Original research conducted by Hope College junior Elizabeth Ensink of Hudsonville has been chosen for the 20th annual national Posters on the Hill event, a selective poster session sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) that will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 19-20, in Washington, D.C.

It is the sixth time in the past seven years that one or more Hope students have had research chosen, and the fourth time that a participant in the college’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts and Humanities (established in 2010) has had work selected.  Only 60 projects were selected for this year’s showcase from among several hundred highly competitive applications from undergraduate students from colleges and universities nationwide.

Ensink’s project is “The First Inoculation Debate: A Quantitative Text Analysis of the Boston Smallpox Epidemic of 1721.”  Her project’s goals were to analyze how religious views and cultural tensions influenced concerns over inoculation in 1721 when it was first used in America, and also to explore how digital tools, namely text analysis with a tool called Voyant, can help researchers uncover and visualize new perspectives on historical documents.

She has appreciated the opportunity that her experience at Hope has provided to take a holistic approach to a research question that she found compelling, applying insights from multiple disciplines to more effectively find answers.  A biology and creative writing double major, she conducted her work mentored by Dr. Jonathan Hagood, associate professor of history.

“I’m very interested in the current vaccination debate and how the medical and research fields communicate and relate to the general public,” Ensink said.  “So when I found out that the vaccination debate began over 200 years ago with some of the same concerns we see today, I was fascinated.  The Mellon Scholars program gave me the opportunity to take this interdisciplinary approach and learn about some of the new ways we can study history.”

The college’s three-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts and Humanities, which students join as sophomores, involves select students in the arts and humanities in coursework and research in areas of scholarly interest with faculty mentors from a variety of academic disciplines, with a particular emphasis on teaching the students how to use new and emerging digital technologies in pursuing and sharing their work. More information about the program is available at hope.edu/academic/mellon/

In addition to conducting research through the Mellon Scholars Program, Ensink is a writing assistant with the college’s David J. Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing and a teaching assistant for introductory biology.  Her activities while at Hope have also included the Nykerk Cup competition, in which members of the freshman and sophomore classes compete in songs, plays and oration; concert band; InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; and the Milestone yearbook.  She is a 2013 graduate of Covenant Christian High School, and the daughter of Robert and Karen Ensink of Hudsonville.

CUR’s annual two-day Posters on the Hill event affords an elite group of students the opportunity to share their undergraduate research with members of Congress, congressional staff, federal government officials, academics and other researchers. The event provides an opportunity for lawmakers to see how federal programs and dollars impact students and faculty, and to learn about the value of undergraduate research.  A reception, co-hosted by the American Chemical Society, will take place on Wednesday, April 20, on Capitol Hill.

Based in Washington, D.C., CUR (cur.org) supports faculty development for high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. More than 800 institutions and more than 11,000 individuals belong to CUR. CUR believes that the best way to capture student interest and create enthusiasm for a discipline is through research in close collaboration with faculty members.