Hope College has named students Caleb Brzezinski of Chelsea and Bryan Forrest of Arlington Heights, Illinois, as 2023-24 Beckman Scholars through the college’s Beckman Scholars Program award from The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

The awards are providing support for Brzezinski, who will be a sophomore next year, and Forrest, who will be a junior next year, as they conduct collaborative research with members of the chemistry faculty.  The support is providing funding for them to conduct research full-time for 10 weeks both this summer and next summer as well as part-time during the forthcoming school year.

Brzezinski is conducting research in computational chemistry with Dr. William Polik, who is the Edward & Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry.  The research, using computers to model molecular behavior, is studying two techniques: dynamically resizing computer clusters in the cloud, to save costs; and computational techniques that let the computer focus on only the important part of a molecule to save time while still obtaining useful results.

Brzezinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree with majors in both computer science and mathematics and a minor in jazz performance.  He began working with Polik at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester after initially conducting research in the college’s watershed group during the summer with Dr. Brent Krueger, professor of chemistry.

His activities at Hope also include the Swing Club, of which he is vice-president elect and playing guitar for the Jazz Arts Collective ensemble, as well as participating in a Bible study and helping teach in the college’s Math Lab.  He is a 2022 graduate of Washtenaw Tech Middle College in Ann Arbor.

Forrest is conducting research with Dr. Jeff Johnson, professor of chemistry. The research is focusing on the development of new chemical reactions capable of manipulating small organic molecules in previously unknown ways.  The team is exploring carbon-carbon activation, the selective cleavage of carbon-carbon bonds to synthesize new molecules and improve synthetic pathways. Forrest’s work focuses on expanding the scope of the rhodium-catalyzed reaction used to break the bonds.

Forrest is pursuing the college’s American Chemical Society (ACS)-certified chemistry major leading to a Bachelor of Science degree and a Bachelor of Arts major in Spanish. He has been conducting research with Johnson since the spring of 2022, including part-time during the school year and full-time last summer.

His activities at the college also include serving as president of the Chem Club and working as a teaching assistant in the freshman chemistry lab.  He is a 2021 graduate of John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

Hope is the only college or university in the nation to have had continuously active awards from the foundation since the grant program began in 1998. Brzezinski and Forrest are the third and fourth of the four students who will be supported through the current grant, which Hope received in 2021.  They were selected based on an application and subsequent interview with a committee of the program’s faculty mentors led by Dr. Jason Gillmore, professor of chemistry, who co-directs the Hope Beckman Scholars Program with Johnson.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation supports leading-edge research, in the fields of chemistry and life sciences, broadly interpreted, and particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that open up new avenues of research and application in those sciences and related disciplines.  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 bio-medically relevant science disciplines. The foundation also hosts an annual research symposium for the program’s student scholars from across the nation each summer.

Since the program began, Hope has named 34 students as Beckman Scholars including Brzezinski and Forrest.  The recipients have subsequently received a variety of major external honors through the years, including Goldwater Scholarships and Honorable Mentions; Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships; and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.  A total of 19 have continued to Ph.D. programs, six to medical school and three to MD/Ph.D. programs.

The college’s Beckman Scholars are among hundreds of students who conduct mentored collaborative research campus-wide at Hope each year.  Approximately 150 engage in research full-time during the summer, and about 350 participate in research alongside their coursework during the school year.