Erik Hiemstra, a Hope College senior from Wyoming, has received a 1998 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Science from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).
Hiemstra was one of 21 candidates chosen from 60
applicants nationwide to receive the honor. The award is
providing Hiemstra with support for 10 weeks as he conducts
research full-time with Dr. Brian Bodenbender, assistant
professor of geology and environmental science.
The fellowship is sponsored by an anonymous
foundation and administered by CUR. CUR established the
fellowship program in the summer of 1990. Fellowships have
been awarded this year to students in the areas of biology,
chemistry, geology and physics.
Bodenbender and Hiemstra are studying the fossils
of ancient echinoderms known as cystoids and paracrinoids,
which according to Bodenbender lived 450 million to 350
million years ago. Their living relatives, he noted, are
starfish, sea urchins and sea lillies.
The project is examining the way that the early
echinoderms built their skeletons, which were made of
crystalline calcite plates. Bodenbender noted that early
echinoderms were asymmetrical, while later members of the
group had five-sided symmetry. He explained that the
progression suggests that the group experimented with
different shapes before a standard configuration emerged as
Bodenbender and Hiemstra are hoping to learn
whether or not the way that the animals built their plates
"The purpose of this investigation is to determine
whether the developmental mechanisms that early echinoderms
used to construct individual skeletal pieces showed the same
kind of irregularity exhibited in their overall skeletal
construction," Bodenbender said. "That might suggest the
'experimentation, then standardization' pattern as a more
general biological phenomenon describing not only the
construction of organisms but also the development of
Hiemstra's role includes gathering data from
specimens, which include some found in Michigan, and
assisting in the interpretation of the data. He and
Bodenbender will present their results at the national
meeting of the Geological Society of America, which will be
held in Toronto, Canada, in October.
This is Hiemstra's second summer conducting
research with Bodenbender, and they pursued the project
during the 1997-98 academic year as well.
Hiemstra has also participated in a variety of
other activities at Hope, including the College Chorus,
intramurals and Model United Nations. He has been named to
the Dean's List, received a Political Science Book Award in
his freshman year, and awards in the geological and
environmental sciences during his freshman, sophomore and
He is the son of Frederick and Wilhelmina Hiemstra
of Wyoming, and a 1995 graduate of Wyoming Park High School.
CUR's purpose is to serve students, faculty and
administrators at primarily undergraduate institutions, by
generating awareness and national support to promote
research in science, mathematics and engineering at
undergraduate institutions. The organization currently
serves more than 3,500 individual members that represent
more than 850 institutions in eight academic divisions.
CUR, based in Washington, D.C., provides a variety
of programs and services for its individual and
institutional members, including a newsletter, a scholarly
journal, special booklets, a series of directories, a
consulting program, science policy programs, a speaker's
bureau, CUR Institute workshops and national biannual