Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at K Welcomes Newest Inductees

Phi Beta Kappa logo says, 'Dec 5, 1776'
The Delta of Michigan chapter of Phi Beta Kappa celebrated
41 Kalamazoo College inductees from the class of 2022
on June 8.

The Delta of Michigan Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Kalamazoo College welcomed 42 inductees for 2022 at an induction ceremony on June 8, 2022. 

The mission of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought and recognize academic excellence. Founded on December 5, 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. Around 10% of U.S. colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and these chapters select only 10% of their arts and sciences graduates to join. Noteworthy members include 17 U.S. presidents, 42 U.S. Supreme Court justices and more than 150 Nobel Laureates.  

Phi Beta Kappa inductees for 2022 include:  

  • Isaac Agranoff
  • Natalie Barber 
  • Aleksandra Bartolik 
  • Irie Browne 
  • Gabriel Walker Chung  
  • Rachel Cornell
  • Haley Crabbs 
  • Shayla Dailey 
  • Eva Deyoung 
  • Jake Fales 
  • Faith Flinkingshelt 
  • Lena Gerstle 
  • Katie Gierlach 
  • Abigail Gray 
  • Ella Griggs 
  • Madeline Guimond 
  • Emiley Hepfner 
  • Sam Hoag 
  • Joseph Jung 
  • Mikayla Kindler 
  • Marissa Lewinski 
  • Ellie Lotterman 
  • Isabella Luke 
  • Ruicong Ma 
  • MacKenzy Maddock 
  • Clara Martinez-Voigt 
  • Grace McKnight 
  • Mihail Naskovski  
  • Udochi Okorie 
  • Eve Petrie 
  • Molly Ratliff 
  • Lily Rogowski 
  • Tommy Saxton  
  • Lia Schroeder 
  • Isabella Shansky-Genovese 
  • Abby Stewart 
  • Hayden Strobel
  • Rina Talaba
  • Omar Thaj  
  • Annie Tyler 
  • Megan Vandyke 
  • Carter Wade 

Eight Heyl Scholars Choose K

Lillian Daniels for Heyl Scholars
Lillian Daniels ’26
Olivia Cannizzaro for Heyl Scholars
Olivia Cannizzaro ’26
Annaliese Bol for Heyl Scholars
Annaliese Bol ’26
Michael Ankley '26
Michael Ankley ’26

Eight Kalamazoo County high school students seeking to major in STEM-related fields have earned Heyl Scholarships to attend Kalamazoo College in the 2022-23 academic year. 

The Heyl Scholarship Fund was established in 1971 through the will of Dr. Frederick Heyl and Mrs. Elsie Heyl.

Frederick Heyl was the first chemist at The Upjohn Company, later becoming a vice president and the company’s first director of research. He also contributed to about 80 research papers and patents while teaching chemistry at K. He maintained a lifelong passion for science and education and was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from K in 1937.  

Anoushka Soares
Anoushka Soares ’26
Brigid Roth
Brigid Roth ’26
Alyssa Park
Alyssa Park ’26
Devi DeYoung '26
Devi DeYoung ’26
Abigail Houtrouw for Heyl Scholars
Abigail Houtrouw, WMU

Since then, Heyl scholarships have enabled hundreds of high school graduates from Kalamazoo County to attend Kalamazoo College for STEM-focused majors or Western Michigan University for nursing, with renewable benefits for up to four years that cover tuition, fees, housing and a book allowance. 

This year’s recipients of the scholarships, their high schools and their prospective majors are: 

  • Michael Ankley, Kalamazoo Central, physics.  
  • Annaliese Bol, Loy Norrix, biology. 
  • Olivia Cannizzaro, Vicksburg and Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC), 3+2 engineering.  
  • Lillian Daniels, Loy Norrix, biology. 
  • Devi DeYoung, Hackett Catholic Prep and KAMSC, physics or biology. 
  • Alyssa Park, Portage Central and KAMSC, computer science. 
  • Brigid Roth, Kalamazoo Central and KAMSC, biology. 
  • Anoushka Soares, Portage Central and KAMSC, biology. 

A ninth Heyl scholar this year, Abigail Houtrouw, has graduated from Kalamazoo Central and KAMSC. She will attend the Western Michigan University Bronson School of Nursing.

Alumni Reflect on the Advice They Would’ve Given Themselves

Students, faculty and staff practice the procession for Commencement on the Quad
Graduates-to-be on Thursday rehearsed the processional they will execute during
Commencement on the Quad at Kalamazoo College.

Spring term finals are over. Kalamazoo College’s faculty and staff are preparing for Commencement. And seniors, through a traditional rehearsal, have received their last instructions for Sunday’s ceremony. To help smooth the students’ transitions away from undergraduate life, we asked some faculty and staff who are K alumni themselves to share what advice they would go back and give themselves as they graduated.

Here’s what they had to say of that advice. We hope it will be valuable for the class of 2022.

Professor of History Charlene Boyer Lewis ’87

“Remember that no matter how carefully you plan for the future, something is going to come along to change your plans—and sometimes that change will be amazing!”

Enrollment Systems Manager Dan Kibby ’91

“Looking back, I cannot remember a single instance where I later wished I’d been less kind.”

Kalamazoo College Chaplain Liz Candido ’00

Two male faculty and a female grad-to-be on Commencement stage during rehearsal advice
Graduates-to-be Thursday were advised they will
shake hands with President Jorge G. Gonzalez, receive
their diploma, move their tassel and have their picture
taken while crossing the stage.

“Be imperfect. Some of the best things in my life have come as the result of some screw-up or mistake. Lose your fear of doing it wrong or incorrectly, and let yourself blunder into something unexpected and wonderful!”

Web Content Specialist Martin Hansknecht ’20

“Know that the skills you developed while at K are deeply transferable across industries, and be open to the curve balls life throws at you. But before that, take time to celebrate all you have accomplished during your four years at K—even though it may feel self-indulgent to celebrate anything positive during the dawn of a pandemic.” 

Admission Counselor Lezlie Lull ’20

“Say yes. Visit your friends. Enjoy your weekends. As you transition into a new life stage, take your time and enjoy the small moments, and don’t forget to visit your parents!”

We’re excited for the class of 2022 to join the ranks of our alumni!

Signing Day Spotlights Students Headed to Graduate School

Amanda Morrison Signing Day
Amanda Morrison ’22
Annie Tyler '22 Signing Day
Annie Tyler ’22

Bright careers await the seniors graduating soon from Kalamazoo College, including those in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Six of them were spotlighted recently during a Signing Day, featuring some of the scholars who are moving on to graduate programs this fall.

Much like student-athletes would gather to sign letters of intent when selecting their collegiate destinations, the chemistry students met to officially declare their educational next steps. The event was first envisioned by Subi Thakali ’21, Alex Cruz ’21 and Angela Ruiz ’21, who desired an academic answer to the accolades a student-athlete might receive during a Signing Day. Professor of Chemistry Jeff Bartz organized it that first year and even borrowed a photography backdrop from the athletics department.

Now, grad-school bound chemistry students from K receive some brief fame through social media as their pictures and destinations are featured in the department’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Suja Thakali ’23, a leader in the Higher-Level Education in Dow student organization, planned much of this year’s event with Bartz again borrowing a backdrop. The students among the honorees on the Signing Day were:

Lia Schroeder
Lia Schroeder ’22
Grace McKnight on Signing Day
Grace McKnight ’22
  • Annie Tyler, who is heading to Yale University for a Ph.D. in organic chemistry
  • Amanda Morrison, who will join the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis for a master’s degree in medicinal chemistry
  • Grace McKnight, who will attend the Grainger School of Engineering at the University of Illinois for a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics
  • Lia Schroeder, matriculating at Rutgers University for a Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry
  • Faith Flinkingshelt, moving on to the University of California-Irvine for a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry
  • Ola Bartolik, who is seeking a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Michigan.

The chemistry department expects the tradition to continue next year alongside students from the biology department. But for this year, Tyler’s destination is especially noteworthy as she will be the first Heyl scholar from K to be awarded a Heyl Fellowship in more than 15 years. Heyl scholars are high-achieving high school graduates from Kalamazoo County, who receive full-tuition scholarships to attend K in a STEM program or Western Michigan University’s Bronson School of Nursing. K grads who successfully matriculate to Yale are eligible to apply for the Fellowship.

Ola Bartolik
Ola Bartolik ’22
Faith Flinkingshelt
Faith Flinkingshelt ’22

Tyler—a chemistry and religion double major, Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and Kalamazoo Promise scholar—said Yale wasn’t a graduate school on her radar until she realized the possibility of attending on a Heyl Fellowship.

“When I visited the campus and chemistry building, Yale was the only place I visited where I didn’t have an ‘I like this, but here’s this issue I have with it’ feeling,” Tyler said. “I liked everything about it. I liked that it was in a new place, and that they seemed really excited about recruiting students. I could very easily picture myself at Yale for the next five years.”

The Heyl Fund will cover up to four years of Tyler’s tuition and fees along with a stipend in the Fellowship. For the upcoming academic year, those costs add up to more than $80,000.

“I’m really honored that I was chosen for the Heyl Scholarship and the Heyl Fellowship,” Tyler said. “The scholarship allowed me to attend Kalamazoo College in the first place. To see that my last four years of work at K have allowed me to become a Heyl Fellow makes me really proud and excited to continue the work.”

Biology Student Gains Skills, Perspective Working at Kalamazoo Lab

Dwight Williams' lab at Dow Science Center
Maddy Harding ’22, third from left, was one of a group of K students performing research in
the lab of Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Associate Professor of Chemistry Dwight Williams
last summer. Harding also holds a job at local lab Genemarkers, where she has assisted
in COVID-19 PCR testing.

Almost two years ago, Maddy Harding ’22 found both a way back to Kalamazoo and an inside perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After being sent home with the rest of the Kalamazoo College campus in spring 2020—home for Harding being a tiny town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado—she returned to Kalamazoo about five months later, in July 2020. 

“I didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted to be back in Kalamazoo,” Harding said. “I had a roommate, so we found an apartment and looked for jobs.” 

Harding quickly found a position with Genemarkers, a genetic research lab in Kalamazoo that had pivoted in the spring from its previous focus on personalized medicine and product development to COVID testing.   

A biology major with a psychology minor and neuroscience concentration, Harding would attend virtual classes during the day before going into the lab to prepare COVID test samples for PCR testing. 

“I would go to work at 4 p.m. and stay until we finished, which some nights was 10 or 11 p.m.,” Harding said. “The facilities test all day and then they send all their samples in and they want results the next day. All the samples come in between 4 and 6 p.m., cooler after cooler after cooler. We were at one point in the winter receiving 3,000-4,000 samples a day. There would be coolers stacked to the ceiling full of patient samples.” 

Maggie Harding '22, who has worked at Genemarkers lab, holding her Senior Integrated Project
Maddy Harding ’22 completed her Senior Integrated Project testing a drug that could
help protect against neurodegenerative diseases on roundworms. She has honed her
lab skills working for the local lab Genemarkers for the past two years.

The lab worked to maintain a 24- to 48-hour turnaround time on all samples. 

“We were just trying to get through as many samples as possible in a short time while also being accurate and careful,” Harding said. “We were in full PPE [personal protective equipment]—scrubs, gown, shield, mask, two pairs of gloves. There were definitely stressful situations and a bit of fear, especially at the beginning, because that was before vaccines and I was touching COVID every single day. My coworkers are great, though, and I felt like I was making an impact on a lot of people. I’m glad I was able to help in some way.” 

Even as K returned to in-person classes and the schedule grew more challenging, the job offered Harding inside information on the state of the pandemic. Harding found it interesting to see how the number of samples and positivity rates fluctuated and to understand the PCR testing process.  

“My friends would always ask me for more details about what was actually going on,” Harding said. “I could tell them what pharmacies to go to at the peak times when our lab had one of the shortest turn-around times.” 

At times, Genemarkers has provided COVID testing for various pharmacies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and colleges, including K. 

“That was tough at times,” Harding said. “The samples come with requisition forms that have the name and all the information for the patient. I would see people I sit next to in class, see their names on a COVID test. I don’t ever see the results with the name, and of course with HIPAA privacy laws I couldn’t say anything. Even though it’s all confidential, it was an interesting dynamic to navigate.” 

As the rate of testing has slowed, Harding has transitioned into a research-and-development role with Genemarkers, testing the efficacy and safety of various skin care products. 

Working at Genemarkers has taught Harding important lessons about working in a team, problem solving and working under pressure. 

The job has also boosted Harding’s lab skills, which helped when working on her Senior Integrated Project, researching the neuroprotective effect of a drug targeting serotonin receptors in C. elegans, a type of roundworm. 

“We looked to see if the drug has neuroprotective effects and it did, so that was exciting,” Harding said. “We did have some significant results. Neurodegenerative diseases are a big problem. There are a lot of different types and one of the problems in treating them is that they all have different mechanisms of action of neuronal death. A lot of treatments look at each one specifically. This research looked at them more collectively to see if there was more of a common process of cell death that is occurring in all of the different diseases.” 

Although much more research is needed, Harding’s work could eventually contribute to a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. 

The Genemarkers position has also had connections to Harding’s coursework at K. At the height of COVID testing, she had to keep a dream journal for a dreams and consciousness class and discovered that about half her dreams were stress dreams about working in the lab. 

“Right now, I’m in a genetics class and I’m learning all the little details I was missing for understanding the actual science I was doing,” Harding said. “Yes, I know I’m isolating RNA and then amplifying that using PCR, but what does that actually mean on the microscopic level? I’m learning that now in class so it’s cool to more fully understand the work I’ve been doing for so long. That’s a fascinating intersection between school and work.” 

Harding is currently applying for medical school and hoping to start that in fall 2023. 

“I just accepted a job for a research technician position for next year, for my gap year, and I think the Genemarkers experience made me a competitive applicant because I’ve worked there for so long and have learned a variety of useful skills,” Harding said. 

The job, at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, involves research on mitochondrial function. After graduation, Harding will move to Chicago for the job. Many of Harding’s K experiences will apply to the lab tech work. 

For example, she will be working with rodents, which she has done via psychology research during her time at K. Harding helped run a taste aversion learning trial which has possible implications for cancer patients who often develop aversions to certain foods during chemotherapy treatments. 

In addition, Harding took a topics class for seniors on neurodegenerative disorders in the fall that operated like a journal club. 

“We read different papers every single week and presented the findings of the scientific literature to the class,” Harding said. “I got exposed to a lot of cutting-edge techniques that are being used and now I’ll be using them next year.” 

Harding learned about the lab tech opportunity through a professor’s connection to a K alumnus who works in the lab. 

“It will be cool to talk to him about K,” Harding said. “It’s always fun to meet K alumni outside of K in a different context. You share this niche experience because it is such a small school and has so many traditions.” 

K Honors 30 with Senior Leadership Awards

Recipients of 2022 Senior Leadership Awards
The 2022 Senior Leadership Awards recipients are (top row, from left) Matt Dubin, Aramide Ap-Oyin, Mihail Naskovski, Rushik Patel, Trish Gatsi and Walker Chung; (second row, from left) Zoe Zawacki, Ella Knight, Jake Fales and Hayden Strobel; (third row, from left) Aaron Martinez, Grace McKnight, Emme DeConinck, Dylan McGorisk and Alex Wallace; (fourth row, from left) Ella Palacios, Nilah Seals, Caroline Norton, Kayla Carlson and Reyna Rodriguez; and (front row, from left) Abby Stewart, Hannah Hong, Julia Ghazal, Mauricio Guillen, JP Pamintuan and Shayla Dailey. Not pictured: Ruth Butters, Kaitlyn Dexter, Darby Scott and Ian Yi.

A total of 30 students known for their invaluable contributions to the Kalamazoo College community were honored Friday, May 13, at the 18th annual Senior Leadership Recognition Awards.

The recipients represent talented athletes, outstanding academic performers, members of the President’s Student Ambassadors and student-organization standouts. Here are the honorees:

  • Aramide Apo-Oyin, nominated by Alexandra Altman, Admission
  • Ruth Butters, nominated by Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement
  • Kayla Carlson, nominated by Sara Stockwood, Center for Environmental Stewardship
  • Walker Chung, nominated by Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Shayla Dailey nominated by Karyn Boatwright, Psychology
  • Emme DeConinck, nominated by Bryan Goyings, Women’s Soccer
  • Kaitlyn Dexter, nominated by Justin Berry, Political Science; and Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement
  • Matt Dubin, nominated by Brian Dietz, Student Development
  • Jake Fales, nominated by Vince Redko, Men’s Lacrosse
  • Trish Gatsi, nominated by Jackie Srodes, Center for Career and Professional Development; and Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Julia Ghazal, nominated by Danielle Turner, Residential Life
  • Mauricio Guillen, nominated by Francisco Villegas, Anthropology and Sociology
  • Hannah Hong, nominated by Daniela Arias-Rotondo, Blakely Tresca and Regina Stevens-Truss, Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Danielle Turner, Residential Life
  • Ella Knight, nominated by Mark Murphy, Women’s Tennis
  • Aaron Martinez, nominated by Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Dylan McGorisk, nominated by Vince Redko, Men’s Lacrosse
  • Grace McKnight, nominated by Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement; and Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Mihail Naskovski, nominated by Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund; and Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement
  • Caroline Norton, nominated by Mark Murphy, Women’s Tennis
  • Ella Palacios, nominated by Kathryn Sederberg, German Studies; and Rachel Love and Rick Barth, Science, Math, Business and Economics Learning Centers
  • JP Pamintuan, nominated by Jackie Srodes, Career Development
  • Rushik Patel, nominated by Alexandra Altman, Admission; and Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Reyna Rodriguez, nominated by Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement
  • Darby Scott, nominated by Katie Miller, Women’s Basketball; and Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Nilah Seals, nominated by Hunter Magrum, Residential Life
  • Abby Stewart, nominated by Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Civic Engagement
  • Hayden Strobel, nominated by Diomedes Rabago, Spanish
  • Alex Wallace, nominated by Sandy Dugal, Kalamazoo College Fund
  • Ian Yi, nominated by Mark Riley, Men’s Tennis
  • Zoe Zawacki, nominated by Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Riley Gabriel, Center for Civic Engagement

Houseless to Benefit from K Team’s Work

A Kalamazoo College faculty member and three of her students are among the people looking to help local houseless women and their young children achieve housing and health equity.

Visiting-Assistant-Professor-Jennifer-Mills-Helps-Houseless-Moms
Visiting Assistant Professor of
Psychology Jennifer Mills is the grant
writer for the Home Start Initiative, a
local project that aims to help
houseless women and their children.
Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson
Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Mills—with visionary assistance from Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson—is the grant writer for the Home Start Initiative, a Kalamazoo County-backed project that will build a development of 10 homes with a park, parking area, community courtyard and more near a former makeshift houseless encampment next to the Kalamazoo River at Ampersee Avenue.

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners awarded the Home Start Initiative, a collaboration between Playgrown and the Institute of Public Scholarship, more than $318,000 in April for the sake of addressing a local shortage of affordable housing. Specifically, it will help people living at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI) eventually achieve ownership of the homes in the project.

Mills, an expert in the social determinants of health, said the most exciting part of the project for her is that the initiative is partnering with Western Michigan University’s Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine as well as the health department and Healthy Babies Healthy Starts in Kalamazoo County to ensure that women and their children will obtain at least five of those homes. Her students then will build a research agenda around the partnership and track health outcomes.

“We know in public health that a relationship exists between housing equity and health outcomes,” Mills said. “We’re trying to intervene early to give children some of the stability that can impact those social determinants of health. We’ll be working closely with the medical school and the public health department to identify all the measures we want to track.”

A groundbreaking is expected this fall. In the meantime, students such as Janet Fernandez ’25 and Natalie Pineda ’25 will interview the houseless community from the same area at Ampersee and Hotop avenues, where they conducted interviews in a previous first-year seminar.

Natalie-Pineda-Helps-Houseless-Women-and-Their-Children
Natalie Pineda ’25

The day they first showed up for those first-year seminar interviews, Fernandez and Pineda saw community members hurrying to pick up their belongings and worrying about where they could go next with the encampment being shut down.

“I think their stories are really important because they’re often just seen as being ‘the homeless,’” Pineda said. “If we’re acting as a community of Kalamazoo, and if we’re trying to provide better housing for people who live here, the most important place to start is with their stories and asking what their needs are because they’re the ones who are living that situation.”

Taking those stories and providing equity is an important part of sustaining the community, Fernandez said. Both Fernandez and Pineda are from communities, Chicago and Los Angeles respectively, where significant numbers of people are houseless. It’s nothing new to either of them. Yet the Home Start Initiative represents the first time Fernandez has seen a project of its kind.

“We have institutions and places in our cities where houseless people can go and sleep overnight,” she said. “But you’ll never see a program like the one we’re working on, where people get to live in a house and eventually own it. Trying to build that generational wealth is incredibly important.”

One of the first measures of success for the Home Start Initiative would be improved reading scores for the children involved over the next few years.

Skyler Rogers ’23

“Within the first few years of life, a lot of the social determinants of health begin to play a role in how a child’s brain develops and how different processes in the body take place,” said Skyler Rogers ’23, a third K student participating in the project.

“Having a stable, foundational childhood can change things drastically. It can impact a child’s cognitive abilities from a young age, and that’s where third-grade reading levels come into play. By the time a child reaches third grade, you can estimate their likelihood of graduating from high school and moving forward in life.”

As their work progresses, all of K’s representatives contributing to the Home Start Initiative are taking pride in their work. It’s a big investment that might not always represent what some in Kalamazoo believe is a top priority in addressing the issue of houselessness, but Mills and her students aren’t just assuming what the houseless community needs to provide a bare minimum of support. Instead, they’re talking to people to determine their exact needs.

“It feels amazing to see this,” Pineda said. “The amenities provide lifestyle help and can really ground a person to help them get back on their feet. Any other homeless shelter can provide you with a roof over your head for one night. But this project is helping people stay stable for a long period of time. It can help you get a job. If you have children, they provide daycare. All those aspects are important and add to these stories. It’s easy to think the homeless just need somewhere to sleep. But these are people, too, who will get a chance to start their lives again with this project.”

Chemistry Student Selected as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

Portrait of National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow Ola Bartolik '22
Ola Bartolik ’22 has been selected by the National
Science Foundation as a Graduate Research
Fellow to support her graduate career at the
University of Michigan.

Ola Bartolik ’22 has been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Graduate Research Fellow to support her graduate career at the University of Michigan.

Bartolik will graduate from Kalamazoo College in June with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a biochemistry concentration and a psychology minor. In August, she will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, where she previously participated in research in the lab of Paul Jenkins for her Senior Integrated Project.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution. The fellowship also provides access to opportunities for professional development.

Approximately 2,000 applicants are offered a fellowship from among more than 12,000 applicants per competition.

“I think it’s really important that students at K be aware of the fellowship,” Bartolik said. Bartolik said the application process offered experience in writing a research proposal and bolstered her grad school applications by showing she was already thinking about funding and research. While Bartolik had considered taking a gap year before entering graduate school, the combination of the fellowship offer with the community she has already found at the University of Michigan while working on her SIP proved irresistible.

“I was having a lot of doubt as to whether I could really put myself through a Ph.D. or whether I had the skills and the knowledge to do it,” Bartolik said. “If the National Science Foundation saw enough potential to invest in me, that makes me think I’m ready for grad school.

“When I posted the announcement on my academic Twitter, Paul Jenkins retweeted it, and the University of Michigan neuroscience program retweeted it, too. The head of the program emailed me that I should be really proud. I hadn’t even committed to graduate school yet and they were already celebrating with me.”

Bartolik was also quick to share the news with the chemistry department at K.

“We are very proud of Ola,” said Blakely Tresca, Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This is an amazing accomplishment for an undergraduate student before starting a Ph.D. program. Ola is the first chemistry major in 25 years to earn this honor while still a student at K.”

Bartolik will earn her Ph.D. as part of the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) at the University of Michigan, an umbrella program that comprises a variety of research fields including neuroscience, pharmacology, biochemistry and more.

“I’m really interested in trying to combine either neuroscience and pharmacology, or neuroscience and chemistry, for designing new drugs or new molecules that could be used for research or for therapeutic purposes,” Bartolik said. “My goal has always been to combine chemistry with neuroscience because I like chemistry; I don’t want to let go of it. Neuroscience can be very bio-heavy and I feel like having a chemist’s perspective on biological systems like the brain is really valuable.”

While her graduate work in PIBS is funded, Bartolik said, research opportunities can be limited based on each lab’s available funding.

“The fellowship opens me up to more lab opportunities and makes it easier to secure a spot in a lab,” Bartolik said.

At this point, Bartolik is interested in possible careers with a pharmaceutical or biomedical company as well as the field of science communication.

“Something that’s been interesting to me more and more is science communication, and how to effectively communicate science to people who don’t have the background,” Bartolik said. “The SIP was good practice; even though it was to a chemistry major audience, I still had to explain how neurons work and why this research is important. I found that I like presenting; I don’t get as nervous as I used to. And I like to geek out about my work around neuroscience, so I think that’s something I want to explore more, opportunities in journalism or some sort of science communication.”

In addition to the professional affirmation and practical benefits, the award is personally meaningful to Bartolik.

“My father passed away in 2017 from a heart attack,” Bartolik said. “He always supported me in high school, in everything I did. And I feel like he would have been so proud of me. I felt him with me, celebrating. My parents left everything behind in Poland so my sisters and I could have a better life and more opportunities. I feel like I’m fulfilling that and trying to make the most out of the life I’ve been given.

“I feel like this is what I was meant to do.”

NSF has funded Graduate Research Fellowships since 1952. More than 70 percent of fellows complete their doctorates within 11 years, 42 fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences. Applications are generally due in October. For more information, visit the National Science Foundation website.

SIP of Water Grows Crops in Tanzania

Sam Meyer and Father Evarist Thadei Mngulu in Tanzania for water irrigation project
Sam Meyer ’21 visited Tanzania last summer to help
Father Evarist Thadei Mngulu and his mission
build a sustainable irrigation system.

When you need inspiration for celebrating Earth Day, a Kalamazoo College student will often provide it. Take Sam Meyer ’21, a physics major. His Senior Integrated Project (SIP) has applied gravity and physics theories not only to designing, but building—through in-person, international volunteerism—a sustainable irrigation system in Pawaga, Tanzania, that conserves the region’s scarce water resources.

Both on location and off, Meyer surveyed Tanzania’s Consolata Missionaries site, researched and studied fluid mechanics, aided the system’s design and installation, and secured project funding through K’s Collins Fellowship—which helps fund student projects abroad—and donors from GoFundMe.

The project was still ongoing as Meyer returned home from Tanzania last summer after he spent about seven weeks there. In that time, he said, Pawaga didn’t receive even a drop of rain. However, the system he created now sustainably irrigates about 3 acres of soil and has yielded a successful season of crops. In fact, his work might hold solutions for areas around the world that have trouble with implementing their own agriculture as Meyer’s system fills elevated reservoir tanks during the day through solar power, thereby powering an electric water pump, and using gravity to irrigate the fields in the evening when the sun is low and the land is cooler, mitigating evaporation.

“Not only has the system limited the labor involved in the agriculture, it’s maximized itself to a point that the mission can grow crops regularly and have excess crops to share with a nearby elementary and primary school,” Meyer said. “Those students come to the compound every day, so the system promotes their education and combats malnourishment, which I think is just amazing.”

Tanzania is one of several African countries that lies along the East African Rift Valley (EARV), which features an arid and rocky ecosystem, causing frequent droughts, despite water’s general availability through lakes and rivers. Tanzania is one of the most developed countries in East Africa, but outside of its capital and urban centers, the villages and vast wilderness leave some populations isolated outside of schools and religious groups that offer some support. Scarcity causes national authorities to impose taxes to control water with some irrigation practices limited to restrictive or wasteful practices such as flooding fields or bucketing water by hand.

Sam Meyer with Children Who Benefit from Water Irrigation Project
Children from a nearby elementary and primary school are among the people who benefit from an
irrigation system Sam Meyer ’21 installed last summer in Pawaga, Tanzania.

Challenges from climate change to wildlife demand improving the nation’s sustainable approaches to agriculture. However, volunteer organizations such as the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) nurture agricultural practices to tackle these challenges in Tanzania. The organization’s worldwide movement links visitors, also known as WWOOFers, with organic farmers, promoting a cultural and educational exchange, and building a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices.

WWOOF has one chapter assisting Father Evarist Thadei Mngulu, whose Tanzania mission had failed in previous attempts to integrate an irrigation system and couldn’t afford an engineer’s estimate of $16,000 to install one. That lead Father Evarist to seek help from WWOOF, and WWOOF to finding Meyer while he was searching for SIP ideas.

Between the Collins Fellowship and GoFundMe, Meyer raised about $3,200, which funded his entire project. Even with a language barrier and Father Evarist being the only fluent English speaker among the Tanzanians who generally speak Swahili, the project was successful.

“Father Evarist wants to use the system as a way of educating other farmers in the area in irrigation practices because their practices now are to flood a field, which can produce a lot of runoff and waste, or bucketing water there,” Meyer said. “Through the system, he helps to strengthen the community through this new technology, which is a new aspect of the mission. That makes me very happy.”

Sam Meyer with assistant and water pipes
Sam Meyer ’21 helped install the irrigation system
he designed for a mission in Tanzania.

As Meyer reflects on the irrigation system’s implementation, he has an offer on the table from an engineering firm in Austin, Texas. Mears Group Inc.—an infrastructure-solutions provider that offers engineering, construction and maintenance services to the oil and natural gas, electric transmission and distribution, telecommunications and wastewater industries—took notice of Meyer’s SIP, the work he performed in Tanzania and his interest in environmental engineering. Now, Meyer will begin life after K in a role that promises more opportunities to improve communities, while he continues to eye the progress he began in Tanzania.

“I promoted this project during my application process and I believe it was a big part of me gaining the position,” Meyer said. “I mentioned the sustainability aspect of it and my potential interest in being an environmental engineer, and they were excited to hear about it. I think it was a huge piece in me getting that position. We took the professional design from the original estimate and implemented it into our own design and enjoyed going abroad while I did it. The people of Tanzania are so welcoming and friendly that I had a great time. I still have some connections with friends I made there including Father Evarist, and I’m still working on aiding him and with anything else that comes up.”

Donations Accepted

Sam Meyer ’21 is continuing to collect donations through GoFundMe that will go toward supporting agricultural efforts including growing crops and teaching other communities about building their own sustainable irrigation systems. Visit his fundraiser to donate.