posted October 29, 2008

Students to Participate in Research Conference

For the second consecutive year, Hope College will be well represented at a major regional conference designed to highlight the significance of undergraduate scientific research in West Michigan.

The Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids is hosting the second annual West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference on Saturday, Nov. 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  More than 150 undergraduate students and 60 faculty are anticipated for the event, representing Aquinas College, Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, Hope and the Van Andel Research Institute.

The event will include posters presented by the participating research students as well as a keynote address and research seminars by select faculty members from the participating institutions.  The keynote address, "Olsen's Top 10 Reasons to Major in Science or Engineering," will be presented by Dr. Kathie Olsen, who is deputy director and chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Dr. Moses Lee, who is dean for the natural and applied sciences and professor of chemistry at Hope, will be among the faculty speakers, presenting "Developing Anti-Malaria Drugs."

More than 40 students and eight faculty members involved in research at Hope are planning to participate in the conference.  Fields of study represented by the Hope projects, many of which are interdisciplinary, include biochemistry, cell and molecular biology/genetics, chemistry, ecology and evolution, neuroscience, organism biology/physiology, physics, and science education.  Specific topics range from cancer-related research, to the defense behaviors of parent Eastern Bluebirds, to antifungal toxins in a species of pioneer plant, to the DNA of parasites.

Students at Hope engage in collaborative research projects with the college's faculty both part-time during the school year and full-time for several weeks during the summer.

The summer research program includes students from Hope as well as from other institutions.  During each of the past three years, more than 160 students have participated each summer.  Of the total, approximately 10-15 percent come from other undergraduate institutions and five-10 percent are students from local high schools, with the balance being from Hope.

Hope has received recognition in a variety of ways through the years for the quality of its programs in the natural and applied sciences, and for its emphasis on undergraduate research in particular.

For example, Hope currently holds four grants through the NSF's "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" (NSF-REU) program, the largest total held by primarily-undergraduate institutions nationwide.  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.  In the spring of 2008, three chemistry majors received prestigious Goldwater Scholarships for 2008-09, out of only 321 awarded nationwide.

The bulk of the resources that support the college's research program in the sciences come through competitive research grants from external sources such as the NSF, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Homeland Security, private foundations and corporations.  During the 2007-08 school year, Hope held approximately $3.5 million in support of faculty research projects, approximately 50 percent of which was from the NSF.

For the past seven 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 institutions that are exceptional for their emphasis on undergraduate research and creative projects. Hope ranked fourth nationally when the category debuted in 2003; the institutions are no longer ranked, but only 33 are on the list in the 2009 edition. The guide also includes Hope among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S. In 1998, Hope was one of only 10 liberal arts institutions nationally recognized for innovation and excellence in science instruction by the NSF with an "Award for the Integration of Research and Education" (AIRE).

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.

Today's facilities in the sciences include the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, which opened in 2003 and includes an 85,900-square-foot new building and the renovated 72,800-square-foot Peale wing; and VanderWerf Hall, which opened in 1964 and was extensively renovated in 1989.

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute is an independent research organization dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process.