posted December 2, 2003

William Polik Receives Dreyfus Award

Dr. William Polik of the Hope College chemistry faculty has received an award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Scholar/Fellow Program for Undergraduate Institutions.

The award, one of only four made nationwide this fall, will enable a post-doctoral Fellow to spend two years mentored by Polik at Hope, learning how to combine a research program with undergraduate teaching. Hope, Polik believes, is uniquely qualified to serve as a host site.

"There are many institutions that focus primarily on teaching or on research," he said. "To emphasize both is something that is quite special and that Hope does well."

Doctoral programs, he said, typically focus on research but not on how the research process itself can be used to teach undergraduates about how science is done.

"So this is essential training for future faculty," he said. "The program is designed to provide first-hand experience with how to balance the requirements of both teaching and research, and how to achieve excellence in both."

The $100,000 award will pay the Fellow's salary and provide funding for research and supplies during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years. The individual chosen will have just completed his or her doctorate, and will be able to participate in Polik's research and in classroom teaching.

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc. was established in 1946 and is a memorial to Camille and Henry Dreyfus, two brothers who made major contributions in the research of materials used in the manufacture of photographic films. The Scholar/Fellow Program for Undergraduate Institutions was established in 1987, and is designed both to encourage the Fellows to pursue careers at undergraduate colleges and universities and to recognize the accomplishments of those chosen as the Fellows' faculty mentors.

The Dreyfus award is the second honor received this fall by Polik, who is the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at Hope. He was one of only eight chemists from throughout the nation honored during the "Excellence in Undergraduate Chemical Research Symposium" held by the Department of Chemistry at Indiana University in Bloomington on Saturday, Sept. 27.

A specialist in physical chemistry, he uses lasers to study the details of chemical reactions, and maintains an active research program that involves Hope students. Since joining the faculty in 1988, he has received 40 grants and awards in support of his research, has given 44 invited seminars and has written 43 articles - including 15 co-authored with 20 Hope students who have worked with him on his research.

Polik has been especially committed to involving undergraduate research students in his research program, with between three and five students typically conducting research at any given time. During his time at the college his research program has involved 48 students, of whom 10 now have Ph.D. degrees, eight have master's degrees and five are currently in graduate school. Three of his research students have been awarded National Science Foundation or Department of Defense postdoctoral fellowships, and three have been awarded the college's top prize for creativity in independent research.

In addition, he is a strong advocate for undergraduate research and education at the national level. He is a member of the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training, having served as editor of the "Supplement on Undergraduate Research" and editor of the most recent edition of "The Guidelines." He is a past member of the ACS DivChed committee that helped develop the latest set of physical chemistry national examinations. He currently serves as chairperson of the Beckman Scholar Program Executive Committee, which distributes more than $1 million annually in undergraduate research fellowships.

Polik received the "Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching" at Hope in 1999, the same year that he received the Sigma Xi Award for Scientific Outreach at the college. In 1991, he received a prestigious "Presidential Young Investigator Award" from the National Science Foundation.

He joined the Hope faculty as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1994 and full professor in 2000, and appointed to his endowed chair in 2001.

He graduated from Dartmouth University in 1982. He holds a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Polik's award marks the fourth time that a member of the Hope chemistry faculty has been chosen to mentor a Fellow through the Dreyfus program. Dr. Rodney Boyer mentored a Fellow during 1987-89, Dr. Michael Silver during 1993-95 and Dr. Stephen Taylor during 1995-97.

The other three institutions that received Dreyfus Scholar/Fellow Program awards this year are Furman University, Pomona College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.