Hope College is one of only 12 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a 2018 Beckman Scholars Program award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in recognition of excellence in faculty-student collaborative research in bio-medically related sciences. The 12 were selected by the foundation from among 58 institutions who responded to a highly selective invitation to apply.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation provides grants to researchers and non-profit research institutions in chemistry and life sciences to promote scientific discoveries, and particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research.  The Beckman Scholars Program provides support for stipends and supplies for select students at recipient institutions to engage in in-depth research with designated faculty members in biomedically relevant science disciplines.

Hope was in the first cohort of colleges and universities awarded a Beckman Scholars Program in 1998 and has had an active award ever since.  That first proposal was authored by Dr. William F. Polik, who is the Edward and Elizabeth Professor of Chemistry and currently associate dean for research and scholarship at Hope.

“Hope College has been recognized by the Beckman Foundation for excellence in undergraduate research more often than any other college or university in the United States,” Polik said. “This is a tribute to the quality of the students and their faculty mentors in pursuing original scholarship with important outcomes.”

Hope has received awards through the program eight times since the initiative began.  In addition to 1998 and this year, Hope received Beckman Scholars Program awards in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2015.

This year’s proposal from Hope was written by Dr. Jason G. Gillmore, professor of chemistry, who is also one of 10 faculty from biology, chemistry and physics serving as potential mentors in the current award.  The others are Dr. Beth Anderson, associate professor of chemistry; Dr. Aaron Best, who is the Harrison C. and Mary L. Visscher Professor of Genetics; Dr. Maria Burnatowska-Hledin, who is the Frederich Garrett and Helen Floor Dekker Professor of Biomedicine and Chemistry; Dr. Kristin Dittenhafer-Reed, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Greg Fraley, professor of biology; Dr. Gerald Griffin, assistant professor of biology and psychology; Dr. Jennifer Hampton, associate professor of physics; Dr. Jeff Johnson, associate professor of chemistry; and Dr. Ben Kopek, assistant professor of biology.

The $104,000 award to Hope will support a total of four students across the next three years as they conduct research mentored by one or more of the above faculty. Selected as sophomores or juniors through a competitive process, the scholars will each receive a total of $21,000 in support to conduct research with faculty members full-time during two summers and part-time during the intervening school year.  They will also be expected to major in one of the supported disciplines and to stay involved in research at Hope as seniors, in the hope that they will pursue biomedically relevant careers in the sciences or health professions.

In addition to providing sizable stipends to the selected student scholars and smaller stipends for their respective faculty mentors, the award includes funding for related supplies and travel. The foundation also hosts an annual research symposium for the program’s student scholars from across the nation at the Beckman Institute each summer.

Since the program began, the college has named 26 students Beckman Scholars, of whom 24 have graduated and two are currently enrolled.  The recipients have subsequently received a variety of major external honors through the years, including six Goldwater Scholarships and two Honorable Mentions; two Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships; and nine National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowships and two Honorable Mentions.  A total of 10 have obtained PhDs and six are currently in graduate school; four have obtained MDs with one currently in medical school; and two have obtained MD/PhDs, with one currently in an MD/PhD program.  To date, Beckman Scholars have published 37 papers based on their work at Hope, and 214 papers based on graduate, postdoctoral or independent work.

The college’s Beckman Scholars are among hundreds of students who conduct mentored collaborative research campus-wide at Hope each year.  Approximately 200 engage in research full-time during the summer, and about 300 part-time during the school year.  The exceptional scope of undergraduate-faculty collaborative scholarship was also honored this year with prestigious AURA (Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment) recognition from the Council on Undergraduate Research.