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Faculty Profile: Leah Chase-Wallar
Assistant Professor of Biology
and Chemistry

Dr. Leah Chase is the architect of Hope’s fledgling, formalized neuroscience program, and in May of 2007 watched with pride as her first neuroscience students graduated. She values being a part of her students’ journey. “It’s really exciting to me to see these kids graduate, to watch where they end up,” she says. “It’s fun to watch students mature, to watch them develop confidence and security in themselves.”

After mentoring 31 students since the formation of the neuroscience program, Dr. Chase has become good friends with many of them. She’s been invited to many weddings over the past few years, and has treasured letters and emails from past students. “They’ve meant a lot to you, and it feels good that you’ve meant a lot to them,” she says. “They make me think about what my daughter and son are going to be like at this age.”

Dr. Chase values Hope because, she says, “it is really focused not only on doing excellent undergraduate education in the sciences but doing research as well. Hope does undergraduate research right. Students have exceptional opportunity to become involved and to do meaningful research to bring new information to the field.” Students in the sciences have the opportunity, not only to do research, but to author articles for scientific journals, to attend conferences, and to gain exposure to graduate-level research. Dr. Chase enjoys guiding students through the research projects and their Hope College experiences.

Dr. Chase loves the neuroscience program because it’s an excellent example of an interdisciplinary field, incorporating mathematics, physics, psychology, biology, and chemistry. “By the integration of all of that knowledge, we are able to gain a new knowledge that we wouldn’t understand if we couldn’t integrate those things together,” she says. “Neuroscience is such a part of our daily lives. We wonder about how we think, about Alzheimer’s disease, about sleep disorders—neuroscience is a way to understand what all these mean.”

Dr. Chase especially appreciates Hope’s liberal arts emphasis. “Students get to explore a lot of issues related to their lives. It’s about learning tools to make life more enjoyable, and to understand the interplay of art, history, faith, and the sciences,” she says. “It’s easy to get tunnel-vision in college, but I think that Hope being a small liberal arts college makes students step back and say, ‘Where does my faith fit in with all this?’ and engage in critical thinking. You’ll never have more time to explore these things than in college, and Hope provides a
great atmosphere to ask these questions.”
This profile was written by Megan E. Dougherty, a 2007 Hope College graduate from Normal, Ill., for the 2007-08 Hope College Catalog.

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