Archived Voice Articles
Dordt is one of seven to receive grant
By Julie Ooms
This summer, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Dordt’s chemistry department, along with those at six other area colleges and universities, a $2,973,000 grant to establish the Northern Plains Undergraduate Research Center (NPURC). The Center, which the grant will fund over the next five years, covers research conducted by chemistry professors at all seven colleges and universities. Students participate in curricular and summer research programs, giving them hands-on research experience while expanding their knowledge of science.
Beginning next summer, Dr. Edwin Geels and his students will conduct research to find a solution to the control of parasitic bee mites and the diseases they bring to honeybees. Current chemicals used to control the mites are toxic, and bees are becoming resistant to them.
Dordt College, Augustana College, Mount Marty College, Sinte Gleska University, Buena Vista University, the University of South Dakota, and Fort Berthold Community College received the grant after submitting a proposal to the NSF describing the types of projects their science departments wished to conduct. The NSF receives eighty to ninety such proposals each year. After narrowing down the proposals, the NSF chose two projects to fund this year, one of which was the NPURC. The NSF has funded only three such projects over the last three years, according to Dr. Edwin Geels, professor of chemistry.
The NPURC will begin next summer. Students who are a part of the summer program will receive a small stipend for doing ten weeks of research. The grant will also be used to purchase equipment, chemicals, and other tools needed to conduct their projects. In the next two years, Geels hopes to expand Dordt students’ interest in science and also write more proposals so that the program can continue beyond the present grant period.
The research teams will fall into one of six “research clusters” that represent major fields of research in chemistry and biology. Geels and his students will conduct research on honeybees this year. They, as well as other students and professors at all seven schools, will develop research “modules” based on their research that could be incorporated into the curricula at participating schools.
The modules are important, Geels says, because students will see that science is an ongoing, developing field where results are not always predetermined or known. They will also gain an appreciation for how and why research is done, and become more excited about the possibilities offered by science. Students who wish to do so will also be able to participate in ten-week summer programs, with two students working with each faculty member.
“Research is a way in which students can learn to unfold God’s creation,” Geels says. By conducting these projects at the NPURC, Geels hopes to encourage his students to discover more about the creation God has given us to enjoy and study. The NSF grant has given Geels and Dordt’s chemistry department ample opportunity to do so.