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2011 Calvin grad awarded $250,000 Hertz Fellowship | Community Spirit

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2011 Calvin grad awarded $250,000 Hertz Fellowship

Cheri Ackerman, a 2011 Calvin grad, has been awarded a 2012-2013 Hertz Fellowship. The fellowship, bestowed by the Hertz Foundation, supports gifted leaders in the applied sciences and engineering. It is awarded to 15 to 20 applicants out of 600.

See full story: http://www.calvin.edu/news/archive/2011-grad-wins-hertz-fellowship

"I can definitely see that it's not something I've necessarily earned," said Ackerman. "Yes, I worked hard for it. Yes, I researched. But I look at it as a gift from God."

The $250,000 Hertz Fellowship will pay Ackerman's Berkeley tuition for five years and provide her with a sizeable stipend. The idea behind the award is to free up young minds to innovate, said Ackerman: "You get to pick the projects you work on and to pursue ideas that might seem crazy."

The fellowship is a rare opportunity in the current landscape of science funding, said Calvin chemistry professor Eric Arnoys: "With a lot of funding, you have to be confident that things are going to 'work,' or you might not see funding again," he said.

Ackerman impressed Arnoys even in her first year at Calvin, when he interviewed her for a research position: "She was asking me questions about my work that I may have gotten from someone in my field or someone who was visiting for a seminar ... ," he said. "She's the type of person that the award should go to. She's extremely bright. She's curious. She's persistent." Ackerman was Calvin's sole Goldwater Scholar for 2010.

Arnoys is equally impressed by his former student's character: "Both in her words and her actions, there's no secret what she believes, but she's also humble," he said. "She treats everyone as equals."

And she says that she learned how to be an academic and a Christian from her Calvin professors: "And if I hadn't gone to Calvin, I might not have learned it," Ackerman said. "I can almost hear their words in my ear: 'You are more than your work.' That's really what winning this fellowship is for me. It's a spiritual journey as well as being an academic or career journey."

Having completed three research rotations at Berkeley, Ackerman is pausing to sketch out the topic of her PhD research. She's interested in creating new chemical tools that allow biologists and chemists to ask new questions about biology.

"A lot of the questions that we can answer are limited by the technology that's available to answer those questions," Ackerman said. "My research goal is to expand that technology in order to allow us to ask and answer those new questions." Ackerman will be working under the direction of Dr. Christopher Chang, studying how copper is localized and transported within living organisms.