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Professor Peter Coppinger Paves Way for Science Discoveries

April 4, 2014

131010 RH 1325

Sharing A Love Of Science: “I get to wake up every morning and teach science to bright, motivated students,” says Peter Coppinger, associate professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering. He helped plan the campus’ new William Alfred Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

     “Ever since I was a little kid, I was an amateur botanist, collecting wildflowers and identify them,” says Peter Coppinger, PhD, associate professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering. “I’ve always loved plants.”

     That sense of scientific discovery is the focus of his teaching in the ever-changing world of biology. “I stress that science is a process, not a collection of facts,” he says. “What makes science interesting is to learn how those facts came to be and how we made discoveries.”

     That means getting students into the field whenever possible. For example, he joined senior applied biology student Nathan Wheeler in discovering what’s infecting trillium plants near Coppinger’s Michigan hometown. This research could result in a published paper in the near future. Coppinger also started a project that teamed Rose-Hulman students with local high-school science students, studying the antimicrobial properties of tea.

     The drive to inspire discovery also shows up through the Interdisciplinary Research Collaborative that Coppinger co-directs. It provides undergraduate students with special research opportunities each summer. And, finally, Coppinger helped plan the campus’ new William Alfred Cook Laboratory for Bioscience Research, which provides students with hands-on research opportunities involving plant life, and new Synthetic Biology Laboratory, further expanding the department’s laboratory facilities. He also has spent many summers as a faculty mentor for Rose-Hulman’s Operation Catapult program, bringing high school seniors to share his love of science, and is the faculty advisor for the institute’s Alpha Chi Sigma chapter.

     Coppinger is living his dream of teaching at a small college, after earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from Kalamazoo College. “I wanted a job where I could think and talk about science all day long,” he says. “I knew I wanted to teach at a small college, where I could get to know the students and we could work together on exciting things. I get to wake up every morning and teach science to bright, motivated students. What more could I ask for?”