Updated 12:00 PM ET January 24, 2000
By June Odessa Yago
Ka Leo O Hawaii
(U-WIRE) HONOLULU -- Of all the researchers in all the universities across the country, the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring is given to only 10.
The University of Hawaii's Richard Radtke is one of them.
The award recognizes individuals and institutions that are exceptional in the encouragement of minorities, women and people with disabilities in the pursuit of careers in science, engineering and technology. The award is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Radtke works in the university's Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. He balances his time between his research and various community projects.
Some of Radtke's current projects include studying the life history aspects of char (a type of fish in the same genus as trout) and looking at cod on Georgia's bank on the east coast.
"In Alaska, we have the dreamcatcher's project, where we interact with school districts," Radtke said. "It's a lecture series for different schools, where we talk about science and people with disabilities. The group is put together with the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Anchorage and UH."
Another project of Radtke's is the Hawai'i Ocean of Potentiality. "There are different camps throughout the state. One of the project's goals is getting people in Hawai'i and Alaska with disabilities involved with hard sciences," Radtke said.
Radtke is restricted to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis and has mentored 80 youths, 13 years and over, with physical disabilities. He has encouraged blind youths to paddle canoes and inspired deaf students to express their observations through sign language.
"I am paralyzed from the neck down, so I have lots of students in the lab helping with lab and office work," Radtke said. "When we go in the field, it's always an entourage. As a result, it was easy to mentor under those situations. I was asked to help with NSF, and it blossomed pretty quickly."
Radtke has also participated in presentations to the public via school visits and public television programs. In 1996, Radtke received the university's Robert W. Clopton Award for Service to the Community.
The Clopton Award came about as a result of Radtke's involvement in several organizations. He is serving on the Board of Directors for places such as Easter Seals, the Hawai'i Center of Independent Living and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"I work with many issues, both legal and practical," Radtke said. "I just came off the Board of Winners at Work, a program to help people with disabilities get into employment."
The 10 national honorees were selected from among 36 nominated for the individual awards. The award includes a $10,000 grant and a commemorative presidential certificate.
With his grant, Radtke is looking at setting up a program with the University
of California at Berkeley called "Galaxies and Ocean." He would also like
to set up online and distance learning for people with disabilities in
the subjects of astronomy and oceanography. "The rest of the funds will
go to the Ocean of Potentiality project," he said.