posted July 14, 2010

“SURF” Celebrates Science Research Summer

The largest research program in the natural and applied sciences among undergraduate institutions nationwide capped another active summer with a celebration of the people and projects that have kept the college's laboratories busy since the school year ended in May.

Some 177 students have conducted research collaboratively with close to 50 members of the natural and applied sciences faculty at Hope this summer.  The total includes not only Hope students but also 26 students from other colleges and universities as well as 23 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 fifth annual undergraduate research celebration on Thursday, July 8, at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.  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 event featured special presentations regarding a variety of programs at Hope that emphasize increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields in college among those who come from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM careers.  Dr. Karen Nordell Pearson, associate professor of chemistry, director of the Midstates Consortium and director of the REACH (Research Experiences Across Cultures at Hope) program for high school students, discussed REACH and REACH2.  Dr. Kenneth Brown, associate professor of chemistry, discussed the Community Colleges Undergraduate Research Collaborative.  Anna Bonnema, who is director of the college's Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Mentoring Program, discussed serving as a diversity mentor.

The event also included presentations concerning research by students representing each of the division's eight departments:  biology, senior Emily Leathly of Livonia, whose mentor is Dr. Greg Fraley, associate professor of biology; chemistry, senior David Todd of Lansing, whose mentor is Dr. Jeff Johnson, assistant professor of chemistry and Towsley Research Scholar; computer science, sophomore Nick Hazekamp of Janesville, Wis., whose mentor is Dr. Matt DeJongh, associate professor of computer science; engineering, Benjamin Barkel, a member of the Class of 2010 from Birmingham, whose mentor is Dr. Roger Veldman, professor of engineering; geological and environmental science, junior Dean Hazle of East Grand Rapids, whose mentor is Dr. Edward Hansen, professor of geology and environmental science; mathematics, Brad Pearson of Temecula, Calif., a visiting student from Westmont College, whose mentor is Dr. Aaron Cinzori, associate professor of mathematics and chairperson of the department; nursing, senior Angela Martinez of Holland, whose mentor is Dr. Nancy Barnum, assistant professor of nursing; and physics, junior Sarah Prill of Rochester Hills, whose mentor is Dr. Paul DeYoung, who is the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Physics and chairperson of the department.

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 through the years for its model of teaching through collaborative faculty-student research.

Hope holds five awards through the National Science Foundation's "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" program, in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and physics. Among all institutions nationwide, including major research universities, fewer than a dozen hold more of the grants.

According to Research Crossroads, Hope has received more federal grants since 1992 than any undergraduate institution in Michigan and more than all but six Ph.D.-granting universities.  Hope is the only college or university in the country to have received "Beckman Scholar Award" support for student research from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation of Irvine, Calif., since the foundation began the program in 1998.

For the past eight 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 fewer than three dozen institutions that it cites as exceptional for their emphasis on undergraduate research and creative projects. The guide also includes Hope among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S.