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Record Number of Student Researchers
June 21, 2006

This summer a record number of science student researchers are working at sites on and off the Calvin College campus through the college’s annual summer undergraduate research program.

All told 91 students are at work at Calvin and all around the nation on a wide array of projects in all fields of science.

"This year about 80 percent of our graduates were involved in experimental research (during their time at Calvin)," says Calvin professor of biology David DeHeer. "Our goal is to have every one of our students involved in research because it has been proven again and again to be the premiere way to learn science."

The 57 on-campus student researchers this summer were selected from 104 applicants. The students are partnering with professors in Calvin’s biology; chemistry and biochemistry; engineering; geology, geography and environmental studies; mathematics and statistics; nursing; and physics and astronomy departments.

They will work on everything from laser photochemistry to the effects of pollutants on water birds of the Great Lakes.

The 34 students who are doing research off-campus are at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Van Andel Research Institute; Pfizer.; Children’s Hospital in Chicago; the University of Southern California; Penn State University; Michigan State University; Western Michigan University; Northwestern University; the University of Colorado; Berry College; Isle Royale National Park; the McDonald Observatory in Texas; the Haystack Observatory at MIT; Jug Bay Wetland in Washington, D.C., and the National Security Administration. Others will work at research stations in Germany and Ethiopia.

They will do everything from molecular oncology to monitoring coyotes.

"These off-campus research opportunities provide diversity and opportunities in areas we don’t provide," DeHeer says. “When you look at the whole research package, on- and off-campus, it’s pretty impressive!"

DeHeer said that this year’s record package of researchers reflects a 15-year effort on the part of Calvin’s natural science division to expand its research offerings for students.

The program has been funded not only through grant support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation and the NIH, but also through the contributions of generous donors.

DeHeer roughly estimated the cost of the on-campus summer research program at a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

"And none of it comes from tuition dollars,” he says.

The program instead relies on its financial supporters and on the longstanding relationships built between Calvin and its research collaborators.

“These partnerships have been very, very important to our students, and our faculty too,” says DeHeer, who himself is collaborating (along with a student researcher) with surgeons at Spectrum Health on a project involving stem cells in bone marrow transplants.

The research program is primarily a benefit to the students, however.

"“We are really proud of these students and the work that they do," DeHeer says. "It helps them to identify their career goals. Some will find their life’s work after a taste of research. Others will discover it’s not for them. And for them career discovery is just as important as research discovery."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson