Welcome home, Clay Wakano

”Ask not what Hawaii can do for you, ask what you can do for Hawaii.” For Clay, the answer was the key to his successful return home.

Clay Wakano is proudly FBI, From Big Island. He attended Waiakea High School and UH Manoa where he received his Masters and PhD in Microbiology. He then went on to a prestigious postdoc at the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

As a research scientist, Clay left Hawaii to broaden his knowledge. But the longer he was away, the harder it became to stay up to date with happenings in Hawaii. He had to make it a point to stay in touch with friends and industry colleagues. When he and his wife thought about starting a family, they became acutely aware of the fact that they were all alone, far from their ohana support system. Soon a family emergency tipped them over the fence and they decided it was time to return home. That’s when his efforts to stay connected paid off.

Even though he is specialized in his field, Clay was able to find a great job that allowed him to bring his expertise to Hawaii. His advice to kama`aina hoping to come home: don’t assume that because you are specialized and no one in Hawaii is doing what you do, you can’t come home.  You can be the expert who brings your specialty to Hawaii and develops it here. We need more talented people like Clay to bring home their experiences to build Hawaii’s science and tech industry!

Hear more advice from Clay in the podcast below.

Podcast music by Yeyey

Do you have a story you’d like to share? I want to hear it! Drop me a line at cindy@htdc.org.


Clay’s family support system for his son is one of the big reasons he’s making it work in Hawaii!

Clay is a Molecular Cell Biologist/Scientist at the Hamamatsu-Queen’s High Throughput Screening Laboratory, Queen’s Medical Center. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He continued his training as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute (National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland), where he gained expertise in the study of genes using biochemical and live-cell imaging techniques.


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