Air Force Reserve doctor volunteers at science fair

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith
  • 624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs
When an Air Force Reserve doctor assigned to the 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron here received a phone call asking if he would serve as a judge at the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) District Science & Engineering Fair at Ioloni School in Honolulu, Hawaii, he did not hesitate to say, "Yes!"


Lt. Col. Nathan Kwon, a Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) physician with the 624th ASTS, arrived at the school bright and early on a Saturday morning in February for an orientation. His assignment? To evaluate the senior research division projects.


Pauline Higa, the HAIS science fair coordinator who invited Kwon to be a judge, said having professionals like him come to the school and interact with the students helps stimulate their passion for the sciences.


Kwon told the students that if they had any questions about how he was rating them to ask. Most of them did, he said, wanting to know how they could make their projects better. Kwon reviewed the students' research questions, design and methods, execution, creativity, poster presentations, and interview skills.


While judging the students, Kwon had a second mission--to find outstanding research projects related to the aerospace medical field. He found two that impressed him. On behalf of the 624th ASTS, Kwon presented the two students with Air Force Achievement certificates as well as unit "challenge coins" engraved with the unit's motto.


The chief senior research judge at the fair, Dr. Song K.Choi, Assistant Dean at University of Hawaii's College of Engineering, said, "We want the students to understand the military has a lot to do with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and that involves everything here that you see from microbiology to mathematics to engineering. We also want them to know that the military is here to help them further their education along these lines." Choi said he has worked with the military making unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV).


Kwon said he was impressed by the high level of academics and the sophistication of the students' research. "A lot of them work with college professors and go to the mainland during the summer to do research," he said.


A number of the projects Kwon judged advanced to the 57th Hawaii State Science & Engineering Fair scheduled to be held in April at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.


As for Kwon, he knows the value of science-based education having received his medical training from the Air Force. He said he signed up in 1991, not only to serve his country but to do make a difference. In 2004, he flew into Iraq 15 times to transport critically injured military personnel to hospitals in Germany and the U.S. More recently, he traveled to the Philippines with the Guam Army National Guard on a goodwill mission where he worked side-by-side with the Philippine military, sharing knowledge with medical providers.


Kwon said one of the highlights of the HAIS district fair was that two seniors were awarded an all-expense paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in Los Angeles, Calif., in May--the world's largest international pre-college science competition. At the end of the day, one of the students who received the 624th ASTS award found out she was selected for the Intel ISEF.


As a civilian, Dr. Kwon works full time as an emergency medicine physician at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii. One weekend a month and two weeks a year he serves at his Air Force Reserve unit here at Hickam Field.