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Award Supports Undergraduate
Collaborative Research Experience

Posted February 26, 2001

HOLLAND -- A three-year grant from the Merck Company Foundation will support interdisciplinary summer research experiences in biology and chemistry for students at Hope College.

The $60,000 grant has been awarded through the "Undergraduate Science Research Program" funded by the foundation and administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and will support four student researchers during each of the next three summers. Only approximately 15 of the awards were made nationwide for 2001-03.

The program seeks to promote undergraduate research at the interface of biology and chemistry. It was launched in 1993, but 2001 is the first year that awards have been available to colleges and universities nationwide. The program was previously available only to 12 northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

Public and private universities are eligible to compete for the three-year grants if located in the United States; if they offer an American Chemical Society-approved program in chemistry; and if their primary emphasis is on undergraduate education. Dr. Joanne Stewart of the Hope chemistry faculty believes that the college received one of the awards not only for meeting the general criteria, but for a demonstrated history of interdisciplinary work and student research participation.

"For example, we have two faculty who hold joint appointments to the two departments," said Stewart, who is a professor of chemistry and chair of the department at Hope. "We also have several collaborative projects between chemistry and biology faculty."

Dr. Maria Burnatowska-Hledin and Dr Leah Chase each hold appointments in both biology and chemistry. Joint projects have ranged from a study of chemical defense in tropical pioneer plant seeds, conducted by chemist Dr. William Mungall and biologist Dr. K. Greg Murray, to a study of how anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor agents interact using accelerator mass spectroscopy, conducted by physicist Dr. Paul DeYoung, biologist Dr. James Gentile, chemist Dr. Graham Peaslee. Hope students conduct research with faculty during the school year and summer alike.

Stewart also noted that collaboration will receive even stronger institutional support in the future. The plans for the college's new science building, which is part of the "Legacies: A Vision of Hope" capital campaign, put biology and chemistry on the same floor with just such interdisciplinary projects in mind.

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