Calvin College has won a prestigious $77,000 grant from the Beckman Scholars Program to give expanded, intensive research experiences to a handful of Calvin students.

Calvin College has won a prestigious $77,000 grant from the Beckman Scholars Program to give expanded, intensive research experiences to a handful of Calvin students.

Calvin College has won a prestigious $77,000 grant from the Beckman Scholars Program to give expanded, intensive research experiences to a handful of Calvin students. The grant was awarded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which funds programs in chemistry and the life sciences at non-profit institutions.

“This grant is going to fund four students on a very significant research experience at Calvin,” said Calvin chemistry professor Ronald Blankespoor.

The three-year Beckman grant allows Calvin to choose one student this year and three others over the next two years to engage in 15 months of research in chemistry, biology or biochemistry. The research period will stretch over two summers and the academic year in between.  

Participating students will be chosen from a group of eight (four per department) nominated by the chemistry and biology faculties. “We’re going to have no trouble picking a really good student as our first Beckman Scholar,” said Blankespoor. The scholar will pair with a faculty mentor in her or his chosen discipline.

Fifteen months of research

Much is expected of the students who will bear the title, Blankespoor said. The scholar will make a research proposal, work independently to complete the research project and, eventually, publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal. “Because this is a 15-month project, we’re expecting students to make significant progress. We’re expecting them to take ownership of their work as they go through the research period,” he said.

The students will be paid $16,000 over the entire 15-month period—a significant boost in income for a student researcher, Blankespoor said. The culmination of the project for each scholar is a special summer gathering in California where the Beckman Scholars will make presentations of their work.

A rare distinction

The Beckman opportunity is not only a rare honor for the students chosen for the program, said Blankespoor, it is a signal honor for Calvin as well. Colleges and universities cannot simply apply for the Beckman Scholars Program; application comes via invitation only, and the invitation list included only 125 institutions this year.

Calvin was among a mere 15 institutions chosen to participate in 2008, along with Bates College, Boston University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Hope College, Indiana University, Lewis and Clark College, Middlebury College, Northern Arizona University, the University of Delaware, the University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University.

“It really is an endorsement of the undergraduate research program at Calvin,” Blankespoor said. He’s happiest, however for the benefits to Calvin’s students. “It can be hard for students, with all of the demands on them, to keep research going throughout the academic year. This will allow students to accomplish a lot.”

Calvin's Science Building

Calvin's Science Building

Professor Ronald Blankespoor

Professor Ronald Blankespoor

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