posted November 27, 2006

William Polik of Hope Faculty Elected AAAS Fellow

Dr. William F. Polik of the Hope College chemistry faculty has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

AAAS Fellows are elected for having made scientifically or socially distinguished efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications. Polik was chosen for outstanding accomplishments in physical chemistry, especially the vibrational properties of small molecules; for mentoring of undergraduates through research; and for leadership in educational policy.

A total of 449 AAAS members have been elected Fellows this year and will be honored on Saturday, Feb. 17, during the association's annual meeting, being held in San Francisco, Calif. Polik is one of only 60 scientists nationwide being honored in chemistry.

"It's a tremendous honor," said Dr. Moses Lee, who is dean for the natural sciences and professor of chemistry at Hope. "Will is a leader in his field, and this unequivocally indicates so."

"I think this is also excellent recognition of the quality of our program--that we have colleagues such as Will, and to have them recognized among such an outstanding group of scientists and professors in the nation," Lee said.

The mix of institutions with Fellows includes national research laboratories; Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale; and comprehensive universities among which are Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. Only a small percentage of the Fellows are from undergraduate colleges like Hope, none of which are in Michigan.

Founded in 1848, the AAAS represents the world's largest federation of scientists, and works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications. With more than 120,000 members and 262 affiliated societies, the AAAS conducts many programs in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. The AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal "Science."

The tradition of naming AAAS Fellows began in 1874, with Fellows selected following a review process that begins with nomination to one of the association's 24 science sections, which focus on fields ranging from anthropology; to education; to mathematics; to the social, economic and political sciences.

Polik is the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at Hope. A specialist in physical chemistry, he uses lasers to study the details of chemical reactions, and maintains an active research program that involves Hope students. Since joining the Hope faculty, he has received 46 grants and awards totaling more than $2 million in support of his research, has given 56 invited seminars and has written 52 articles--including 15 co-authored with 20 Hope students who have worked with him on his research.

He has been especially committed to involving undergraduate research students in his research program, with between three and five students typically conducting research at any given time. During his time at the college his research program has involved 50 students, of whom 10 now have Ph.D. degrees, nine have master's degrees and five are currently in graduate school. Three of his research students have been awarded National Science Foundation or Department of Defense postdoctoral fellowships, and three have been awarded the college's top prize for creativity in independent research.

Polik has been an active advocate at the national level for undergraduate research and education in a variety of ways. He is currently serving a three-year term as chairperson of the national Committee on Professional Training (CPT) of the American Chemical Society (ACS). In the fall of 2005, he organized a symposium on "Envisioning Undergraduate Chemistry Education in 2015," held during the national ACS meeting in Washington, D.C. In addition to his ongoing service on the CPT, he is a past member of the ACS DivCHED committee that helped develop the current set of physical chemistry national examinations and is past chairperson of the Beckman Scholar Program Executive Committee, which distributes more than $1 million annually in undergraduate research fellowships.

He was named a "Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Scholar" for 2004, and in the fall of 2003 he was one of only eight chemists in the nation to be honored during the "Excellence in Undergraduate Research Symposium" held at Indiana University in Bloomington for making significant contributions to research and the mentorship of chemistry undergraduates. Polik received the "Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching" at Hope in 1999, the same year that he received the Sigma Xi Award for Scientific Outreach at the college. In 1991, he received a prestigious "Presidential Young Investigator Award" from the National Science Foundation.

Polik joined the Hope faculty in 1988 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1994 and full professor in 2000, and appointed to his endowed chair in 2001.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1982 and holds a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Polik is the second member of the Hope faculty to be elected an AAAS Fellow in the past three years. Dr. James Gentile, who was dean for the natural sciences and the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Biology at Hope before becoming president of Research Corporation of Tucson, Ariz., in 2005, received the honor in the fall of 2003.