A major regional conference designed to highlight the significance of undergraduate scientific research in West Michigan will include more than 40 presentations concerning faculty-student projects at Hope College.

                        The Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids is hosting its first annual West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference on Saturday, Oct. 20.  More than 160 students and faculty are anticipated for the event, representing Aquinas College, Calvin College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Hope, the University of Michigan and the Van Andel Institute.  The event will feature approximately 100 poster presentations by the participating students, as well as a keynote presentation by Dr. James Lightbourne, who is senior advisor for the integration of research and education with the National Science Foundation; and research seminars by faculty members from Calvin, Grand Valley, Hope and the Van Andel Research Institute, including Dr. Maria Burnatowska-Hledin of the Hope biology and chemistry faculty.

                        More than 40 projects conducted by Hope students are being featured during the event.  The topics range from a study of the limbs of apes, to forgiveness, to the mineralogy of West Michigan dune sands, to the effect of the immigration debate on Hispanic adolescents, to the effect of copper sulfate in algae and pond systems, to the digital three-dimensional modeling of dinosaur bones, to protein/DNA interactions and the control gene expression in cancer and parasite research, to the design of robots for use in space exploration.

Fields of study represented by the Hope projects include animal behavior, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, fungal endophyte ecology, geology and environmental science, mathematics, molecular biology, neuroendocrinology, neuroscience, organic chemistry, organic photochemistry, paleontology, physical chemistry, physics, primatology, psychology and science education.  A variety of the projects are interdisciplinary, linking disciplines such as biochemistry and physics, biology and geology and environmental science, and biology and mathematics.

Students at Hope engage in collaborative research projects with the college's faculty both part-time during the school year and full-time for several weeks during the summer.

The summer research program includes students from Hope as well as from other institutions.  Of the 183 students participating in research at the college this past summer, 150 were HopeCollege students, 21 were students from colleges and universities across the country, and 12 were students from local high schools.

Hope has received recognition in a variety of ways through the years for its emphasis on undergraduate research. For the past six years, since the category debuted, the "America's Best Colleges" guide published by "U.S. News and World Report" has included Hope on its listing of institutions that are exceptional for their emphasis on undergraduate research and creative projects. Hope ranked fourth in the nation when the category debuted in 2003; the institutions are no longer ranked, but only 35 are on the list in the 2008 edition. The guide also includes Hope among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

In 1998, Hope was one of only 10 liberal arts institutions nationally recognized for innovation and excellence in science instruction by the NSF with an "Award for the Integration of Research and Education" (AIRE).  In addition, the bulk of the resources that support the college's research program in the sciences come through competitive research grants from external sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Homeland Security, private foundations and corporations.

Learning through research has been a teaching philosophy at the college for more than half a century.  The late Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl, who taught chemistry at the college from 1923 to 1964, is widely recognized for developing research-based learning at Hope in its modern sense.  More than 100 years ago, biologist Dr. Samuel O. Mast had designed research laboratory space for the college's Van Raalte Hall, which opened in 1903.

Today's facilities in the sciences include the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, which opened in 2003 and includes an 85,900-square-foot new building and the renovated 72,800-square-foot Peale wing; and VanderWerf Hall, which opened in 1964 and was extensively renovated in 1989.

Hope College is a four-year, co-educational, Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, and during the 2007-08 school year has 3,226 students from 45 states and territories and 31 foreign countries.  Founded in 1866, Hope offers courses in 89 majors leading to a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.