Dr. Leah ChaseDr. Leah Chase

Dr. Leah Chase, professor of biology and chemistry at Hope College, has received a Mid-Career Advancement award from the National Science Foundation in support of her ongoing research on the fundamental biochemical mechanisms that cells, particularly the brain’s cells, use to combat oxidative insult and injury.

“This project will provide me with dedicated time to receive training in mass spectrometry in order to study a membrane transport system that plays a critical role in the acute cellular response to oxidative insult,” Chase said. “I will use advanced mass spectrometry techniques to characterize the molecular processes that regulate this transporter so that we can build a more comprehensive understanding of the cellular response to oxidative insult.  The brain’s cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress because of their high metabolic rate, so understanding these fundamental mechanisms is important for understanding brain function.”

The $269,281 NSF award will provide support for the next three years for Chase and her team of Hope student researchers.  Also, through the award, Chase will be collaborating with Dr. Stephanie Cologna, who is an associate professor, associate director of graduate studies and associate vice chancellor for research (STEM) at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “She has extensive expertise in the application of mass spectrometry to the study of proteins, and will be invaluable in helping me to apply this technique to the study of oxidative stress,” Chase said.

A member of the Hope faculty since 2000, Chase led the development of the college’s interdisciplinary neuroscience program, which became a minor in 2004 and major in 2019, and directed the program for 13 years. She teaches courses in neuroscience, biochemistry, and introductory biology and chemistry, in addition to mentoring students through collaborative research.  She has also been active in promoting collegiate neuroscience education nationally.

She has received multiple external grants in support of her research and development of the college’s neuroscience program, including from the Campbell Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Her prior 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 2023, Chase received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the international Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) professional organization.  The award recognizes outstanding efforts on behalf of undergraduate neuroscience education and research that may include singular achievements that have provided wide benefit to the undergraduate neuroscience community, or sustained efforts across years.

In 2020, she received the Janet Andersen Lecture Award from the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science, which honors 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.

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.

In addition to her involvement with FUN, of which she is a past-president, she is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. She currently serves as the vice president of the Campbell Foundation.

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.