A total of three Hope College students have received highly competitive scholarships from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, out of only 413 awarded nationwide.

The three Hope recipients are sophomore Austin Becksvoort of Holland, junior Skylar DeWitt of Hudsonville and junior Anna Koppin of Northville.  Hope is the only college or university in Michigan to have as many as three, and the only liberal arts college in the state to have any, with Becksvoort, DeWitt and Koppin receiving a third of the nine awarded to students attending school in the state. Only 50 institutions in the country had three or more recipients.  

“I am very proud of our student recipients, and equally grateful for each of their faculty mentors,” said Dr. Jonathan Peterson, who is dean for natural and applied sciences at Hope. “The team commitment to excellence in undergraduate research is evident in these awards.”

The scholarships were awarded by the Board of Trustees of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to undergraduate sophomores and juniors.  The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from among 1,267 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the institutional representatives of 427 colleges and universities nationwide out of an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors.

The scholarships are for one or two years, depending on the recipient’s year in school, and cover the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Numerous Hope students have received scholarships through the years.  A total of 21 have received the awards since 2006, the earliest year for which data is available on the Goldwater website. Hope students have received three awards three times since 2008.

Becksvoort is double-majoring. He is pursuing the college’s American Chemical Society-certified Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and an engineering major with a concentration in chemical engineering, and minoring in mathematics.  His career goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry and conduct research in synthetic organic or polymer chemistry while teaching at the university level.

He has been conducting research, with Dr. Christopher Turlington, assistant professor of chemistry, including full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year.  His research is focused on creating new polymers, which are long chains of repeating molecules attached together, and he is investigating ways to attach new metals, such as iron, to the chain.  The group is excited about the applications the polymers have in fields such as medicine and 3-D printing.

In addition to collaborative research, Becksvoort is a member of the men’s tennis team, and works as a chemistry tutor and laboratory teaching assistant.

DeWitt is double-majoring in neuroscience and psychology, and minoring in biology.  Her career goal is to conduct research to uncover long-standing enigmas in neuroscience concerning behavioral disorders and teach at the university level, and to serve as an advocate for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

She has been conducting research since her freshman year with Dr. Erika Calvo-Ochoa, assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. The research uses an animal model, zebrafish, to study unique neural responses following brain injury. In addition to studying the effects of traumatic brain injury, DeWitt is studying the effects of hypoxia through an experimental model that she is developing and leading as the recipient of an undergraduate research fellowship from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

In addition to collaborative research, DeWitt’s activities include the Hope College Orchestra; Dutchmen Dance Team; and serving as historian of Prism.  She is also a member of the college’s chapter of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology.

Koppin is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.  Her career goal is to conduct research in biomedical science and make an impact in some area of human health.

She has been conducting research since the fall of 2021 with neuroscientist Dr. Leah Chase, professor of biology and chemistry, including full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. The Chase lab studies the membrane transport system System xc-, which plays a crucial role in preventing oxidative stress, the latter of which can lead to diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Koppin has been focusing on the question of what regulates the trafficking of xCT, which is the main protein of System xc-, on and off the plasma membrane of cells in response to oxidants that attack cells.

In addition to participating collaborative research, Koppin is a tutor for organic chemistry and teaching assistant, and a member of the Dutchman Dance Team.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent under-graduate award of its type in these fields. With the 2023 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 10,283.

The other institutions in Michigan with recipients are Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, each with two; and Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State University, each with one.