October 13, 2008

Nalven Summer Fellowship Provides Hands-on Learning Experiences

Fund allows students to conduct one-on-one field-based ecology research with professors

Every summer, the David M. Nalven ’88 Summer Research Fellowship provides two students with the opportunity to assist one of their biology professors in field-based ecology research.

When Nancy McCreary Waters, associate professor of biology, began her Lafayette career in 1985, she says there were much fewer opportunities for students to engage in this type of hands-on learning experience.

“There were some students doing summer work back then, just not many, and certainly not under a unified rubric with a catchy name like EXCEL,” says Waters. Along with her colleagues, Waters recognized the need for students to apply what they learned in an environmental biology/ecology classroom to the natural world. “The EXCEL Scholar program became official in 1986, but there still seemed to be issues concerning the funding and resources necessary for natural science research.”

In 1991, however, Arthur Nalven, his wife Rami, and their daughter, Dr. Lisa Nalven, met that need by establishing a fund in the memory of David Nalven. Nalven was one of Waters’ earliest summer research assistants, and she feels it is only fitting that a fund named in his honor supports a learning experience that was so instrumental in the young man’s life.

“Some students know they want to pursue a research career, but others, like David, are uncertain,” she says. “It is important for students to learn their likes and dislikes before investing precious time and money into a graduate program that ultimately may not be a match for them.” Waters believes this is one of the reasons why the Nalven family initially established and continues to support the fund. “It is also why Mr. Nalven returns to campus every summer to host a luncheon for the student recipients,” she says.

To date, 24 students have been Nalven fund recipients, more than half of whom have worked under Waters’ guidance. Recent scholars include Jacquelyn Marchese ’09 and Kevin Cunningham ’08, who both studied organisms of the Merrill Creek Reservoir near Washington, N.J.

“This program provides me with the best possible opportunity to teach by example, while still giving students freedom to make their own choices,” says Waters. “In turn, many students, like Dave, look back on the experience as a turning point in their lives, one that fosters personal development and maturity.”

“I do wonder sometimes how many of our students walk right past the Nalven fund plaque displayed just outside Kunkel 117, or if they have any inkling about the marvelous but truncated life that David led, and just how strongly Lafayette figured into it.”

  • Biology
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Jacquelyn Marchese ’09 Researches the Harmful Effects of Herbicide
  • Kevin Cunningham ’08 Continues Macroinvertabrate Research

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