Alumni Honor Retiring Professor with Research Fellowship

Though Kalamazoo College chemistry professor Tom Smith has had 40 years to devise just the right formula for ensuring the success of his students, they’ll tell you that he had it from the very start. Alumni — led by two who were part of the first class Smith taught in the 1978-79 school year, Chris Bodurow and Bob Weinstein, both ’79 — are in the midst of a fundraising effort that has endowed the Thomas J. Smith Student Research Fellowship in Chemistry. The fund honors the retiring Smith, the Dorothy H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry, by supporting an initiative he chose, and which is close to his heart: independent summer research.

Research Fellowship
As Tom Smith, the Kalamazoo College Dorothy H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry, retires after 40 years as a student favorite, some of his former students are honoring him by endowing an independent summer student research fellowship in his name.

With Min Soo Kim ’19 designated as the first recipient, the endowment drive is entering its second phase. Bodurow is personally pledging a match of up to $20,000 in contributions with the goal of expanding the number of students who receive the fellowship each summer, a priority for the College as its new strategic plan re-emphasizes the K-Plan tenets of experiential education and independent scholarship.

Testifying to the devotion Smith inspires: He has been designated an Alpha Lambda Delta National Honorary Society Favorite Teacher by first-year students 13 times since 2003. In addition, he has directed the Senior Individualized Projects of 70 students, was named a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Scholar and was awarded the Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Work and the Dr. Winthrop S. and Lois A. Hudson Award for Outstanding Contributions in Research at Kalamazoo College.

It doesn’t take a list of awards, however, to understand the influence Smith has had on students, and the profound sense of appreciation it has engendered in the more than a dozen alumni who have contributed some $130,000 for the endowment.

Bodurow and Weinstein were seniors when Smith arrived at the College, fresh from post-doctoral work at Caltech. They said Smith immediately took on a role that went far beyond just teaching chemistry.

“He really had a very strong propensity to encourage us in our studies and in our post-Kalamazoo College strategies in our lives. He quickly identified students he thought ought to pursue graduate degrees and encouraged us,” said Bodurow, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University and has had a distinguished career in drug research. Now retired from Eli Lilly and Company, where she was senior research director, external sourcing, for the Medicines Development Unit, she is a member of the board of the American Chemical Society and is president of PharmaDOQS, a consultancy.

“Tom was very deliberate about understanding our strengths and passions and directing us,” said Bodurow. “It was all because of his strong commitment to launching us, and he made sure we had a strong post-Kalamazoo plan. It was quite extraordinary. If you talk to anyone who has had Tom as a professor, they will tell you a similar story.”

Weinstein does.

“He helped us understand what it meant to go to grad school and how to get to grad school. He was telling us what it was like and challenging us with projects,” said Weinstein, who earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is president and CEO of Robertet USA, an arm of the French-owned maker of flavors, fragrances and natural raw materials. “It didn’t take Tom Smith very long to say, ‘This is what the College is about: I will prepare these students for graduate school or medical school and really dedicate myself to helping them.’ ”

Smith, he said, “was the engine behind me. To be able to contribute to his legacy at K is a privilege that I am proud to be able to do. I honestly believe that nothing I have accomplished would have been possible without Tom Smith and K.”

Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez said few things are more meaningful to professors than to have former students credit them for their successes. To have them go a step further and fund an endowment in their name, he said, “is both an honor and an affirmation that you have achieved the goal motivating every educator, and that is to make a real difference in your students’ lives.”

Smith called it “humbling.”

“You think you’re getting your job done and then you discover decades later that the impact has lasted,” said Smith, an aficionado of hiking and movies, who described the honor as a fitting capstone for his career.

“So often when I say goodbye to students, I tell them, ‘Go out and make the world a better place,’ ” he said. “It becomes a lifelong interaction. That’s why we do this.”

To contribute to the Thomas J. Smith Student Research Fellowship in Chemistry, or to discuss creating an endowment in the name of another favorite faculty or staff member, contact Kalamazoo College Vice President for Advancement Al J. DeSimone at 269.337.7292 or


K Professor Co-Edits ‘Computational Neurology and Psychiatry’

Péter Érdi, the Henry R. Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies, is the co-editor of a new book titled “Computational Neurology and Psychiatry.” He also is the co-author — along with two K alumni, Takumi Matsuzawa ’16 and Tibin John ’15 — of a paper included in that book. The paper is titled “Connecting Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease: Modeling of Normal and Pathological Rhythmicity and Synaptic Plasticity Related to Amyloidβ (Aβ) Effects.”

Computational Neurology and Psychiatry
Péter Érdi is the co-editor of a new book titled “Computational Neurology and Psychiatry.”

Sometimes seeing more is a matter of new ways of looking. Such “new ways of looking” include the emerging scientific fields of computational neurology and computational psychiatry. The key word is “computational.” Researchers apply math and computer science to create computer models that simulate brain structures and brain activities associated with specific disorders (epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, for example). Such simulations and new techniques of analyzing the copious amount of data that emerges from such simulations have the potential to reveal elements of brain structure and function associated with disease and disorders, elements that have heretofore been a mystery. In other words, these “new ways of looking” may result in seeing what’s never been seen before.

Computer modeling also offers advantages of cost and convenience compared to older ways (animal experimentation and laboratory set-up) of trying to model and see brain structure and (mal)function.

A book that pioneers these new scientific fields is exciting and important, says Péter:  “Adopting advanced computational methods such as modeling and data processing raises hopes that one day we will more effectively treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

In other news, Péter has been appointed vice president for membership of the International Neural Network Societies.

Bibliographer Honored, Shares the Story of the Vodka Plant

K Professor Emeritus Joe FugateThe Modern Language Association’s MLA Field Bibliographer Newsletter includes a profile of a Distinguished Indexer who is none other than Kalamazoo College’s own Joe Fugate, professor emeritus of German studies and director emeritus of the Center for International Programs. Indexers and bibliographers are indispensable to the art and science of scholarship in all fields. The MLA article notes that Joe has been a field indexer longer than any other contributor, enriching the coverage in the German literature section for almost fifty years, adding thousands of citations to the MLA International Bibliography. He has also served as a member of and consultant to the Bibliography Advisory Committee. He was awarded an MLA International Bibliography Fellowship for the years 2011 to 2014. Much of the article is in Joe’s own voice. He says, “My tenure as a bibliographer has differed from that of any other bibliographer I have known because for almost 30 years while maintaining my faculty status, I held an administrative post in our study abroad program, including 18 as director.

“I was fortunate because my faculty interests–German language and literature, especially of the 18th century and in particular J. G. Herder–and my administrative post complemented each other. My frequent overseas trips visiting universities on three continents enabled me to establish personal contact with a number of foreign scholars who shared my academic interests and to perfect my fluency in other languages. The fact that my name appeared in the International Bibliography helped immensely in establishing these contacts.

“Over the years I have witnessed a number of changes in the production of the bibliography. When I first became a contributor all entries were typed or hand written on three by five slips of paper (some of which I still have in my files) and sent to MLA headquarters. These slips were replaced by the color-coded sheets which likewise were completed by hand or typed and then submitted.

“Now everything is on the computer. Traditionalist that I am however, I continue to miss the printed edition. I am sure that the MLA staff was relieved when they no longer had to deal with handwritten entries. Looking back I recall with pleasure the yearly meetings of the bibliographers with the staff at the annual convention. The gathering not only gave us an opportunity to discuss bibliographical matters but also to get to know each other personally. One of our colleagues, a contract interpreter for Russian with the State Department, would enliven our meetings with stories about her experiences with visiting Russians and their habit of proposing frequent toasts of vodka. When she was asked how she handled this, she replied that she tried to stand next to a plant into which she emptied her vodka. She never did tell us what this did to the plant.

“It was my privilege to serve on the Bibliography Advisory Committee. One issue we discussed at length was the lack of recognition as a scholarly and professional activity of being a bibliographer. In this connection I was able to cite one of my colleagues, now retired but still writing and publishing, who proclaimed for all to hear that my work as a bibliographer made his and other scholars’ possible. There are many to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for making my activity as a bibliographer an interesting and enriching experience: those who originally accepted me as a bibliographer, the heads of the bibliography department at the MLA, the section heads and the MLA staff with whom I have worked together and continue to work with even today.”

Congratulations, Joe!

Showerdough and Sourdough

Rob Dunn '97
Rob Dunn ’97

Rob Dunn ’97 is at it again; it being another citizen-science project (or two). And it (or they) are the subject of a fun and wonderful piece by Nicola Twilley, “What’s Lurking in Your Showerhead,” that appears in the December 8 issue of the New Yorker magazine.

Rob is an evolutionary biologist and professor at North Carolina State University. Twilley is one of 500 participants in his lab’s Showerhead Microbiome Project. Those volunteers (in Europe and the United States) swab the gunk in their showerheads and send the samples Rob’s lab. Twilley found it a tad gross, but Rob wonders if it’s a good thing–those microorganisms in our showerheads. Turns out our bodies are full of other bodies–we depend on them. In fact, those other bodies’ cells (in or on us!) may outnumber our own, making me more other than myself. Wow! Whether or not what’s in our showerheads is good (or not so good) for us remains to be tested. First we have to see what’s in there in order to ask the right questions. Rob’s full of those; he’s a K grad. He’s also interested in the effect (for good or ill) on our “showerdough” of different water treatment processes.

Please forgive that “showerdough” malapropism; there’s a reason for it. Rob’s second current citizen-science project is all about the affect of microorganisms on sourdough and, ultimately on the taste of sourdough bread–across space and time. Some really interesting things may be going on there! Read Twilley’s article to find out. Citizen-science is nothing new to the Dunn lab. He’s done projects on belly button lint, human facial mites, insects in the kitchen, and household dust. Robs the author of three popular science books and was featured (“The Ant on Aldebaran”) in the Fall 2015 LuxEsto.

Undergraduates Present Research

Undergrad Present ResearchFifteen Kalamazoo College students joined three of their teachers (professors Dwight Williams, Santiago Salinas and Ellen Robertson)  to present research at the 2016 West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference (WMRUGS) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The annual conference provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to present their own research to a large and supportive group of professional scientists. K was well represented with sophomores, juniors, and seniors in attendance from both the Departments of Biology and Chemistry: Suma Alzouhayli ’17 (Chemistry and Biology), John Bailey ’17 (Chemistry), Christi Cho ’17 (Chemistry), Quinton Colwell ’17 (Chemistry), Rachel Fadler ’17 (Chemistry), Sarah Glass ’17 (Chemistry), Sharat S. Kamath ’19, Christina Keramidas ’18 (Chemistry and Biology), Cydney Martell ’19 (Chemistry), Garret Miller ’16 (Chemistry), Susmitha Narisetty ’19 (Biology), Darren Peel ’17 (Biology), Collin Steen ’17 (Chemistry), Myles Truss ’17 (Chemistry), Raoul Wadhwa ’17 (Chemistry and Computer Science). In addition to presenting their research, students heard a keynote address and research talks by undergraduate and graduate students from regional colleges and universities. This free event also provided undergraduate researchers the opportunity to interact face-to-face with graduate school recruiters and to learn more about future career opportunities.

There were 169 undergraduate posters presented at WMRUGS from students representing 17 different college and universities. Ten students from the Kalamazoo College Department of Chemistry, presented results of their research conducted under the mentorship of Kalamazoo College faculty that included Laura Furge, Regina Stevens-Truss, and Dwight Williams. Other students presented the results of their summer research projects conducted in laboratories at Indiana University and the University of Oregon. Students from the Department of Biology presented their findings from research conducted this past summer in laboratories at South Dakota State University and Michigan State University.

K Alumna Elected to ACS Director Post

Christina BodurowChristina C. Bodurow ’79, senior director of external sourcing in the medicines development unit at Eli Lilly & Co. (Indianapolis), has been elected the District II Director for the American Chemical Society for 2017-2019. District II includes counties in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. At K Christina majored in chemistry. She served in student government, participated on the Hornet tennis and swimming teams, and played in the Jazz Band. She studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany. Christina earned her Ph.D. in organic/organometallic chemistry at Princeton University (1984). After graduate school she began her career at Eli Lilly in the chemical process research division. She led the early phase development of a number of neuroscience medicines, including the global submissions of nine new chemical entities. Kalamazoo College congratulates Christina on her ACS election.

Summer Science Shared

Summer ScienceScientific inquiry takes no summer break at Kalamazoo College, and a culmination of the summer’s work occurred at the Dow Science Center Mini Poster Session (August 26). In the chemistry department alone some 17 students worked in the laboratories of five chemistry faculty–Professors Bartz, Furge, Smith, Stevens-Truss and Williams. Those students include first-years, sophomores, juniors and seniors, many of the latter working on their Senior Individualized Projects. The mini poster session included 12 presenters explaining the science they had conducted during the summer. Quinton Colwell ’17 (in the red tie) is pictured discussing his poster, titled “Molecular Dynamics and Real-Life Drug Metabolism.” Molecular dynamics is the study of real life systems using computer models and simulations. Colwell’s work involved a relatively novel technique,biased molecular dynamics, which, he wrote, “brings an additional layer to computer simulations relevant to bench-top experiments. It has the potential to be a game-changer.” In addition to Colwell, other presenters included Sarah Glass ’17, Myles Truss ’17, Shreya Bahl ’17, Suma Alzouhayli ’17, and Blake Beauchamp ’17.

Diamonds in the Rough

Tom HigginsTom Higgins ’92 returned to his alma mater in early April as part of a visit coordinated by the Kalamazoo Section of the American Chemical Society. Higgins talked about “How Undergraduate Research Experiences Can Change Students’ Lives.” He should know.  Higgins and a number of collaborators have made great strides in cultivating future scientists by introducing undergraduate research experiences for students at two-year institutions. Known as STEM-ENGINES (Engaging the Next Generation in Exploring STEM), their research collaborative has enabled over 286 Chicago-area students, including many first-generation American citizens, to gain academic-year and summer research experience mentored by chemistry and biology faculty. Often these “diamonds in the rough” may not have envisioned research as a potential career path.

The K chemistry major cites his foreign study experience (Erlangen, Germany) as a source of insight and empathy into his own students’ discomfort in learning beyond their comfort zone. He sees community colleges as important part of the higher education landscape and his research demonstrates that small investments in a student can have a big payoff benefiting individuals, families, institutions, and communities.

Higgins is a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education, and he also serves as a professor at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.
He began teaching at Harold Washington in 1998 after completing his Ph.D. at Northwestern. He never thought he’d be there as long as he has been, but–as he told an audience of students and faculty from K, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College– the atmosphere created by small class sizes made it hard to leave.

Text and photo by Ann Jenks

Four Awarded Fellowships for Research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that four Kalamazoo College alumni have been awarded 2016 Graduate Research Fellowships. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. GRFP fellows are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

The four K alums are Amanda Mancini ’14, Jared Grimmer ’15, Patricia Garay ’11 and Monika Egerer ’13. Mancini, Grimmer and Egerer majored in biology at K, Garay majored in chemistry. For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers. Mancini will focus her research in biological anthropology, Grimmer and Egerer work in the area of ecology, and Garay conducts her explorations in the neurosciences. All four studied abroad at K and in different countries–Mancini in Ecuador, Grimmer in Spain, Garay in Costa Rica, and Egerer in Thailand. Congratulations, Hornet science graduate students!

National Science Foundation 2016 fellowship grants will support the graduate school research of four K alumni in ecology, neurosciences and biological anthropology.

Religious “Nones” On The Rise In U.S, Reports Pew Center Researcher and Thompson Lecturer at Kalamazoo College

FROM WMUK RADIO (102.1 FM) Feb 15, 2016:

Jessica Hamar Martinez, Pew Center senior researcher and 2016 Thompson Lecturer at Kalamazoo College.
Jessica Hamar Martinez, Pew Center senior researcher and 2016 Thompson Lecturer at Kalamazoo College.

The Pew Research Center finds that more people in the United States don’t have any religious affiliation. Pew Center Senior Researcher Jessica Hamar Martinez will discuss those findings at Kalamazoo College.

Her address is called Nones on the Rise, One in Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. It begins at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday [Feb. 16] in the Olmsted Room at K’s Mandell Hall.

Martinez says the “nones” are people who say they are atheist, agnostic or don’t identify with any particular religion. She says that group has grown significantly since Pew’s last Religious Landscape study seven years earlier. Martinez says that is driven largely by the millennial generation.

Some highlights.

  • The increase in atheists and agnostics is small, but there is also a decline in the certainty of people who say they believe in God.
  • People who do identify with a religious group have grown more observant. Martinez says that includes more scripture reading, participation in things like prayer groups and sharing their faith with others.
  • The older “millennials” have not moved in the direction of becoming more religious. Martinez says it’s still a short period of time. But so far, the lack of religious affiliation appears to be an ongoing trend.

Martinez says views on religion tend to align with social and political issues. She says there has been an increase in the religiously unaffiliated among Democratic voters, and a smaller increase of the “nones” among Republicans.

Listen to an extended interview with Jessica Hamar Martinez on WMUK’s WestSouthwest program with Gordon Evans: