11 months ago

2016 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

  • Text
  • Hope
  • Institute
  • Epigenetics
  • Neurodegenerative
  • Epigenetic


spring 2016 van andel institute’s Highlightsof HOPE Van Andel Institute Graduate School - Training Top-Tier Scientists Emily Machiela, a Ph.D. candidate at Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS), investigates new ways to slow and reverse the effects of neurodegeneration caused by diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. While pursuing her degree, Emily has worked closely with Jeremy Van Raamsdonk, Ph.D., assistant professor in Van Andel Research Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science. Emily joined VAIGS after completing clinical research internships in 2013 at both Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Mary Free Bed. Her decision to pursue a Ph.D. at VAIGS was based on the program’s distinctive inquiry-based approach. “The opportunity to become an expert who specializes in one area of biomedical research motivated me to enroll in the Van Andel Institute Graduate School,” Emily said. “The program forces me to think critically, ask questions and design creative solutions to problems associated with neurodegenerative diseases. It is the most fascinating and challenging experience of my life.” Collaborating with a small cohort of four people alongside physicians and scientists from a variety of backgrounds has helped Emily develop her professional skill set. Her work in the lab is an integral part of the VAIGS educational experience, and after spending hours conducting research, her peers feel more like coworkers than classmates. Emily Machiela—Ph.D. candidate at Van Andel Institute Graduate School “Van Andel Institute Graduate School is not a traditional university setting—I am treated like a working scientist and given a lot of freedom to pursue what I am interested in,” Emily said. “More importantly, I am also held accountable for my ideas by top experts in my field and given access to the tools that help me grow as a scientist.” NEXGEN INQUIRY TM EXPANDS ITS REACH In 2015, the Institute launched NexGen Inquiry, a web-based science education platform that connects students and teachers from around the world to inquiry-based science education methods. The Institute is in the process of rolling out this exciting new platform. Through a successful outreach campaign, NexGen Inquiry has established: Geographic footprint includes all 50 states and 7 countries 163,000+ browser sessions since launch 1,750 teacher accounts 8,725 student accounts 3,150 investigation templates (made by teachers) You can help provide NexGen Inquiry for students and teachers by making a gift at For more information, contact Teresa Marchetti at 616.234.5040. 4 | Van Andel Institute Highlights of Hope

A Donor’s Story: Love at First Sight— Robin and Mike Schwark Robin met Mike Schwark during their junior year at the University of Michigan. Robin was the business manager of the U-M hockey band and Mike was a young saxophone player. On the first day of rehearsal, Robin noticed Mike looking at her from across the room, and when their eyes met, it was love at first sight. Mike and Robin were married on Halloween. It was a day picked by coincidence, but instead of changing the date, the two embraced the craziness of the holiday and incorporated costumes and decorations into their wedding reception. Mike was a gorilla and Robin was Groucho Marx. Their wedding was the beginning of a beautiful family that would grow to include three sons and serve as a source of strength during Mike’s battle with brain cancer. Robin and Mike Schwark with their three sons Kallen, Aaron and Adam. Mike passed away in the family home on Oct. 27, 2014—four days before their anniversary. After Mike’s passing, Robin received an outpouring of support from friends and those who had known Mike professionally. Mike, a financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, had developed a network of hundreds of clients that he treated like family. His long-time business partner and friend, Barbara Paneral, was one of the speakers at Mike’s funeral. “When Mike died in 2014, Barbara and the employees in Mike’s office wanted to honor him, so they hosted fundraisers throughout 2015 to collect funds for Van Andel Institute,” Robin said. “It started out with a pancake breakfast, because Mike loved pancakes, and the fundraisers took off from there.” Mike’s co-workers raised more than ,000 to benefit brain cancer research at the Institute, and Mike’s name will be added to the Institute’s donor wall during the Leadership and Legacy event in May 2016. Robin is encouraged by the Institute’s work in brain cancer and is pleased that the funds collected in her husband’s memory went directly to fund research. “The more I read, the more I discovered that there is real lack of funding for brain cancer research,” Robin said. “When I found out that the Institute was studying brain cancer, I was thrilled.” Mike Schwark was a proud father, a loving husband and a person who touched many lives. Robin believes his legacy is evident in the way he lived, up until the very last moment. “Mike always said, ‘Whatever can be learned from my experience will help the next person with this cancer,’ Robin said. “He was never angry, nor sad, and he showed our boys how to live during adversity—with love, faith and humor. It was a glorious marriage.” Van Andel Institute Highlights of Hope | 5

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