Nguyen, M.S.
Born in Vietnam, raised in Hilo, Hawaiʻi

B.S. Biochemistry/
B.S. Math 2013

M.S. Biomedical Engineering,
University of Pennsylvania, 2016

Hannah Seo

Hannah Seo
Originally from Chicago, Illinois

B.S. Biochemistry 2013

D.D.S. student,
University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Dentistry

Aaron Thomas

Aaron Thomas
Originally from Georgia

B.S. Chemistry 2014

Ph.D. student, Astrochemistry,
University of Hawaiʻi, 2015-present

U.S. Military Veteran

James Herman

James Herman
Originally from Seattle, Washington

B.S. Chemistry 2014

Quality Control Analyst,
Lantheus Medical Imaging

Erik Henze

Erik Henze
Originally from Kailua, Hawaiʻi

B.S. Biochemistry 2016

Ph.D. student, Biophysical Chemistry, Cornell University

Brendan ito

Brendan Ito
Originally from Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi

B.A. Psychology 2016, Minor in Chemistry

Ph.D. student starting Fall 2017,
Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University 

Marc Balintag

Marc Balintag
Originally from Guam

B.S. Chemistry 2017

U.S. Army Officer

Samantha Avina

Samantha Avina
Originally from California

B.S. Biochemistry 2017

Attending Rutgers University Biomedical Sciences REU Program, Summer 2017

Eduardo Palacios Fabre

Eduardo Palacios Fabre
Originally from Spain

B.S. Biochemistry 2017

M.S. student starting Fall 2017, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, Standford University

Helmi Merkhi

Helmi Merkhi
Originally from Tunisia

B.S. Environmental Science 2017, Minor in Chemistry

Working at Environmental Science International (Kailua, HI) and FQLabs (Honolulu, HI)



Undergraduate Research

HPU Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty offer approximately 25 undergraduate biomedical research experiences each year. These students also frequently have the opportunity to present their work at a scientific conference or contribute to publications. If you are a Federal Work Study student or just want to volunteer, contact our faculty below to inquire as to whether there are any open positions in their labs. One of  our most successful programs is the INBRE Student Research Experiences (SRE) program. Contact Dr. David Horgen ( or apply at the INBRE SRE website.

Faculty Investigators

Lei Wang, Ph.D. ( Structure and function of proteins involved in memory formation to treat Alzheimer's disease using DNA cloning, recombinant protein production, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and fluorescence techniques.

F. David Horgen, Ph.D. ( Biomedical potential of chemicals produced by marine organisms for cancer and other diseases, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), biological assays, NMR spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry.

Yongli Chen, Ph.D. ( Interaction of small molecules (natural products and modified) with ion channels (neurotransmitter receptors) using patch-clamp technique, molecular biology, and site-directed mutagenesis methods.

Gideon Berger, Ph.D. ( Synthesis of medicinally-relevant natural products and related analogues, development of general synthetic methodologies, and analysis of products (NMR, infrared, and mass spectrometry).

For more information, see a listing of our current student researchers, our recent student and faculty scientific publications, or a discovery made by two of our past student researchers.



Advanced InstrumentationThe Chemistry and Biochemistry Program creates high-impact hands-on training opportunities for the students in our instructional courses. While many universities restrict their advanced scientific instrumentation to research activities, at HPU, we’ve integrated our high-tech instrumentation into our teaching labs, training experienced student mentors to lead and supervise the instructional use of these instruments. These activities are part of the Student Instrumentation Mentoring (SIM) program, which relies on the efforts of our highly skilled undergraduate student team members. See more on our Shared Instrumentation Facility and our list of Advanced Instrumentation.

This year’s undergraduate student mentors are listed below.

SIM team members:

  • Adam Swanson
  • Brendan Ito
  • Brooke Pereda
  • Celeste Cravalho
  • Ciera McQuaid
  • Crista Chow
  • Duncan Gowdy
  • Dylon Goodson
  • Gigi Gonzales
  • Helmi Merkhi
  • Joseph Siclot
  • Marc Balintag
  • Mina Sohrabi
  • Mizha Dones
  • Mohammed Mansour
  • Polly Miller
  • Proebe Gensaya
  • Rachael Downham
  • Samantha Avina