STEM Is for Everybody – Day1: Watershed From A Music Student’s Perspective

Photo: Dr. Aaron Best

I joined the Day1: Watershed program purely out of curiosity and the “Why not?” spirit. When I saw postings about the program, I said, “Why not?” and promptly requested more information.

From the perspective of a music student, the Day1 program is a fun and challenging program to be a part of. It has given me the opportunity to learn in many disciplines, including microbiology, biology, and chemistry. What I have enjoyed the most about Day1: Watershed is the diversity of the course. One week we may be filtering samples from Lake Macatawa and the next week we could be writing code to create graphs of our data. For any student, especially the non-STEM student, the Day1 course is a refreshing and intellectually thought-provoking opportunity.

So if you are interested in joining Day1 and are not planning on studying a STEM field, I encourage you to embrace the “Why not?” attitude and take advantage of the Day1: Watershed program.

Author: Zachary Snoek

A Fun Time with Phage

Phage Genomics research was my favorite class during either semester of my freshmen year.  It offered an experience that no other class I’ve taken has offered: a chance to become involved in actual scientific research and to see if research was the career for me.

The class provides a great opportunity not only to learn biology in the lab, but also a chance to solve problems that you may have never experienced before. For me, this process of solving these issues was extremely rewarding, despite being challenging at times.

A main purpose in the first semester of the course is to isolate your own bacteriophage, or phage, a virus that infects a specific type of bacteria, from soil samples that you can bring from home or that you find around Hope’s campus. This really makes your work in this class feel very personalized and individualistic.  Even though your classmates will be working on the same procedures, because you each isolate a different phage, there will likely be different steps you take within those procedures, and it can be exciting to figure out what specifically you will need to do in order to isolate your phage and its DNA.

The second semester of the course is a bit different.  Instead of doing wet lab work, you will be primarily work in the computer lab in order to analyze the genomes of several phages that you or your classmates had isolated in the previous semester.  This work, though challenging at first, is extremely rewarding when you make a new discovery or make a breakthrough on a problem that had previously stumped you.

Phage was a big reason that I decided to come to Hope College.  The opportunities it provides were a draw for me, and I am not disappointed with my decision to take this course.  I now am looking forward to a career in biology research, and I am actively involved in summer research in biology.  If you’re looking for a chance to do real scientific research straight out of the gate when you get to college, I cannot recommend taking Phage enough to anyone interested in biology.

Not Your Typical Residence Hall


Moving away from home for the first time can be pretty rough, especially when you don’t know anyone. This is where the Day1 programs have the upper hand. Everyone in the Day1: Watershed and Day1: Great Lakes programs are housed in Lichty Hall, and the other Day1 programs have the option of living there, as well. I was unsure about this. The college was creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) community, I understood that, but I didn’t really want to live in what I saw as the “Nerd Dorm”. However, I decided to do it anyway, and my idea of the “Nerd Dorm” was not what I encountered on move-in day. What I found instead were people that shared the same interests as me and had similar hobbies as me, like video games or playing basketball and being active.

The nice thing about living in the STEM residence hall was that everyone else was either taking the same classes as I was, or they had already tested out of them. So it was extraordinarily easy to find someone who could help me understand equilibrium and electrochemistry, or memorize the nitrogen cycle. Living in Lichty may have been a little atypical of the normal “college experience,” but it was awesome regardless.

Exploring the Local Watershed

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During the summer before freshman year at Hope College a student must register for all of their first semester classes. One of those classes must be a first year seminar (FYS). An FYS is basically an introductory course to college life, they focus on a variety of topics ranging from trains, or bees, to different types of research. Along with the course material one of the objectives of an FYS is to prepare a student to transition into their college life.

When I looked over the list of FYS’s while registering, my eye was caught by a certain program. Day1: Watershed was listed as an opportunity to get firsthand, real-life research experience as a freshman. After reading the description I was even more excited; I knew that I wanted to study biology, so this class was going to be perfect. This brand-new program’s focus was on assessing the overall health of the Lake Macatawa watershed to determine if the restoration project known as Project Clarity was actually restoring it. In order to do this, several different aspects of the water would be tested by gathering water samples from several sites throughout the watershed and analyzing them. Students in the Watershed class would also be moving in earlier than the rest of the freshmen to start researching right away.

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The reason the Day1 programs move in early is to get a head start on research, and that’s exactly what we did. One of the first activities was to kayak down the river to see where we would be sampling, and then we drove the vans out to the different sites and took the water samples, stopping for a picnic in between. After collecting all of the samples we started the wet lab work, which was challenging but definitely worth it. During that week we also read a lot for our FYS portion of the class and got to explore Hope’s campus. Despite the busy agenda of the first week, things mellowed out enough to allow me adjust to the rest of my classes when they started.

Through my work with the watershed program I was able to gain firsthand research experience and knowledge, and from that I was able to get a paid research position over the summer. The opportunities that presented themselves through the Day1 program have been incredible, and I am extremely glad that I was able to take this course.

Great Lakes

IMG_7099Being a part of Day 1 Great Lakes has been a highlight of my freshman year. I was able to experience field work, meet lots of new people early on in the school year, and live in the best residence hall on campus! What most attracted me to this program was the opportunity to be outside a classroom setting and do hands-on research. I love anything outdoors, so hiking the Great Lakes dunes and conducting research was something that really interested me.

Four days before freshman orientation week, I and other Great Lakes students moved onto campus. It was nice to come early because we avoided the stress and chaos of freshman move-in day. After we moved into our rooms, all of us Great Lakers attended a picnic at Kollen Park, where we got to know our professors, TAs, and fellow student researchers. The following day, field work began! We drove out to Flower Creek Dunes and collected data on Pitcher’s Thistle, a threatened plant native to the Great Lakes. We scouted the dunes, flagged and tagged Pitcher’s Thistles, and measured information on the plant. It was incredible to collect data on the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan. The second day of field work was similar to the first, but the third day, our professors gave us a fun day. We hiked through the dunes, had a picnic by the water, and enjoyed the sun. Afterwards our professors even bought us ice cream! Overall, the field research was a great experience. It was awesome to analyze our data that we collected and other data pertaining to environmental issues of the Great Lakes in our FYS class. It was also cool to know that the research and statistics we were doing had real world applications to the environment.

Student Research and Development from Day1

“It’s day 212 of Day1, the program that gives first-year students hands-on, authentic research opportunities at the very start of their Hope College education, and freshmen Ben Turner and Karey Frink are feeling as comfortable in a Schaap Center laboratory as they do in their cozy Lichty Hall dorm rooms.

Hope College - Science students during a science lab shoot
Testing Lake Mac water for E coli content

After almost a year, the two frosh have streaked a plethora of plates to isolate E. coli cultures, used a DNA sequencer to identify those E. coli strains and other bacterial populations, and analyzed the data with Hope’s supercomputer, Curie. They’ve paddled up and downstream in the Macatawa Watershed to gather water samples, in agricultural areas and residential ones throughout the Holland area. They’ve worked side-by-side with Dr. Aaron Best and Dr. Graham Peaslee, and the students worked on their own, too. In Lichty Hall, where all 13 Day1:Watershed students are housed, they are part of a close-knit, residential learning community that is supportive and collaborative in their similar academic pursuits and challenges.”

Read more from this article about Day1 on the Stories of Hope blog.

Wacky Western TEM Work

Two Friday’s ago, half of the Phage class took to the road to do some TEM work on our mycobacteriophage samples. Having been in the lab a lot and doing computer work, it was fun to get out to a new location with people we have been familiar with all year.

It was actually a really fun day, and if you get the chance to check Twitter, search for my hashtag #phaginghard and you’ll find a stream of tweets from the hilarious things that were said throughout the day.

If you’re not familiar with TEM, its a Transmission electron Microscope. It takes up a small room and works as a beam of electrons is transmitted through a thin specimen. After putting our phage lysates on a thin copper mesh circle (that is really tiny), we loaded our discs into the apparatus and got some cutesy little pictures of our phage! My sample only had four phage, so the microscope operator was giving me a hard time about causing him a lot of work ;).

Each imaging session took around 30 minutes, so while each student was in getting their photos, the rest of us were studying for a big biology test and playing Euchre. Overall, it was a great time had by all, and we got a bit closer to our phage associates.

I hope you all had a great Easter break!

More soon,


-Originally posted here by Amanda Porter


Edge 2016 3

Hi, my name is Laura Walker and I am currently a second-semester sophomore at Hope College. When I came to Hope, I was originally thinking about being a communication and business management dual major. But after taking part in some of the initial classes I soon figured out that this major was not for me. I began struggling to find what major best fit my personality, so I started talking to some of the girls in my residence hall to see what they were pursuing.

That led me to a girl who lived just down the hall from me (and who is now one of my very best friends) who was majoring in engineering. When we would hang out after she got back from her Introduction to Engineering Lab she would tell me about all these amazing things that she was doing. She was building circuits, taking apart engines, and even making ethanol while I was just sitting in class taking notes! So I made the decision to jump into engineering, too!

During the first semester of my sophomore year I took that Introduction to Engineering course and it was everything that I expected and more. I was able to more fully develop my problem solving skills, dip my toes into many different disciplines of engineering, and create meaningful relationships with my professors. In the final part of the lab, we took part in a program called EDGE, where were were given a real-world problem and had to come up with a solution to fix it. For my lab section our real-world problem came from a man named Norm who has a degenerative muscle disease that is causing his arms and hands to become extremely weak. Because of this disease he is no longer able to put his socks on by himself. So our goal was to create a device that he could use to put on his socks. Being able to work with a team to try to create a device to help Norm was an amazing experience! Because of this program, I have the necessary skills to develop a solution to any engineering problem. I am very grateful that this lab and program brought me to a major that I love, and I would highly recommend this program to anyone even slightly considering Engineering; you will not be disappointed!

Michigan Rocks!

MI Rocks

Greetings, I am Max Huffman and at the moment I am in my second semester here at Hope College as a geology major and having the time of my life. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and off campus I enjoy activities like skiing and hiking. On campus I’m part of geology club as well as the outdoor adventure club. But enough about me, I’m here to let you guys know a bit about Michigan Rocks, a class you can take part in as part of the Day1 program. The general idea of Michigan Rocks is that it is a class that starts before your freshman orientation begins. You will join fellow students on a 10 day trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While there you get the chance to do some pretty unique things (especially if you’re an out-of-state kid like me). You get the chance to do things like take the boat to Mackinac Island and bike around, all while learning about geological history. After that it’s off to the UP.  You make stops at places like Pictured Rocks, Tahquamenon falls, and Copper Harbor, just to name a few! You also get to learn the basics of geology -from learning to identify rocks to understanding how the systems of our Earth actually work!

(Left: a pretty “Gneiss” view of Miners Castle part of Pictured Rocks; Right: picture of our camp site on the shore of Lake Superior)

So this course was my first real college experience and I have to admit I was nervous about the whole thing. It does seem intimidating to start college early and go camping with a bunch of strangers, but I can’t tell you how much this trip was really worth.  It makes orientation seem like a breeze. Also since the bulk of this four credit class occurs before the official start of the fall semester  you will come in with one of your classes almost completely done. (The class meets once a week for the first half of the fall semester after returning to campus.)  Something that I thought really helped me make the transition from high school into college was the fact that you got to meet a very diverse group of people. Just because you aren’t interested in majoring in geology doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. When I was on the trip I got to befriend fellow incoming students from a variety of majors, as well as some upperclassmen who decided to come.  The upperclassman helped show us the ropes.  Not only was it nice to form relationships with other students but it was really nice to get to know your professor too. It was great to see how genuine our professor was and how willingly and enthusiastically he shared his knowledge with us.   I would highly recommend Michigan Rocks because Michigan does rock!

Discovering a Mycobacteriophage

10-Plate Infection & Harvest (10^-7) (2)Being part of the Phage Discovery Program has been a blast! On my first day of college classes, I was already participating in hands-on research. I love how I got the opportunity to work as a team and as an individual. Ultimately, this opportunity allowed me to grow in all aspects of my life.

My favorite part of this program is when all of my observations suggested I had successfully isolated a mycobacteriophage. The process of isolating a phage was long and detailed, but the feeling I experienced when my results came back positive was monumental. (The snapshot above shows some clusters of my phage, Zsegetron.)