Dowagiac, Berrien Springs students win SMC math and science awards

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Brendan Stewart of Dowagiac received the 2016 Darrin Williams Memorial Scholarship, the highest award Southwestern Michigan College’s Math/Science Department offers.

The Math/Science Department Appreciation Award, also announced May 4 by Chairman Dr. Keith Howell, went to Tobias Robertson of Berrien Springs.

Stewart, originally from Annapolis, Maryland, presented at the March 2015 American Chemical Society National Meeting in Denver.

Stewart, whose sister, Mary Kate, won in 2014, this fall transfers to Western Michigan University as a dual math and chemistry major.

During his time at SMC, Stewart has been involved in STEM Club, the Environmental Research Group and serves as the Math/Science Department student representative to the Bookstore Advisory Committee.

Stewart “started in intermediate algebra and has completed every math class we have,” Howell said. “The entire calculus sequence, differential equations, linear algebra, chemistry and physics. He also has been a tutor and involved in ongoing math seminars, including complex variables. Last summer he came to me and wanted to know about tensors — the mathematics behind relativity. We meet twice a week.”

The Darrin Williams Memorial Scholarship was established in memory of a 1988 SMC graduate from Dowagiac who was highly regarded by faculty and fellow students.

This STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) transfer scholarship recognizes a second-year student who exhibits traits Darrin exemplified: scholarship, service to the department, integrity, cooperation and a sense of humor.

Williams went on to Michigan Technological University and died in an auto accident coming home for Christmas.

Robertson, who made significant contributions to SMC’s Environmental Research Group, this month presents original work at the American Chemical Society meeting in Covington, Kentucky.

Professor of Chemistry Dr. Douglas Schauer said Robertson came to SMC as a dual-enrolled high school student.

“His remarkable classroom performance is driven by a strong work ethic, careful attention to detail, critical thinking and genuine desire to understand the world around him,” Schauer said. “Tobias’ academic endeavors have grown beyond the walls of the classroom. Still a high school student at the time, he volunteered to be one of the founding members of the Environmental Research Group, where he joined a select group of students in developing protocols for the analysis of heavy metals in water. Since then, Tobias has taken on a leadership role assisting new students in experiments to find new ways to purify water. Furthermore, Tobias shares his understanding of math and science with fellow students working as a tutor in The Learning Center, as well as in the classroom.

“Upon graduating from SMC, Tobias plans to pursue an advanced degree in one of the STEM fields. He was one of my first students, the first person through the door at 8 o’clock my first day. After about a week, he stopped in my office and asked about particle physics. When you have the type of student who asks questions a step beyond what you’re teaching, it keeps you on your toes.”

The Math/Science Department Appreciation Award was established in 2012 to honor a high school student or returning student planning to continue at SMC who demonstrated a strong work ethic, shows academic promise, plans to pursue a STEM-related career and made a significant department contribution.

“Each year we honor two students who have achieved, contributed or just reminded us why we have chosen to make community college teaching our careers,” Howell said. “These individuals demonstrated the highest work ethic, a strong commitment to our department and devoted their time at SMC to the betterment of our community.”

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter, community college, founded in 1964. The college averages in the top 10 percent nationally for student academic success based upon the National Community College Benchmark Project. Southwestern Michigan College strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services to meet the needs of students, and to serve our community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.