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Making chemistry sing

When you decide to major in chemistry at Calvin, you don’t just get chem classes added to your schedule—you also get a PhD encouraging you in all your interests and connecting you to opportunities to excel.


Nathanael Kazmierczak came to Calvin with a passion for chemistry and music but wondered how he’d be able to pursue both.

It didn’t take long for him to realize it was not only possible but encouraged.

“When someone brings  a mindset developed in a different area, they bring fresh insights,” said chemistry professor Doug Vander Griend.

So Kazmierczak is majoring in both music and chemistry, and has felt empowered every step of the way. It’s not surprising when you hear how his chemistry professors talk.

This is the way Vander Griend invites those not well-versed in technical chemistry to understand he and his students’ work of building a website for the modeling of complex chemical solutions.

“Imagine that you’re in a concert hall. You’re listening to instrumentalists play on a stage, but the curtain is drawn so you can’t see anything. Everybody’s playing instruments. Your job is to figure out how many instrumentalists are on stage and what type of instruments each one is playing,” described Vander Griend.

“We do almost the exact same thing with molecules and light. We make them play a song,” said Vander Griend.

This kind of research—integrating math, computer science, and chemistry—is unique: “As a liberal arts institution, Calvin has really open lines of communication between the disciplines.There’s a lot of collaboration work going on in the sciences.”

And, he noted, he has been equipped and empowered to develop as an independent scientist.

“One of Vander Griend’s greatest strengths as a professor is advocating for his students,” said Kazmierczak. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities in the past couple years.”

During his time at Calvin, Kazmierczak earned a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, and he’s a primary author of a paper published in the Journal of Chemometrics, which features research he conducted with Vander Griend.

“I believe my research experience at Calvin has given me the scientific understanding and problem-solving ability to be a productive student researcher,” he said.

It’s quite the harmony.

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