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Hillsdale College’s science depart­ments reduced stipends for six-week summer research this year by $400-$1,000 for faculty and stu­dents.

Stipends dropped from $2,500 per researcher to $2,100 for each faculty member; $1,800 for every par­tic­ipant in the Lab­o­ratory for Advanced Under­graduate Research Edu­cation Adapted for Tal­ented and Extra­or­dinary Stu­dents, or LAUREATES, Program; and $1,000 for other stu­dents. The decrease comes as a result of the depart­ments not receiving funds from the college’s general budget, said Christopher VanOrman, dean of the natural sci­ences and pro­fessor of chem­istry.

The stipends come from interest on the college’s endowment, which totals $87,000, VanOrman said. For the past few years, however, the sci­ences have received up to $63,000 from the general budget to use toward stipends, he said. This year, that expense was cut from the budget to save money, VanOrman said.

“Everyone always wants more money, but we’ll make the cuts work,” said Lee Baron, natural sci­ences chair­woman and pro­fessor of chem­istry, “We are very thankful for the funding we have.”

VanOrman credited Pres­ident Larry Arnn and John Cervini, vice pres­ident for insti­tu­tional advancement, for raising most of the money for sci­en­tific research.

“They’ve raised enough money that the interest from the endowment every year is $87,000,” VanOrman said. “That’s well over a million raised, and we’re just working with the interest from that.”

But some stu­dents said the smaller stipend may put a financial strain on those who need to make money during the summer.

“Research is basi­cally your job,” senior bio­chem­istry major Gabriela Wong said. “It’s hard to spend six weeks researching and then go home to try to find a job for another six weeks before school starts.”

Plus, the rural Hillsdale com­munity lacks many sup­ple­mentary jobs stu­dents can do while at the college for their research, she said.

Before the LAUREATES Program, however, stu­dents would camp on their friends’ couches to do summer research at Hillsdale, Baron said. Now, stu­dents are for­tunate to receive any stipend, she said.

Senior bio­chem­istry major Emily Nelson per­formed her research at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Mil­waukee, Wis­consin. She said the decrease in stipend could get Hillsdale stu­dents to look for ways to fulfill their research requirement off campus.

“Some­times stu­dents get too com­placent,” Nelson said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, I’ve had this pro­fessor, I’ll just stay here and do my research with them, too.’ Hope­fully, the funding cuts will encourage stu­dents to look for oppor­tu­nities outside of Hillsdale.”

Whether studying chem­istry, biology, bio­chem­istry, physics, or psy­chology, every Hillsdale College science major must com­plete a summer research project to graduate.

“Research is a big part of your science edu­cation,” VanOrman said. “Wherever you are looking, you should go to a program that is going to have you do some research projects.”

Hillsdale’s LAUREATES Program gives 20 stu­dents based on their class and GPA each year the oppor­tunity to do a six-week, one-on-one research project with a Hillsdale faculty member and a stipend. Stu­dents typ­i­cally present their research pro­posals in the fall of their junior year, conduct research during the fol­lowing summer, and present their results during the fall of their senior year.

The research Hillsdale stu­dents do helps them get into some of the best pro­grams in the country, because they have per­sonally done sci­en­tific research and can com­mu­nicate that under­standing to others, VanOrman said.

“We send stu­dents all over the world doing research, and they’ve done very well,” VanOrman said. “We had one student who did research in the summer, and she wanted to get into the immunology program at the Mayo Clinic. She beat out two Harvard stu­dents, because she had a really good research project. She worked a solid six weeks one-on-one with a faculty member, and she could talk about her research in the interview. The Mayo Clinic got excited about it.”

In addition to the LAUREATES Program, VanOrman said stu­dents can also apply for Research Expe­rience for Under­grad­uates, or REU, pro­grams at other col­leges and uni­ver­sities.

“It’s the same type of research but at a graduate level insti­tution with faculty who do graduate work and under­graduate work, so they’re taking stu­dents into their Ph.D. pro­grams,” VanOrman said. “Most of them are around $4,000 paid for 10-week pro­grams and housing, because the gov­ernment assists them.”

Wong com­pleted her research through an REU program at the Uni­versity of Michigan, where she will pursue her master’s degree in the fall.

Wong said the expe­rience developed her lab­o­ratory skills and ulti­mately made her realize she did not want to pursue a career in lab­o­ratory work. She also said her time at the Uni­versity of Michigan gave her an advantage in graduate school appli­ca­tions.

Junior Micah Heinz said he looks forward to the oppor­tunity to do research untried by others before him. His research would con­tinue a project started by VanOrman and pre­vious stu­dents on a reaction involving the mol­e­cules that release oxygen in the blood. Heinz said he plans to try a new approach to the reaction, poten­tially using carbon monoxide.

“It hasn’t been done by anyone here, because it’s dan­gerous,” Heinz said. “But I think it will be really cool. I would like to try it if the other things don’t work.”

The extent of Hillsdale’s research oppor­tu­nities sur­prised Heinz, he said.

“I didn’t realize we had much of a science department at all, when I came,” Heinz said. “It’s not well adver­tised, but all three depart­ments biology, chem­istry, and physics — are all really fan­tastic. All of the pro­fessors are just at the top of their field and love teaching and teach well. Everyone loves them, and they get great results.”

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