posted July 31, 2009

Dinner Celebrates Science Research Summer

The division of the natural and applied sciences celebrated its signature summer research program with a dinner that highlighted the depth and breadth of the activity on campus.

Some 153 students conducted research collaboratively with members of the faculty this summer.  The total includes not only Hope students but also students from other colleges and universities as well as 17 area high school students who participated through Project REACH (Research Experience Across Cultures at Hope).  The REACH representation also included two high school teachers.

The division held its fourth annual undergraduate research celebration on Thursday, July 9, at the Haworth Inn and ConferenceCenter.  Those attending this year's SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Function) event included the students who conducted research this summer as well as their faculty mentors, other members of the campus community, and friends of the college and community leaders.

The keynote presentation was by Dr. Maria Burnatowska-Hledin, who is the Frederich Garrett and Helen Floor Dekker Professor of Chemistry and Biomedicine at Hope.  Her research involves the protein VACM-1/cul 5, seeking to understand the role that it may play in preventing the growth of cancer cells.  Since joining the faculty in 1992, she has mentored more than 80 student researchers and has received more than $1.2 million in grant support.

The event also included presentations concerning research by students and faculty representing each of the division's eight departments:  biology, senior Jeanne Oxendine of Sterling Heights; chemistry, senior Camille Riddering of Belmont; computer science, senior Kim Klask of Pinckney; engineering, senior Joel Blok of Schoolcraft; geological and environmental sciences, senior Peter Van Heest of Holland; mathematics, sophomore Jessalyn Bolkema of Flushing; nursing, Paulette Chaponniere, associate professor of nursing; and physics, Evan Pease, a visiting junior from Kenyon College.

Learning through research has been a teaching philosophy at the college for more than half a century.  The late Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl, who taught chemistry at the college from 1923 to 1964, is widely recognized for developing research-based learning at Hope in its modern sense.  More than 100 years ago, biologist Dr. Samuel O. Mast had designed research laboratory space for the college's Van Raalte Hall, which opened in 1903.

Hope has received recognition in a variety of ways for its emphasis on undergraduate research. For the past seven years, since the category debuted, the "America's Best Colleges" guide published by "U.S. News and World Report" has included Hope on its listing of institutions that are exceptional for their emphasis on undergraduate research and creative projects. Hope ranked fourth in the nation when the category debuted in 2003; the institutions are no longer ranked, but only 33 are on the list in the 2009 edition. The guide also includes Hope among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

Among other indicators, Hope was one of only 10 liberal arts institutions nationally recognized for innovation and excellence in science instruction by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with an "Award for the Integration of Research and Education" in 1998.  In addition, the bulk of the resources that support the college's research program in the sciences come through competitive research grants from external sources such as the NSF, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Homeland Security, private foundations and corporations.  During the 2007-08 school year, Hope held approximately $3.5 million in support of faculty research projects, approximately 50 percent of which was from the NSF.

The dinner also anticipated a milestone that the division will be commemorating with events throughout the 2009-10 school year.  Chemistry and physics became independent departments in 1909, a centennial that the division is using as an occasion to celebrate all of the departments in the natural and applied sciences.  The commemoration will include a variety of departmental seminars as well as a book about the history of the division that is being prepared for publication later in the fall.