Skip to main content

Beckman Scholars Program

Vanderbilt is one of the select universities that will be supported by the Beckman Scholars Program from 2022-2025. Beckman Scholars conduct laboratory research for two summers and one academic year (15 consecutive months). Students receive stipends of $6,800 each summer and $4,600 for the academic year. A total of six scholars will be supported from 2022-2025. Two scholars will be named in each of the next three years.

Eligibility | How to Apply | Application Timeline | Mentors | Expectations | Enrichment | Scholar Timeline | Contact | The Beckman Foundation | Current Scholars | Where are they now?


A scholar’s work must be completed with one of the 14 Beckman Scholar Mentors listed below. Your application must be sponsored by one of the mentors, and the research plan must be developed with their guidance. Students new to a research experience and students interested in changing to a Beckman Scholar have been successful in past competitions.

In addition to the stipulations regarding mentor selection, the Beckman Foundation requires that:

  1. Scholars must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
  2. As of the application deadline, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are eligible. The basic requirement is that a scholar must complete the contiguous 15-month scholar tenure from May to August of the following year. Students anticipating a graduation date next year, for example, are eligible provided they commit to completing their research during the summer following graduation.
  3. All scholars present posters at the annual Beckman Scholars Symposium in August of their second summer.

There are no exceptions to these policies.

Study abroad of any type is not allowed during the scholar tenure, so all activities of this type must either be completed prior to May (beginning of scholar tenure), or after August (second August, end of the scholar tenure).

Return to top

How to Apply

The VU Beckman Scholars Program has selected its scholars through 2023. Applications are now closed. Please stay tuned for future application information.

General Information

  1. Complete a BSP Cover Sheet (one-page limit).
  2. Write a brief description of your proposed research (three-page limit).
    • Single-spaced, graphics included (bibliography additional). Include an Impact Statement that answers “why.”
  3. Submit your undergraduate transcript (printout from YES is fine).
  4. Write a summary of your completed research or other laboratory experience (one-page limit).
    • If you have not had prior laboratory experience in research, describe your laboratory coursework and ask your laboratory instructor or TA to provide the secondary supporting letter.
  5. Submit supporting letters from your mentor and a secondary reference.
    • Your mentor should supply, by email to Professor Jeffrey Johnston, a supporting letter that describes your strengths and weaknesses as a potential scholar, and your respective contributions to the proposal.
    • The secondary letter should come from a professor or graduate teaching assistant who is familiar with your laboratory skills.
  6. Write a short statement of career goals (half-page limit).
    • Describe your long-term career goals and how the VU BSP might help you achieve those goals.

Deliver completed applications, addressed to Professor Jeffrey Johnston.

By Email: Professor Jeffrey Johnston

By Campus Mail:
VU Chemistry Department
7330 Stevenson Center
Station B 351822
Nashville, TN 37235

By Direct Delivery: MRBIV 12435 (Laboratories)/12435H (Office)

Return to top


Completed Applications Due: Monday, Dec 18, 2023

Finalists Announced: Monday, Jan 8, 2024

A committee will pick the top four to six candidates. These finalists will be invited to interview.

Oral Presentations and Interviews: Week of Tuesday, Jan 16, 2024

Each interview will include a 10-minute public presentation of the proposed research, a five-minute question period, and a brief discussion with the selection committee. The committee will deliberate the potential for each candidate to succeed in a research environment, and through this, his/her potential to become a peer leader in undergraduate research at Vanderbilt.

Scholars Announced: Week of Tuesday, Jan 16, 2024

Scholar Tenure Start: May/June 2024

Return to top

Beckman Scholar Mentors

All scholars are guided by a BSP mentor. The VU BSP mentors include:

Walter Chazin (Biological Sciences & Chemistry)
David Cliffel (Chemistry)
Nicole Creanza (Biological Sciences)
Brandt Eichman (Biological Sciences)
Julian Hillyer (Biological Sciences)
Lauren Jackson (Biological Sciences)
Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
Lars Plate (Biological Sciences & Chemistry)
Antonis Rokas (Biological Sciences)
Renã Robinson (Chemistry)
Michael Stone (Chemistry)
Ann Tate (Biological Sciences)
Steve Townsend (Chemistry)
Laurence Zwiebel (Biological Sciences)

The mentor guides the scholar through the study of a research problem, and provides an environment that trains the scholar both intellectually and experimentally in the discipline of their choice. The mentors are experts in their scientific field and represent a diverse cross-section of the Vanderbilt faculty in chemistry and biological sciences. The mentors are solely responsible for the scientific direction of the scholar.

Return to top

Expectations for the Scholar

The minimum time commitment is 40 hours per week during the summers, and 15 hours per week during the academic year. The summer commitment must be contiguous—all travel must be completed before or after the summer tenure. Questions regarding this policy should be addressed to the program director.

  • Scholars are required to follow the policies of the foundation, which may include travel to the Beckman Foundation or elsewhere for the annual Beckman Scholar Symposium held each August. Arrangements and reimbursement for this event are handled by the Beckman Foundation.
  • Scholars, with guidance from their mentor, will develop a high-quality, focused research problem that will ultimately lead to publication.
  • Scholars will support the Beckman Scholars Program in future years during the selection process and through various mentoring activities as requested by directors.
  • Scholars are expected to develop into peer role models for others interested in scientific research careers. This includes being competitive for, and applying to, national awards, and continuing this track into graduate school (Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.) programs.
  • Scholars should not take courses, including standardized test prep courses, during the summers. Scholars must consult Professor Jeffrey Johnston to determine whether it is appropriate to register for research credit during the academic year; your receipt of a stipend during the academic year may complicate this.
  • All scholars must complete a senior Honors thesis.
  • The applicant must work with one of the listed mentors.

Return to top

Scholar Enrichment

The focus of the Beckman Scholars Program is the development of high-quality research that leads to dissemination by presentation(s) at conferences and, most importantly, scholarly publication in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, scholars participate in at least one Vanderbilt summer research symposium. Opportunities to meet with seasoned researchers from outside Vanderbilt will be identified during the academic year.

Return to top

Scholar Timeline

Year 1:

May (June in some years):

  • Begin summer research period
  • Participate in select workshops with National Science Foundation REU in chemistry, and other summer programs


  1. Beckman Foundation Symposium (~ August 1)
    • Attendance only
    • Travel arrangements made through the foundation
  2. Vanderbilt summer researcher poster session
    • Participate if possible (need to do at least once)
  3. Continue research for the academic year

September (~ September 15):

  1. Meet as a group with program directors
  2. Short research presentation (10-15 min, ~6 slides)
  3. Discuss summer research
  4. Background for out-of-field experts


  1. Join outreach with commons evening as ambassadors

Year 2:


  1. Begin summer research period
  2. Participate in select workshops with NSF REU in chemistry, and other summer programs
  3. Meet as group with program directors and new scholars
  4. Short research presentation (10-15 minutes, ~6 slides)


  1. Beckman Foundation Symposium (~August 1)
    • Attendance
    • Travel arrangements made through the foundation
    • Present poster or oral talk (by invitation)
  2. Vanderbilt summer research poster session
    • Participate if possible (need to do at least once)

Return to top


The Vanderbilt University Beckman Scholars Program is directed by Professor Jeffrey Johnston and Professor Lauren Jackson. Please email them with any questions about the program.

Return to top

About The Beckman Foundation

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation is an independent, non-profit foundation established by Dr. and Mrs. Beckman in 1977. The mission of the foundation is to make grants to non-profit research institutions to promote research in chemistry and the life sciences, broadly interpreted, and particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science.

Return to top

Current Beckman Scholars

Camilla Guel

Camilla is a junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Biochemistry & Chemical Biology. A San Antonio Texas native, she began her time with the Cliffel lab in the summer of 2022 through Vanderbilt’s START program. Her involvement in the characterization of neurotransmitter-detecting electrochemical biosensors and application towards a biological study of Organophosphate-toxicity led her to develop her current project, which aims to quantify the effect of Beta-lactams on Chlorpyrifos-induced neurotoxic conditions. Beyond the Cliffel lab, Camilla is also involved in the Learning Assistant Program, through which she plans on mentoring General Chemistry students in the upcoming Fall semester.

Charu Balamurugan

Charu is currently a sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in Biological Sciences and Medicine, Health, & Society. Charu grew up in Los Angeles, CA, and began her research career halfway through her freshman year when she joined the Rokas Lab. As a result, she currently investigates the evolution of the gliotoxin biosynthetic gene cluster in biotechnologically and medically relevant Aspergillus fungi. More specifically, she utilizes phylogenomic methods to better understand genetic differentiation and variability within this secondary metabolite gene cluster, especially as it relates to fungal pathogenicity. To further her research with Dr. Rokas the summer after her freshman year, Charu was also selected as a Vanderbilt Data Science Institute Summer Research Program Fellow. Apart from research, Charu is involved in intersections of mental health, service, and performing arts on- and off-campus as the Co-President of Active Minds, Co-President/Founder of Agni, Programming Chair of the Association of Biology Students, and volunteer at the Dismas House of Nashville.

Return to top

Where are they now?

Jessica Miles (2008-2009 Beckman Scholar) received her B.A. in Biological Sciences, Communication of Science and Technology in 2011 at Vanderbilt University under the direction of Katherine Friedman. Jessica then went on to receive her Ph.D. in Microbiology at Yale University. She is currently a Senior Publisher at Cell Press in Cambridge, MA.

Joseph Crivelli (2009-2010 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Mathematics with highest honors and Spanish in 2011 under Jens Meiler. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, he entered medical school at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. While in medical school, he also received the New York Academy of Medicine Ferdinand C. Valentine Medical Student Research Grant, which helped him pursue summer research in urology. He received his M.D. in May 2015 and is currently an Urology Specialist, awarded the Endourology and Kidney Stone Disease Fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

Liwei Jiang (2009-2010 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Physics with highest honors and minors in Molecular Biology and Chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 2011 under Chris Janetopoulos. After graduation, Liwei then went on to medical school at Johns Hopkins University, where he was also a scholar in the Medical Research Scholars Program at the National Institutes of Health under Bradford J. Wood, M.D. Liwei is currently a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA.

Jenny Qi (2009-2010 Beckman Scholar) received her B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology with honors from Vanderbilt University in May 2011 under Joshua Gamse. After graduation, Jenny entered the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Science at UCSF, where she graduated in May 2017. While at UCSF, Jenny was awarded a position as a GEMS-CTSI Graduate Student Scholar, receiving support for clinical collaboration and travel as part of the Graduate Education in Medical Sciences program. She is now working as a Disease Area Manager at Oncology Resource Group and is a published author, earning the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award.

Nathanael Levinson (2009-2010 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 2012 under Sandra Rosenthal. Nathanael went on to receive his M.S. in Chemistry from Georgia Tech in May 2017. He is currently teaching chemistry at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tesniem Shinawi (2010-2011 Beckman Scholar) graduated from Vanderbilt University with her B.A. in Chemistry with honors under David Cliffel in 2012 and went on to study at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She held the Programming Chair position for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Vanderbilt Chapter.

Charlie Xie (2010-2011 Beckman Scholar) received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with honors at Vanderbilt University under Ellen Fanning in 2013. After graduation, Charlie completed medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN. While there, he received the NIH Medical Student Research Fellowship. Charlie was then matched for a diagnostic radiology residency at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Marilyn (Claire) Cato (2012-2013 Beckman Scholar) graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2014 with her B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology with honors under Brandt Eichman. Claire received her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from the University of Michigan where she worked with Dr. John Tesmer, studying the molecular mechanisms of GPCR-mediated signal transduction using X-ray crystallography and biochemical analyses. She received the Adam A. and Mary J. Christman Award, “Most Outstanding Third Year Student” at the University of Michigan (2017) and is currently working as Lab Manager at the Bridge Institute at the University of Southern California.

Shyam Murali (2012-2013 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Biological Sciences with honors from Vanderbilt University under Katherine Friedman in 2013 and went on to receive his MD from Texas A&M College of Medicine. While in medical school Shyam received several awards, including the Texas  College of Emergency Physicians Community Service Award in April 2016, the First Emergency Medicine Residents Association (EMRA) Member of the  Month in September 2017, and the EMRA Medical Student Council Member of the Year Award in March 2018. He is currently working at the University of  Pennsylvania under the Surgical Critical Care & Emergency Surgery Fellowship.

Laura Mast (2013-2014 Beckman Scholar) received her B.A. in Chemistry with honors from Vanderbilt University in 2014 under Janet Macdonald. After graduation, she entered the Ph.D. program in Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, finishing in 2021. Additionally, she writes for the GA Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Website and is Co-Founder and COO of, a platform designed to streamline competitions by providing electronic scoring.

Jennifer Sun (2013-2014 Beckman Scholar) received her B.A. in Chemistry with honors from Vanderbilt University in 2014 under Walter Chazin. She is currently a PGY-3 Resident in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine.

Joshua Eggold (2013-2014 Beckman Scholar) graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2015 with his B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology under Ellen Fanning and Walter Chazin. He earned his Ph.D. in Cancer Biology in 2021 at Stanford University. While at Stanford, Joshua received two awards, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2016 and a Stanford Graduate Public Service Fellowship in 2017.

Zachary Carter (2014-2015 Beckman Scholar) received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry from Vanderbilt in 2016 under Jeffrey Johnston. He is currently a graduate student in Chemistry at Yale University under William Jorgensen.

Ravi Chintapalli (2014-2015 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2016 under Julian Hillyer. While attending the University of Chicago Pritzker School Of Medicine, Ravi received the Nels M. Strandjord Memorial Award for outstanding performance in the general field of Radiology. He continues his education at the University of Chicago through residency training in diagnostic radiology.

Hope Pan (2016-2017 Beckman Scholar) graduated from Vanderbilt University in December 2017 with her B.A. in Chemistry with highest honors and Applied Math under Michael Stone. Hope is pursuing her Ph.D. at UCLA studying structural biology in the Eisenberg Laboratory.

Nicole Jenkinson (2016-2017 Beckman Scholar) received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering and B.A. in Chemistry with honors from Vanderbilt University in May 2018. Nicole is currently enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD-PhD) at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the BME Graduate Program in Dr. Glunde’s laboratory.

Zackery Ely (2017-2018 Beckman Scholar) received his B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology with honors from Vanderbilt University in 2018. After graduation he entered the Ph.D. program at Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at MIT in The Jacks Laboratory and was awarded the Margaret A. Cunningham Immune Mechanisms in Cancer Research Fellowship in 2020.

Joseph Carter Powers (2018-2019 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology with honors in 2020 and is currently enrolled in the M.D. program at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.

Lawrence Berg (2018-2019 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Chemistry, Engineering Science and Political Science with highest honors from Vanderbilt University in 2019. Lawrence joined the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University in the lab of Dr. Justin Du Bois as an Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Fellow in 2019. He was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2021 and the Stanford Community Impact Award in 2023.

Antony Peng (2022-2023 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Chemistry with highest honors from Vanderbilt University in 2023. Tony is currently enrolled at Columbia University in the Chemistry Graduate Program.

Sarah Hourihan (2022-2023 Beckman Scholar) is completing her B.A. in Biological Sciences and Music at Vanderbilt.

Return to top