Two graduating Hope College seniors and three recent graduates have received recognition through the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) this year.
Senior Claire Benedict of Ada and 2019 graduate Jessica Korte have received fellowships. Senior Sarah Grimes of Plainwell and 2021 graduates Erik Schoonover and Jacob VanderRoest have received honorable mention.
Hope students or graduates have received fellowships or honorable mention through the program every year for at least the past 30 years. The NSF awarded 2,552 of the fellowships nationwide this year, and recognized another 801 applicants with honorable mention. The awards are for graduate students pursuing a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field. The fellowships provide the recipient with a three-year annual stipend of $37,000, along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees.
Benedict is double-majoring in chemistry, pursuing the college’s American Chemical Society-certified Bachelor of Science degree, and Spanish. Her career goal is to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and conduct research in organometallic chemistry at a national laboratory.
She is declining the NSF fellowship because she has also received a research award through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and may accept only one of the two. She has chosen the Fulbright, through which she will conduct research in Switzerland during 2023-24, and has the opportunity to apply again for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship next year. Beginning in the fall of 2024, she will pursue graduate study at the University of Chicago.
While in Switzerland, she will work with Dr. Martin Albrecht, who is a professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Bern, optimizing and developing Iridium-based dehydrogenation catalysts. When she enrolls in the Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago, which awarded her its Robert R. McCormick Fellowship, she will conduct research focused on fundamental organometallic mechanisms
Benedict has participated in collaborative research since her freshman year, including part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. As a freshman, she worked with Dr. William Polik, who is the Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry, performing an in-depth analysis of laser and optical systems part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer that followed.
Since her sophomore year, she has worked primarily with Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, professor of chemistry, during both the school year and summer. The research has focused on reaction development using carbon-carbon bond activation, where carbon bonds are broken to create new reaction pathways.
During the spring of 2022, she participated in off-campus study in Seville, Spain, during which she is worked in the laboratory of Dr. Agustin Galindo, a member of the organic chemistry faculty at the University of Seville. She helped develop metal complexes derived from amino acids that have antibacterial properties.
Also in the spring of 2022, she was one of two students from Hope to receive a $7,500 scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation — out of only 417 presented nationwide — for the 2022-23 school year.
In addition to collaborative research, Benedict’s activities at Hope have included tutoring, serving as a teaching assistant, playing piano, participating in bilingual activities, and the college’s intercollegiate indoor and outdoor track and field teams. She is a 2019 graduate of Forest Hills Eastern High School.
Grimes is double-majoring in biology and psychology, and double-minoring in environmental science and chemistry. After Hope she will pursue a Ph.D. in forestry and natural resources at Purdue University.
She initially became involved in collaborative research at Hope as a freshman, as a participant in the college’s Day 1: Watershed program, a residential program which combines coursework along with research experiences focused on the Macatawa Watershed, under the mentorship of Dr. Aaron Best, who is the Harrison C. and Mary L. Visscher Professor of Genetics.
In the spring of 2021, she began conducting research with Dr. Kelly Ronald, assistant professor of biology, including part-time during the school year and full-time during the summers of 2021 and 2022. Grimes’s research in the Ronald Lab has been examining the propagation of bird songs across an urbanization gradient, for which Grimes received support through both the Garden Club of America and an undergraduate fellowship from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.
Her activities at the college have also included working as a teaching assistant for Ronald’s animal behavior course, assisting with preparation for microbiology courses and participating in intramural sports. She is a 2019 graduate of Gull Lake High School.
Korte is pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering, focused on biomedical engineering, at the University of California, Davis. Schoonover is pursuing a Ph.D. in the geosciences, focused on petrology, at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. VanderRoest is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, focused on ecological sustainability, at Colorado State University.
The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM fields, and was established as the first program in the NSF’s history. Since 1952, the NSF has funded more than 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.