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March 7, 2001

Calvin Student Heading to D.C.

Calvin junior Mason Klein will have an opportunity to put both his physics and his political science majors to use on March 29 when he travels to Washington D.C. to present research done this past summer.

Klein, who worked with Calvin professor Matt Walhout, was selected by the Council on Undergraduate Research to be one of about 70 students nationwide who will travel to Capitol Hill. The only Michigan schools selected are Calvin, Lake Superior State and the University of Michigan.

The task of all 70 students will be both to educate policy makers about recent scientific findings and to push for more funding for undergraduate research. Students represent all regions of the country and all types of colleges and universities -- public and private, large and small.

"It's our hope that many important people will come to see our presentations," says Klein. "We'd like to show them that students can learn best by doing science, not just reading about it."

In preparation for his visit Klein is putting together a poster presentation which summarizes his research. He also is writing to Senators and Congressmen from both Michigan and his home state of Washington (he's a Seattle native). He hopes to network with some of those elected officials while in Washington.

Last summer Klein worked with Walhout to study the patterns formed when electrical current is run through gases inside a glass tube. The work, which was funded by Calvin College, Research Corporation, and the National Science Foundation, is a model for how scientific research benefits college students.

Says Klein: "Once you learn about a system on a simple level, you can start to learn about much more complex things."

As his double major indicates, Klein is a talented student. Says Walhout: "He's able to set up projects in an intelligent way and work through a system to gather and interpret data. He also writes well. I think that combination will pay off in Washington."

Klein is excited about his upcoming opportunity to combine his two majors. "At first I didn't really think a whole lot about the relationship between my two majors," he says, "they were just two things I found to be really interesting. But the more I think about it, the more I see how a lot of important policies, such as energy conservation or nuclear weapons inspection, are science related."

Undergraduate research is a significant part of a Calvin education, particularly in the sciences. The Council on Undergraduate Resarch generates awareness and national support for undergraduate research. It speaks primarily for undergraduate institutions such as Calvin and works with federal agencies and private and local organizations to develop and maintain research-based educational opportunities. CUR has 3,000 members representing over 850 institutions in eight academic divisions.

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Contact Phil de Haan.