Dr. Jennifer Hampton of the Hope College physics faculty, who was killed in an automobile accident in Holland on Sunday, March 14, has received this year’s Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award from the graduating Class of 2021.
The H.O.P.E. award, first given in 1965, is presented by the graduating class to the professor who they feel epitomizes the best qualities of the Hope College educator. This year is the first time that the honoree has been chosen posthumously.
Hampton was a professor of physics and department chair at Hope, where she had taught since 2007. She was named the H.O.P.E. Award’s recipient during the college’s Commencement ceremony, held at the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium on Sunday, May 16. The recognition was accepted on her behalf by colleague Dr. Paul DeYoung in a pre-recorded segment that was shown during the event.
“We must admit that this is bittersweet,” said DeYoung, who is the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Physics at the college. “It is with joy that we recognize her accomplishments and the impact that she had on so many. We also know that her care for people extended well beyond Hope, and though we mourn her loss, and we miss her, we rejoice in the promise of the resurrection.”
Hampton, who was 48 at the time of her death, taught in all areas of the physics curriculum, from introductory classes to upper-level lectures and laboratories. She also served as the faculty contact for the Materials Characterization Lab, which includes the college's scanning electron microscope and atomic force microscope.
Her research interests were highly multidisciplinary, drawing from chemistry and materials engineering as well as physics, and her areas of expertise included electrochemistry, nanoscale science, scanning probe microscopy, and batteries and fuel cells. She had received multiple research and equipment grants from the National Science Foundation and had several articles published in refereed journals. She had made a seminar presentation about her research during the college’s Winter Happening event in 2012.
Her collaborative research with students focused on understanding and controlling the fabrication of inorganic thin films and nanostructures for energy related applications. Through the years, students she mentored in research were co-authors on published research articles and received external awards and honors including a Goldwater Scholarship, a first-place research presentation award during the Annual Meeting and National Student Conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and being chosen to present research during the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting, the largest physics meeting in the world.
Hampton was a member of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, where she regularly participated in the worship team and had been a pastoral deacon. as well as a regular singer and clarinetist for the worship team. In addition, she loved her book group, her biking group, and the opportunity to tutor young girls in Kids Hope.
She had an adventurous side as well. She started school in Liberia, West Africa. She explored Europe with her family in 1984, 1995 and 2003. She worked in Cote D'Ivoire with her missionary aunt in 1993 during an Oberlin winter term. In 2018 traveled to China with her best college friend, and in 2019 she participated in an Iron Man competition with her gym, Valeo.
Hampton received her B.A. in physics with honors from Oberlin College in 1995; her M.Phil. in physics in 1996 from the University of Cambridge in England on a Churchill Fellowship; and her M.S. and Ph.D. in physics, in 1999 and 2002, respectively, from Cornell University. She had also been a post-doctoral fellow in a research laboratory at Penn State.