Applications for the 2015-16 Beckman Scholarships due February 23

Applications for the 2015-16 Beckman Scholars Program are due Monday, February 23. Detailed instructions on how to apply can be found in the 2015 program announcement. The basic requirements are that you develop a research plan with one of the mentors listed below, and commit to spending two summers and the intervening academic year working in their lab. You will also be required to attend national and international conferences, including two at the Beckman Institute in Irvine, California, and to take a class in technical writing and communication. Sorry, but only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible.

About Beckman at UVA

The "Equal Partners in Discovery" Beckman Scholars program at UVA will provide annually one or more $19,300 scholarships to highly talented, research-oriented students who will work in select mentors’ laboratories for two summers and the intervening academic year. In addition to summer salary and academic year financial support, these scholarships sponsor travel to and participation in national scientific meetings, and promote a professional level of research achievement during the undergraduate years.

Funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and in its second consecutive funding cycle, the intent of this program is to advance the education, research training and personal development of select students in chemistry, biochemistry, and the biological and medical sciences.

2014-15 Scholars

Mr. Christopher Waters is mentored by Dr. Craig Nunemaker (Medicine). Christopher is working to understand type II diabetes. He is testing a novel idea – that an excessive metabolic rate in cells of the pancreas leads to glucose hypersensitivity and ultimately to diabetes. If true, this will be a major new insight into the mechanisms of this fast growing disease.

Ms. Catherine Henry is mentored by Dr. Shayn Peirce-Cottler (Biomedical Engineering). Catherine is working to understand the biomechanics of the diaphragm, and how they change during Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Her unique combination of animal models, computational models, and microscopy will shed new light on the respiratory failure that so often marks the end of life with this disease.

The UVA sponsored Scholar for this year is Ms. Rachel Stadler mentored by Dr. William Guilford (BME). Rachel is studying the motile system of a disease-causing, single-celled parasite, and doing so at the level of the individual molecules that cause it to move and invade cells. Her work may inform drug development for malaria, cryptosporidosis, and toxoplasmosis.

Our Scholars are joined by our outstanding 2014 finalists - Mr. Adam Goode (BME), and Meghan Bloom (BME).

Scholar Alumni

The 2013-14 Beckman Scholars above were Ms. Anna Brosnahan mentored by Dr. Brent Gunnoe (Chemistry, Dr. Harman presenting), Mr. Andrew Lankenau mentored by Dr. Dean Harman (Chemistry), and Mr. Tristan Jones mentored by Dr. Jeff Saucerman (Biomedical Engineering). Anna worked to revolutionize the production of alternative fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics and paints by developing new platinum catalysts for the production of ethylbenzene – a precursor of the more complex organic compounds that comprise each of these. Andrew's project was to create tungsten-based compounds to break open aromatic compounds, but do so in a stereospecific manner – a necessary step in the creation of effective and safe drugs. Finally, UVA sponsored an additional Beckman Scholar this year; Tristan Jones worked toward improved treatment of heart disease based on regenerative medicine – inducing host cells to change or “differentiate” into beating heart cells that can be implanted to improve cardiac function after heart attacks.

The 2012-2013 Beckman Scholars were Ms. Kelsey Murrell mentored by Dr. Richard Price and graduate co-mentor Josh Meisner(BME, left), and Ms. Allison Kramer mentored by Dr. William Guilford (BME, right).

Kelsey's research goal was to determine the role of the signaling enzyme Focal Adhesion Kinase in macrophages, which are agents of the immune system that play a critical role in the expansion of existing blood vessels when blood flow through normal circulatory channels is blocked. Her work could lead to better understanding and treatment of peripheral artery disease.

Allison developed new laboratory methods to isolate functioning molecular motors from minuscule samples of neural tissue. Her long term goal was to determine whether defective transport systems in nerve cells are the root cause of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The 2011-20112 Beckman Scholars shown at left are Mr. Vlad Sviderskiy and Ms. Monica Li, both mentored by Dr. Dean Harman (Professor and Chair of Chemistry). The year's other outstanding finalists were Gretchen Verrilli and Katherine Estep.

Vlad focused his efforts on the synthesis of new organometallic catalysts to aid in the electrolytic splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen. His work has obvious applications in the generation and storage of renewable energy.

Monica's project focused on developing novel approaches to drug synthesis with arenes as a starting material – a largely untapped yet abundant resource for new pharmacologic agents.

laib and guilford chien and fraser
The 2010-2011 Beckman Scholars shown at left are Mr. Alan Chien (mentored by Cassandra Fraser of Chemistry) and Ms. Jeneva Laib (mentored by William Guilford of Biomedical Engineering).

Alan and Jeneva were chosen from an outstanding field of finalists including Jackie Hodges, Justin Kim, Jeremy Louissant, Vlad Sviderskiy, and Laura Wang. Both have finished their degrees. Alan is attending graduate school in Chemistry, while Jeneva is working in the public sector.

Alan's project was to develop difluoroboron complexes to serve as pH and mechanochromic sensors – that is, compounds that change color in response to pH changes and physical impacts. These will have applications spanning the study of cell biology, to novel debris impact sensors for space flight.

Jeneva's research was directed to the understanding of how molecular motors – proteins used by cells to transport cargo – are regulated and coordinated.  It is her hope that this research will lead to better understanding of neurodegenerative and developmental diseases.


William H. Guilford, Ph.D.

Program Director
Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of Virginia
Box 800759
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
(434) 243-2740

Ms. Angel Thompson

Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of Virginia
Box 800759
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
(434) 924-5101

2013-16 Beckman Mentors

Linda Columbus (Chemistry)
Membrane protein structure, function, and dynamics.
Cassandra Fraser (Chemistry)
Synthesis, properties and applications of metal complexes with polymeric ligands.
William Guilford (Biomedical Engineering)
Function and regulation of molecular motors in cell contraction and movement.
Brent Gunnoe (Chemistry)
Organometallic chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, and small molecule activation.
Dean Harman (Chemistry)
Organometallic Chemistry, Organic Synthesis, Electrocatalysis; Activation of aromatic molecules.
Jay Hirsh (Biology)
Behavioral roles of biogenic amine neurotransmitters in the fruit fly.
Michael Menaker (Biology)
Organization of the circadian systems of vertebrates.
Cameron Mura (Chemistry)
Structure, function, and evolution of RNA- and DNA-based protein assemblies.
Craig Nunemaker (Medicine)
Mechanisms of inflammatory-mediated pancreatic islet dysfunction related to diabetes.
Jason Papin (Biomedical Engineering)
Biochemical network reconstruction and analysis; infectious disease and cancer.
Shayn Peirce-Cottler (Biomedical Engineering)
Combinations of angiogenic growth factors in microvascular remodeling.
Richard Price (Biomedical Engineering)
Bone marrow-derived cell regulation of microvascular remodeling.
Jeff Saucerman (Biomedical Engineering)
Signaling and transcriptional networks in heart function and failure.
Jill Venton (Chemistry)
Sensing and sampling techniques for the detection of new molecules in the brain.

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