Chemistry Faculty Endow Summer Research

Originally posted: July 15, 2011

In an incredible show of support and commitment, all faculty members in the Department of Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College collectively
pledged $60,000 to help support HMC undergraduate chemistry summer research.

“The faculty wanted to give to the Stauffer Challenge to establish an endowment,” said Gerald Van Hecke ’61, Donald A. Strauss Professor of Chemistry. “The department critically needs to have a reliable basis for significant summer research support.”

Their gift will be matched by a grant from The John Stauffer Trust, which will fund chemistry summer research in perpetuity. The Trust provided the College  with a generous $500,000 matching grant called The Stauffer Challenge, to form the basis of a $1 million endowment to support the Chemistry Fund for Student Summer Research. The endowment, when fully funded, will annually support 10 summer research students at approximately $5,000 per student.

The chemistry faculty believe that permanent funding for summer research is of personal and professional importance. Their gifts signal not only their deep commitment to the students of Harvey Mudd College, but provide an enduring influence on future generations of HMC scientists.

“Research is more than an opportunity to impart problem solving, professional and technical skills. It is an apprenticeship where our students work  one-on-one with faculty to practice chemistry and function fully as a scientist. This is teaching at its best—experimental, evidence-based and rigorous,” said  Hal Van Ryswyk, Chemistry Department Chair.

This summer, the Chemistry Department and its students will celebrate more than 50 continuous years of summer student-faculty collaborative research. Summer research is an integral part of the unique undergraduate experience at Harvey Mudd College; students learn to integrate theory and practice, and develop as a scientist.

“The chemistry faculty feels so strongly about this way of teaching that we have developed a curriculum that encompasses research-like problems in courses at all levels and provides support for the senior thesis in terms of time, space and equipment,” said Van Ryswyk.

In a recent HMC chemistry alumni survey, 64.7% of alumni respondents viewed their summer research experience as influential in crafting their academic and professional careers; many of them were published while undergraduates at HMC. The successful model of the chemistry summer research program has been emulated throughout campus. Summer research at HMC now includes two NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs and more than 100 research projects each year funded by federal agencies, private foundations and corporations, individual donors and college sources. One hundred forty researchers took part in summer research in 2011 with faculty mentors.

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