Dr. William Polik

The Edward & Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry
Profile photo of Dr. William Polik

Dr. William F. Polik is the Hofma Professor of Chemistry and has worked at Hope since 1988 in a wide variety of teaching and leadership positions.

At Hope College Dr. Polik has taught lecture and laboratory courses in general chemistry, physical chemistry, computational chemistry and advanced spectroscopy. Dr. Polik served as chemistry department chair, was elected as chair of the Academic Affairs Board and Administrative Affairs Board, and served as the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship. Beyond Hope, Dr. Polik has been a visiting scholar at MIT, UC San Diego and the University of Queensland. He is a nationally recognized educator and was awarded the Hope College Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence, the Sigma Xi Award for Scientific Outreach and the ACS Norris Flack Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry.

Dr. Polik has an exceptional record of productivity in scientific research with undergraduate students. He has been awarded $2.5 million of funding from Research Corporation, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund, the Dreyfus Foundation, NSF and other sources to support a research program in molecular spectroscopy and computational chemistry. He invented the method of pure vibrational spectroscopy that resulted in the most detailed vibrational spectra of small polyatomic molecules in the world. He constructed the first cluster computer at Hope College, pioneering an approach currently utilized by major supercomputer centers. His research has resulted in 76 publications with 40 undergraduate co-authors and over 120 invited seminars. Dr. Polik has been recognized nationally for his scholarship as a NSF Presidential Young Investigator, a Dreyfus Foundation Fellow, a CUR Councilor, an AAAS Fellow and an ACS Fellow.

Dr. Polik is committed to the pursuit of student success and academic excellence. At Hope College he led departmental curricular revision efforts to improve student learning, participated in changing college-wide general education requirements and served on college-wide strategic planning committees. Dr. Polik chaired the ACS Committee on Professional Training during its revision of national guidelines for accrediting undergraduate chemistry programs, adding emphasis to student skill development and program self-assessment. He is a strong advocate of faculty development efforts and has led workshops and retreats on goal setting and prioritization. He has led the development of college-wide academic policies, performed workload and scheduling analyses, recruited and hired new faculty and staff, managed budgets, mentored under-represented faculty into leadership positions and raised funds to support institutional goals. He has a particular interest in promoting a positive work environment for faculty and staff.

Outside of academia, Dr. Polik founded two companies related to his teaching and research interests, DiscusWare and WebMO. DiscusWare was recognized in the 1990s as the leading provider of internet-based discussion software and was used by hundreds of academic institutions for courseware distribution. WebMO is a web-based interface to computational chemistry currently in use by over 3,000 academic and research institutions worldwide.

See Dr. Polik's current research 


  • Laser spectroscopy of highly energetic molecules
  • High-accuracy quantum chemistry
  • WWW software for education
  • Curriculum revision and education reform
  • Faculty development
  • Academic leadership


  • Ph.D., physical chemistry, University of California at Berkeley, 1988
  • B.A., valedictorian, chemistry and mathematics, Dartmouth College, 1982


  • Associate Dean of Research and Scholarship, Hope College, 2016–2019
  • Schaap Research Fellow, Hope College, 2013–present
  • Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry, Hope College, 2001–present
  • Assistant/Associate/Full Professor of Chemistry, Hope College, 1988–2001
  • Administrative Affairs Board, Hope College, member, 2016–2017; chair, 2017–2018
  • Academic Affairs Board, Hope College, member, 2011–2013; chair 2013–2014
  • Chemistry Department Chair, Hope College, 2012–2015
  • Committee on Professional Training, American Chemical Society, member, 2000–2004; vice-chair, 2005; chair, 2006–2008; consultant 2009–2010
  • Beckman Scholar Program Executive Committee, member 2000–2002; chair 2002–2003; consultant, 2014
  • Founding Partner, DiscusWare, LLC, 1999–2009; WebMO LLC, 2000–present
  • Consultant, Coherent Lasers, 1986–1988; Laser Photonics, 1991–1993; Systems Integration, 1992–1994

Selected Publications

  • “Web-Based Computational Chemistry Calculations in Education and Research,” with J.R. Schmidt, WIREs Computational Molecular Science, 12, 2021
  • “BYOC: Build Your Own Cluster,” with Nathan R. Vance and Michael L. Poublon, Linux Journal, 277, 278, 279, 2017
  • “VPT2+K spectroscopic constants and matrix elements of the transformed vibrational Hamiltonian of a polyatomic molecule with resonances using Van Vleck perturbation theory,” with Andreana M. Rosnik, Molecular Physics 112, 2014
  • “Accurate and Efficient Calculation of Excited Vibrational States from Quartic Potential Energy Surfaces,” with John L. Davisson and Nicole R. Brinkmann, Molecular Physics 110, 2012
  • “Symmetrizer: Algorithmic Determination of Point Groups in Nearly Symmetric Molecules,” with R. Jeffrey Largent and J.R. Schmidt, Journal of Computational Chemistry 33, 2012
  • “New ACS Guidelines Approved by CPT,” with Cynthia K. Larive, Journal of Chemical Education 85, 2008
  • “Dispersed Fluorescence Spectroscopy of S0 Vibrational Levels in Formaldehyde-d,” with Kristin K. Ellsworth, Brian D. Lajiness and James P. Lajiness, Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 252, 2008
  • “Factors Influencing Success in Physical Chemistry,” with Karen E. Hahn, Journal of Chemical Education 81, 2004
  • “Dispersed Fluorescence Spectroscopy of S0 Formyl Fluoride Vibrational States,” with Katie M. Horsman and Todd P. Chassee, Journal of Physical Chemistry 104, 2000
  • “Analysis of the Vibrational Spectrum of a Linear Molecule,” with Richard W. Schwenz and Sidney Young, Journal of Chemical Education 77, 2000
Profile photo of Dr. William Polik
Dr. William Polik

Phone Number616.395.7639

A. Paul Schaap Science Center Room 2122 35 East 12th Street Holland, MI 49423-3605
A map showing the location for Dr. William Polik A. Paul Schaap Science Center Room 2122 35 East 12th Street Holland MI 49423-3605