Dr. Leah ChaseDr. Leah Chase

Dr. Leah Chase, professor of biology and chemistry at Hope College, has been presented one of two 2020 Janet Andersen Lecture Awards by the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science.

The awards honor faculty at consortium-member colleges and universities who have vigorous research programs involving undergraduates, who are engaged and skilled teachers, or who create interdisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduate students.

The recognition is especially meaningful for Chase, for whom Andersen had been a colleague, friend and mentor. Andersen was a member of Hope’s mathematics and statistics faculty for 14 years before dying of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in November 2005. Andersen had directed the consortium for five years, and the organization established the award in 2008 to honor her dedication and commitment to her work with students and faculty in her teaching, research and service.

“My first interdisciplinary research collaboration was actually with her,” said Chase, who joined Hope’s faculty in 2000. “We co-taught mathematical biology one year, and then we began a project using mathematical modeling to study the activity of a membrane transporter that is important in the antioxidant defense used by cells. She passed away within a year of starting that project. For this reason, this award is particularly meaningful to me since she was such a great friend and early mentor in my career.”

The consortium annually recognizes one recipient in the area of biological sciences and psychology, and one in the area of physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. The recipients are invited to speak during the consortium’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposia, but because the 2020 events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic the organization will arrange for this year’s honorees to speak at a later date.

Chase led the development of the college's neuroscience program, which became a minor in 2004 and major in 2019, and served as the program's director for 13 years. She teaches courses in neuroscience, biochemistry, and introductory biology and chemistry, and mentors students through collaborative research. Her research focuses on two areas of neuroscience: 1) the biochemical mechanisms neurons (including those involved in Parkinson’s disease) use to protect themselves from oxidative stress and 2) the neurochemical changes that are associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder.

She has received a variety of external grants in support of her research and development of the neuroscience program, including from the Campbell Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Her support from the NSF included grants in 2002, 2006, and 2009 to create the college’s initial laboratory course in neuroscience, to obtain instrumentation to support her research program, and a research award to support her antioxidant-focused research project, respectively.

In 2019, Hope presented her with its Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award, which recognizes members of the faculty who are superior teachers and have also contributed significantly in some other area of professional life. The college named her a Towsley Research Scholar, a four-year award, in 2003.

Among other professional activity, she is a member of the Society for Neuroscience. the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience FUN. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Campbell Foundation and was a past governing member of FUN.

Prior to joining the Hope faculty, Chase conducted postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota, where she had completed her doctorate in biochemistry in 1999. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Michigan-Flint in 1993.

The Midstates Consortium for Math and Science was founded by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 1988. The consortium seeks to improve undergraduate science and mathematics education by providing high-quality and flexible professional development opportunities for students and faculty at the member institutions. Major activities include two annual symposia on undergraduate research hosted at Washington University and the University of Chicago, faculty development workshops, and exchange programs that support visits of students and faculty members to other member schools to give presentations or to enhance research collaborations.

Hope is one of 13 colleges and universities that are members of the consortium. The others are Beloit College, Carthage College, Colorado College, Grinnell College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Knox College, Lawrence University, Luther College, Macalester College, St. Olaf College, the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis.