posted March 7, 2013

Hope Science Division Honors Four Faculty and Staff

The Division for the Natural and Applied Sciences (NAS) at Hope College has honored four faculty and staff members with awards designed to recognize excellence in teaching, research and service.

Dr. Mary (Beth) Anderson, assistant professor of chemistry, has received the division’s “Mary J. DeYoung Faculty Mentoring, Advising and Teaching Award.”  Dr. Peter Gonthier, professor of physics, and Dr. Roger Veldman, professor of engineering, have each received the “James N. Boelkins Faculty Research Award.”  Alyson Michner, administrative assistant to the dean for the natural and applied sciences, received the division’s Special Service Award.  The four awards were announced during a luncheon on Thursday, March 7.

The “Mary J. DeYoung Faculty Mentoring, Advising and Teaching Award” recognizes a faculty member who is exceptional in classroom teaching and instruction, research mentoring, and advising either academically, for career, or with student clubs and organizations.  The winner is selected by a panel of students.  The award was renamed in 2011 in honor of DeYoung, who died in July 2011 at age 58 due to cancer.

The “James N. Boelkins Research Promise Award” rotates in alternate years between junior and senior faculty, and is presented based on criteria including publication, grant awards, significant presentations at professional meetings, and external awards or other recognition from professional organizations and societies. The winner is chosen by an anonymous panel of faculty members from among nominees by the division’s department chairs and the dean.  It is named in honor of Dr. James N. Boelkins, who retired as the college’s provost in 2010.

The Special Service Award is to be presented periodically in recognition of a colleague who has demonstrated outstanding service, as exemplified by dedication, knowledge, creativity and grace, in supporting the entire division.  The recipient of the award is chosen by an anonymous panel of faculty and staff members of the division.  This year is the first time that the division has given the award.

The student nomination of Anderson noted that she “is the embodiment of a passionate and caring faculty member who strives to develop relationships with students to help them become the best that they can be.”

The nomination praised her emphasis on inspiring curiosity in her students in the classroom as well as through her research program.  She teaches courses ranging from general chemistry through advanced courses such as inorganic chemistry and advanced spectroscopy.  Her research, conducted collaboratively with students, focuses on nanomaterial synthesis, assembly and characterization.  The nominating students also celebrated her sincere interest in students, noting, “She is always there to lend a caring ear and support students in their endeavors while simultaneously pushing them to excel.”

Anderson has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2010.  She completed her bachelor’s degree at Samford University in 2001 and her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University in 2006.

Gonthier’s research is in astrophysics.  His current research focuses on high-energy phenomena in neutron star magnetospheres, trying to understand radio and gamma-ray emission from neutron stars and inverse Compton scattering occurring in strong magnetic fields near neutron star surfaces, with additional emphasis on developing and refining computer models related to the stars.  He works with other researchers at NASA and around the world.  Hope students consistently work with him as collaborative researchers, including during the summers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

In the past 10 years, he has received nearly $500,000 in external support of his research.  Across his career, he has authored or co-authored more than 80 journal and proceedings papers in the scientific literature, in addition to making presentations at professional conferences.

Gonthier graduated from Texas A&M in 1975, and completed his doctorate at Texas A&M in 1980.  Prior to joining the Hope faculty in 1983, he was a post-doctoral fellow in nuclear physics in Heidelberg, Germany, and held teaching appointments at Texas A&M University.

Veldman’s research focuses on theoretical and experimental analysis of explosive impacts on aircraft structures.  His specific interests include the dynamic response of structures, impulse-loading of structures, aviation security, aircraft hardening, finite element analysis, blast loading of structures and rapid decompression of aircraft.  He works collaboratively with other leading researchers in his field as well as with Hope students.

Since starting his research program in 1998, the year that he joined the faculty, he has received more than $700,000 in external funding in support of his scholarship.  He has had multiple publications in research journals and has presented his work at professional conferences.

Veldman graduated from Hope with a major in engineering science in 1989, and completed his master’s and doctorate at Western Michigan University in 1995 and 2001 respectively.

Michner was commended by her colleagues for her ability to effectively and knowledgeably coordinate care of the entire division and be the liaison for the administration.  She serves as the point person when the dean is not available.  The nomination praised her for always having readily at hand whatever information is requested; for multi-tasking on diverse projects ranging from maintaining the divisional budget, to managing the summer research program, to planning the division’s summer research celebration; and for the gracious way in which she works with others.  The nomination noted, “Whether she is talking to faculty, prospective students and their families, candidates or current students, Alyson always has the time to make everyone feel that they are her priority.”

Michner has been a member of the Hope staff since 2008.  She holds Bachelor of Science degrees from both Liberty University and Grand Valley State University.