posted March 19, 2010

U.S. Representative Vern Ehlers to Discuss Science Education

 U.S. Representative Vernon J. Ehlers of Grand Rapids will present the address "The Next Hundred Years of Science: It's All About the Students" on Thursday, April 1, at 11 a.m. in room 102 of VanderWerf Hall at Hope College.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Ehlers's presentation will be informed not only by his tenure in both the state and federal legislature - where his emphases include K-12 science education--but also by his background as the first research physicist to serve in Congress.  He holds a doctorate in nuclear physics and taught and conducted research at both the University of California at Berkeley and Calvin College for several years.

The lecture has been scheduled by the Natural and Applied Sciences Division at Hope in conjunction with the academic-year commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the formal creation of the departments of chemistry and physics at the college.  Although Hope had developed its first classroom laboratory in 1867, the two departments became independent programs in 1909.

Ehlers was sworn in on Jan. 6, 2009, to serve his eighth full term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first elected to the 103rd Congress in a special election on Dec. 7, 1993.

As a member of the 111th Congress, Ehlers serves on three standing House committees.  He has served on the Science and Technology Committee (previously known as the House Science Committee) and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since his arrival in Washington, and joined the Education and Labor Committee in 1999.

During his tenure on the Science and Technology Committee, he oversaw in 1998 the writing of the nation's first major statement on science policy since 1945. He also co-chairs the STEM Ed Caucus, which is dedicated to improving the nation's K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  He introduced the resolution that led to the designation of National Computer Science Education Week, which debuted Dec. 6-12, 2009.

On the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ehlers has led efforts to secure a fair funding formula and more dollars for Michigan's roads, highways, and transit systems. In the 107th Congress, Ehlers led the development of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which authorized spending $270 million over five years to clean up sediments in the Great Lakes.

As a member of the Education and Labor (previously the Education and the Workforce) Committee, he blends his efforts with the Science Committee on improving math and science education.

Ehlers was previously on the House Administration Committee from 1995 to 2008, serving as Ranking Republican and Chairman. During his tenure on the committee, he was instrumental in the effort to connect the House of Representatives with the Internet and the creation of the Library of Congress' Thomas website, which allows anyone to look up legislation being considered by Congress, laws that have been passed and other information about Congress.

Prior to Congress, Ehlers served a total of 11 years in the Michigan Legislature, with just over two years in the House and nine years in the Senate, where he finished his tenure as President Pro-Tem. He also served eight years on the Kent County Board of Commissioners, including three years as chairman.

After three years of studying at Calvin College, Ehlers transferred and received his undergraduate degree in physics and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. After six years teaching and research at Berkeley, he moved back to Grand Rapids to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department. During his tenure at Calvin, Ehlers also served as a volunteer science advisor to then-Congressman Gerald R. Ford.

He is married to Johanna (Jo) Meulink and is the father of four adult children and the grandfather of four. He and his wife reside in Grand Rapids.

VanderWerf Hall is located at 27 Graves Place, between 10th Street and Graves Place (11th Street) and Central and College avenue