Nicole Vander Schaaf

IWU graduate 2014

Biology major

ph.d. candidate Van andel institute

I love the grad school at Van Andel Institute, and I would highly recommend it to other students interested in cellular and molecular biology.   I've enjoyed the challenge of problem-based learning (as opposed to lecture-based), though it has taken some adjustment.  Since Van Andel accepts only about 5 grad students a year, the community reminds me in some ways of IWU, where students are valued and known by name.  My classes have relied quite heavily upon previously acquired knowledge, so I’m thankful that IWU prepared me well.  In fact, I appreciate the difficult biology classes I took at IWU more now than I did then. :)  Some of my classmates went to State schools, and one even earned a Master’s degree before entering this PhD program.  I have had no trouble keeping up with them.  Wow!  Thanks, IWU!  My time and money was well spent!

Without the Hodson summer research program, I’m quite certain I would not have been accepted to graduate school.  HSRI helped me realize my passion for research while providing the experience that grad schools essentially require for acceptance.  Not many Christian schools have such fantastic research opportunities, so I am very thankful for the Hodson research program at IWU.

Further, IWU prepared me to intelligibly discuss faith in science.  I see scientists every day who put their hope and faith in their science.  When their experiments don’t go as planned, they are genuinely disheartened.  Though I always strive for excellence and am disappointed when an experiment fails, my hope remains in the never-failing God.  Working in a secular, scientific community is opening doors of opportunity to share this hope with others.  Reading “The Language of God” by Francis Collins (in Biochemistry class at IWU) was particularly impactful; I have referenced it in conversation with others, and it has helped me personally reconcile my faith and science.