Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren of the Hope College psychology faculty has been named a Rising Star in research by the Association for Psychological Science, a recognition most often bestowed on scholars at institutions with graduate-level programs.

 “This was a complete surprise, and a delight,” said Van Tongeren, an assistant professor of psychology who has taught at Hope since 2012.

The Rising Star designation recognizes outstanding scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-Ph.D. whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions.  Van Tongeren and this year’s other honorees have been recognized on the organization’s website and will be highlighted in the February issue of the association’s magazine, the Observer.  This year’s list includes 95 researchers from across the United States and around the world, with Van Tongeren one of only two honorees from liberal arts colleges.

That Van Tongeren is among those honored this year doesn’t surprise Dr. Scott Vander Stoep, who is dean for the social sciences and a professor of psychology at Hope.

“It was immediately clear to us that Daryl was going to be a prodigious scholar. He has experienced unparalleled success as a grant writer and in his research output,” Vander Stoep said.  “He publishes dozens of articles in refereed journals each year and, most importantly for Hope, he engages our students in much of his research. I've also observed Daryl teach several times and he is as good of a teacher as he is a scholar. And he makes all of these professional contributions with humility and with gratitude for working at a college that allows him to connect his Christian faith with his work life.”

Van Tongeren’s research focuses on the social motivation for meaning and its relation to virtues and morality.  Specifically, he and his students adopt a social-cognitive approach to study meaning in life, religion and virtues, such as forgiveness and humility.  For example, one of his current studies, part of a multi-institutional project, is seeking to understand how natural disasters shape what survivors believe, while another recently focused on the role that the desire for meaning plays in the tension between scientific and religious belief.

“I’m really intrigued by big questions and psychological science’s ability to answer some of the biggest and most pressing questions that people face,” Van Tongeren said.  “In my mind, when people wrestle with the meaning of life, the role of religion and how to treat each other well, those seem like some of the most pressing issues that we face.”

Van Tongeren has published more than 100 journal articles and academic book chapters.  He has received multiple grants for his research from the John Templeton Foundation as well as from the college.  In addition, Hope named him a Towsley Research Scholar in 2015 and he received the college’s Social Sciences Young Investigators Award in 2014.

He regularly involves students as collaborative researchers in his work, both part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer.  Several Hope students are co-authors on his publications, and students he mentored in research have received a regional award for excellence from the Midwestern Chapter of Psi Chi – The International Honor Society in Psychology two years in a row.

Prior to coming to Hope, Van Tongeren was a post-doctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University for a year.  He completed his undergraduate degree at Colorado Christian University in 2004, his master’s degree at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2006 and his doctorate at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011.

The Association for Psychological Science (previously the American Psychological Society) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of scientific psychology and its representation at the national and international level.  Founded in 1988, the association has more than 26,000 members and includes the leading psychological scientists and academics, clinicians, researchers, teachers and administrators.  More information about the association is available here.  The list of this year’s Rising Stars is available at psychologicalscience.org.