Three Hope College juniors have received prestigious Goldwater Scholarships for the 2008-09 academic year out of only 321 awarded nationwide.

The three recipients, all of whom are chemistry majors at the college, are Kristin Dittenhafer of Midland; Jonathan Moerdyk of Paris; and Amy Speelman of Darien, Ill.

The scholarships were awarded by the Board of Trustees of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to undergraduate sophomores and juniors. The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,035 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

The scholarships are for one or two years, depending on the recipient's year in school, and cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

"Amy, Kristin and Jon are outstanding students who are well-deserving of this phenomenal recognition. As participants in collaborative faculty-student research here at the college, they have been not only outstanding learners but also active contributors to the process of discovery," said Dr. Moses Lee, who is dean for the natural and applied sciences and a professor of chemistry at Hope. "I am especially pleased because Hope College has one of the largest summer research programs among predominantly undergraduate institutions in the nation. These awards are highly competitive, and this level of recognition exemplifies the incredible education that we provide for our students at Hope."

Several Hope College students have received the prestigious awards or honorable mention in the program through the years. Senior Keith Mulder of Portage holds a Goldwater Scholarship for the current, 2007-08 school year.

Dittenhafer conducts research with Lee and his research associates Drs. Toni Brown and Hilary Mackay. Their research is focused on the development of small molecules capable of recognizing specific DNA sequences in the human genome, with the goal of controlling the expression of deleterious disease-causing genes. She has been conducting research with Lee since the spring of 2007, including during both the school year and summer.

Her plans include pursuing either a doctorate in biochemistry or attending an MD/Ph.D. combined program and conducting medically related research in the future. She is the daughter of Mark and Diane Dittenhafer of Midland and a 2005 graduate of Midland High School.

Moerdyk and Speelman both work in Dr. Jason Gillmore's organic photochemistry research group, where they are both actively working on the group's primary effort of making and evaluating new organic photochromes for electron transfer applications in materials science. Speelman also works with Gillmore on using computational modeling to predict the reduction potentials of organic molecules, work recently accepted for publication in the "Journal of Physical Chemistry."

Moerdyk has been conducting research with Gillmore since the summer of 2006, including during both the school year and summer. He plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry with a probable focus on the material sciences as preparation for a career as an organic or analytic research chemist. He is the son of Phil and Peggy Moerdyk of Paris, and a 2005 graduate of Reed City High School.

Speelman has been conducting research with Gillmore since the spring of her sophomore year, including during the summer. She plans to attend graduate school in physical chemistry with a focus on computational modeling and to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry using computational modeling to design synthetic targets and understand molecular behavior. She is majoring in French in addition to chemistry, and plans to spend the fall 2008 semester in Nantes, France. She is the daughter of David and Linda Speelman of Darien, and a 2005 graduate of Timothy Christian High School.

Of the 321 students selected for Goldwater Scholarships this year, 189 are men and 132 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their degree objective. A total of 33 are mathematics majors, 227 are science and related majors, 52 are majoring in engineering and nine are computer science majors. Many have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

In its 20-year history, the foundation has awarded 5,523 scholarships worth approximately $54 million. The Trustees plan to award about 300 scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year.