posted June 11, 2009

Chemist William Polik Receives Teaching Award

 Dr. William F. Polik, who is the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at HopeCollege, has received the 2009 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS).

Polik was selected in recognition of his outstanding work as a teacher and mentor, his development of innovative materials for teaching physical chemistry, and his leadership as chair of the ACS Committee on Professional Training in developing and implementing the society's new guidelines for undergraduate chemistry.  Polik will receive the award, which consists of a plaque and $3,000, during the NESACS's monthly meeting on Friday, Nov. 12, at Boston University.

"The student letters submitted as part of the nomination all pointed to Dr. Polik's commitment to both the academic and personal success of his students," said longtime colleague Dr. Michael Seymour, professor of chemistry, who prepared Polik's recommendation while serving as chairperson of the department.  "While his professional work as a chemist has broad national recognition, his ability to effectively engage students in both the classroom and laboratory and to help them achieve at their highest level is the hallmark of an outstanding teacher and scholar."

A specialist in physical chemistry, Polik uses lasers to study the details of chemical reactions, and maintains an active research program that involves Hope students. Since joining the Hope faculty, he has received 46 grants and awards totaling more than $2 million in support of his research, has given 77 invited seminars and has written 63 articles -- including 18 co-authored with 26 Hope students who have worked with him on his research.

He 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 more than 60 students, of whom 16 now have Ph.D. degrees, seven have master's degrees and eight 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.

Polik has been an active advocate at the national level for undergraduate research and education in a variety of ways. He served on the national Committee on Professional Training (CPT) of the ACS from 2000 through 2008, including as vice chair in 2005 and as chair from 2006 to 2008.  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.  He is also 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.

He was elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2006.  He was named a "Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Scholar" for 2004, and in the fall of 2003 he was one of only eight chemists in the nation to be honored during the first "Excellence in Undergraduate Research Symposium" at IndianaUniversity.  In 1991, he received a prestigious "Presidential Young Investigator Award" from the National Science Foundation.

The division for the natural and applied sciences at Hope presented Polik with its inaugural "Dean's Science Division Faculty Research Award" in 2007.  He received the "Provost's Award for Excellence in Teaching" - now called the "Janet L. Andersen 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.

Polik joined the Hope faculty in 1988 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 is currently completing a year-long sabbatical leave at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.  He has been learning about international education in chemistry and doing research in bioengineering and nanotechnology.

Polik graduated from Dartmouth College in 1982 and holds a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Founded in 1876, the ACS has more than 154,000 members in industry and education, and is the world's largest scientific society.  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 Northeastern Section, which has more than 6,000 members, sponsors a number of awards, travel grants and scholarships to honor professional chemists.  The annual Norris Award was established in 1950 by the NESACS to honor the memory of James Flack Norris (1871-1940), who was professor of chemistry at Simmons College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chair of the NESACS in 1904 and ACS president during 1925-26.