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Faculty Profile: Will Polik
The Edward and Elizabeth Hofma
Professor of Chemistry

Dr. William Polik of the chemistry faculty finds Hope College to be “the whole package.”

In his own discipline, he feels that Hope does a great job of preparing students, especially through the strong undergraduate research program.

“Science is much more than reading a textbook and doing homework. Science is doing actual experiments, discovering new knowledge, and then publishing that knowledge in the scientific literature,” says Dr. Polik. “Hope is one of very few undergraduate institutions that has a strong research program where students are active in the lab.”

Undergraduate research takes place during both the school year and the summer. In fact, some 180 students from departments across the campus conduct research with faculty mentors full time for eight to 12 weeks each summer. It’s a teaching model for which Hope has repeatedly received national recognition.

Dr. Polik’s research in physical chemistry, which uses lasers to study the details of chemical reactions, typically involves three to five students at a time. More than 20 Hope students have become co-authors of published articles based on their work together, and many have since gone on to distinguished careers as educators and researchers themselves.

Dr. Polik has received a variety of national honors for his scholarship at Hope and work advocating undergraduate research and education. In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science. He now serves as chair of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training.

In addition to valuing the excellent resources in the department of chemistry, Dr. Polik respects how Hope prepares students outside of their specialization. “ The general education curriculum at Hope exposes students to a wide variety of ideas and issues that affect civilization as a whole,” he says. “Hope students are prepared very broadly from a liberal arts perspective to think creatively about different problems, to come up with solutions, and to work together.”

But what seals up Hope as the whole package for Dr. Polik is being able to connect with students. Both in and out of the classroom, he finds that one of the most special things about Hope is the interaction between professors and students.

“Hope faculty care immensely about how their students are doing in life, beyond just the academics. Hope does an excellent job of educating the student as a whole person,” says Dr. Polik. “At Hope, we do much more than just teach in the classroom. We know our students well and we care for our students.”

This profile was written by Danielle K. Johnson, a 2008 Hope College graduate from Kalamazoo, Mich., for the 2008-09 Hope College Catalog.

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