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Faculty Research

We do research not for personal gain, or "just because", but to:

  • know God
  • Inform our teaching
  • Give our students opportunities for future success

Ryan Bebej

Ryan Bebej"I am interested in large-scale evolutionary changes among mammals, especially between terrestrial and aquatic environments. My research focuses on the origins of aquatic mammals such as cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) from their terrestrial ancestors and involves reconstructing the functional capabilities and behaviors of fossil species in the context of modern mammals."


Curt Blankespoor

"I view my research as an extension of my teaching. While an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get involved with a research project. It changed my entire career trajectory and I want to help provide those types of experiences for my students. It's both challenging and rewarding to find an interesting and relevant biological question to ask, and then to try to answer it through the process of scientific investigation and hypothesis testing."

Randy DeJongRandy Dejong

"My students and I have investigated genetic factors that determine compatibility between a parasite, Schistosoma mansoni, and its snail host, Biomphalaria. We also are examining the diversity and interactions of bacteria and bacteriophage within the snail gastrointestinal tract, and these investigations are connected to a lab-based course for first-year students I co-teach, in which students conduct research in phage biology and genomics (funded by HHMI).”

David Dornbos

“Whether learning about what makes invasive plants incredibly competitive, researching how we might use invasive plants to restore degraded soils and provide biofuel, or describing what more sustainable food production systems could look like in the U.S. or Cambodia, I have found Calvin to be an awesome place to engage students in what it means to learn and live reformed Christianity in biological context.”

Keith Grasman

Keith Grasman and stacy Hooker"I study the effects of environmental pollutants on the health of fish eating birds - gulls, terns and herons of the Great Lakes and loons in the Adirondack Mountains. My research is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Conservation Society.”

Phyllis Haugabood Pennock

Phyllis’s overall research interests lies in studying disparities among people of color and socio-economically disadvantaged groups through science. For her thesis research, Phyllis compared and analyzed the health data of blacks and whites suffering from Type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension in a local neighborhood medical clinic. Phyllis is also pursuing her doctorate in science education at Western Michigan University where her research involves studying educational inequities among girls of color in the science classroom, particularly in the area of science discourse. One of her prominent goals is to contribute research that will provide marginalized students equal access to quality science education.

Arlene HoogewerfArlene Hoogewerf

"I study bacteria and how they form communities called biofilms. Biofilms are interesting because when bacteria grow in these communities they are more resistant to antibiotics, chemical biocides, and host defenses.  I am also interested in the heavy metal resistance mechanisms in bacteria.  My most recent projects with students examine the effects of a new antimicrobial compound, SAFI, on bacteria in water that cause cholera and bacteria on fruits and veggies that cause listeriosis.”

David Koetje

David Koetje with students"I have broad scholarly interests that range from understanding plants' interactions with their environments, to promoting sustainability, to catalyzing pedagogical and curricular reforms in undergraduate biology education. I am currently leading our department's efforts to upgrade our Biology 224 and 225 labs, developing integrative investigations centered on compelling, socially-relevant questions as a way to promote mastery of essential research and critical thinking skills."

Rich Nyhof

"In the past, I have studied responses of isolated rat hearts to hypoxia-induced arrhythmias and isolated rat aortic rings to fatty acids.  I do not currently have a research program."

Darren Proppe

"I am interested in how animals respond to novel environments – especially those altered by human development. My research focuses primarily on the responses of songbirds to the increasing levels of anthropogenic (human caused) noise that overlaps their vocal signals. Since these overlapped signals appear to be less detectable, I have been investigating mechanisms that species employ to increase the effectiveness of their signals in areas of high noise. I have also investigated the potential that noise exacerbates the loss of some species and facilitates homogenization in developed landscapes. To learn more about this research see my interview on the BBC website and on BBC World News. Currently, I am investigating a novel method for sustaining songbird populations in the presence of anthropogenic noise. Given the seemingly unstoppable increase in noise levels worldwide, we must realistically seek for ways to preserve biodiversity within this context."


Anding shen with student researchersAnding Shen

"I have ongoing research studying latent reservoirs of HIV infection. We are investigating the mechanisms of how the reservoirs are formed and potential ways to remove the latent reservoir.  My newest work involves the role of Endothelial cells in HIV latent reservoir in T cells.” Read more about Professor Shen's HIV research with students.
Read Anding Shen's faculty profile >>


John Ubels

Courtney glupkerPeter Boersma"With support from the National Institutes of Health, the students in my lab are studying the mechanisms by which ultraviolet light can damage the cornea of the eye and possible protection of the cornea from UV by components of the tears.​ In collaboration with Prof. Curt Blankespoor, I am also studying parasitic infections of fish eyes in northern Michigan lakes at the University of Michigan Biological Station.” 

Randy Van Dragt

“My research interests are Pacific lowland prairie restoration, plant succession on abandoned oil well sites in northern Michigan, and forest succession of the Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve. My work is funded by Au Sable Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and Calvin College Alumni Association.”

Dave Warners

Dave Warners"Michael Ryskamp (former student) and I are just completing a paper describing the first official documentation of Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) in Michigan.  This is a species common to the southeastern US and its arrival in Michigan may indicate a response to climate change.  I am also preparing a paper with Chris Bouma and Emily Huizenga that assesses native biodiversity in different habitats on Calvin’s campus.  We were especially interested to see how much diversity is being supported by some of the large habitat restoration projects we’ve done on campus.  This project has important implications related to Christian stewardship and sustainability considerations.  Finally, I’ve been devoting a lot of attention to our Plaster Creek Stewards watershed group and Native Landscapes initiative.  You can learn more about these efforts at

 John WertzJohn Wertz

“With students at Calvin I have the daily opportunity to make discoveries of novel microbiological diversity and function. From the isolation of new microaerophilic bacteria in the human gut to the genomic characterization of novel viruses from the soil, the moment that a student and I realize we are holding in our hands an organism that only we and God know exists is beyond words.”


Amy Wilstermann

Amy Wilstermann"I am interested in the role that bacteria play in the premature rupture of fetal membranes. My students and I are investigating the negative impacts of pathogenic organisms on fetal membrane integrity as well as the potentially protective effects conferred by species belonging to the normal flora. I also study DNA topoisomerases. In particular, we are exploring biophysical interactions between this enzyme and topoisomerase-targeted chemotherapeutic agents."



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