posted February 6, 2006

William Polik Named ACS Committee Chair

Dr. William F. Polik of the Hope College chemistry faculty has been appointed chairperson of the national Committee on Professional Training (CPT) of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Polik, who is the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at Hope, has been a member of the committee since 2000, and served as vice-chair during the past year. His service as chair begins with the first ACS meeting in March of this year and will continue through 2008.

Founded in 1876, the ACS has more than 158,000 members in industry and education. The society's activities include promoting public understanding of chemistry through outreach programs, fostering communication between chemists and related organizations, and assisting in the professional and career development of chemists.

The 17-member CPT works to facilitate the maintenance and improvement of the quality of chemical education. Among other duties, the committee determines whether or not undergraduate chemistry programs qualify for approval by the ACS. Graduates of ACS-approved programs receive certification noting that their training meets the society's standards for overall professional competency. More than 600 programs nationwide, including the chemistry program at Hope, have achieved ACS approval.

Polik is guiding the CPT on a revision of the ACS guidelines for approving undergraduate chemistry departments. The revision is timely, he noted, because both chemistry and education have undergone dramatic changes in recent years.

"Chemistry is much more multidisciplinary than before, and now includes fields like biochemistry, material science and environmental science," he said. "It's chemistry's molecular perspective that has provided understanding and progress in each of these fields."

"Student learning involves more than course content," Polik said. "Students also need teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills to be successful in their future careers."

Polik has been an active advocate at the national level for undergraduate research and education in a variety of ways. In the fall of 2005, he organized a symposium on "Envisioning Undergraduate Chemistry Education in 2015," held during the national ACS meeting in Washington, D.C. In addition to his ongoing service on the CPT, he is a past member of the ACS DivCHED committee that helped develop the current set of physical chemistry national examinations and is past chairperson of the Beckman Scholar Program Executive Committee, which distributes more than $1 million annually in undergraduate research fellowships.

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 45 grants and awards totaling more than $1.9 million in support of his research, has given 56 invited seminars and has written 52 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 50 students, of whom 10 now have Ph.D. degrees, nine 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.

He was named a "Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Scholar" for 2004, and in the fall of 2003 received a national "Excellence in Undergraduate Research" award. 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.

Polik 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.