Skip to main content

Beckman Scholars Program

Vanderbilt is one of the select universities that is 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 have been named in each of these three years.

15 years of the Beckman Scholars Program: Providing unparalleled undergrad research opportunitiesApril Evans, College of Arts & Science News 2024

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

Eligibility

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

Timeline

Completed Applications Due: Monday, Dec 16, 2024

Finalists Announced: Monday, Jan 6, 2025

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, 2025

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 13, 2025

Scholar Tenure Start: May/June 2025

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

August:

  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

October/November:

  1. Join outreach with commons evening as ambassadors

Year 2:

May:

  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)

August:

  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

Contact

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

Ahmed Imami

Ahmed is a junior at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Psychology with a Business minor. He grew up in Melbourne, Florida surrounded by Disney and the beach. He joined the Zwiebel Lab in December of 2022 as an intern. His research involves the development of a next-generation, volatile excito-repellent against Anopheline mosquitoes. In this context, it will examine the direct targeting of odorant receptors (OR) that underlie insect chemosensory signaling. The global implications aim at reducing the transmission of Malaria as well as other mosquito borne illnesses and limiting agricultural contamination caused by various agricultural pests. In addition, he is involved in the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, Camp Kesem, Autism Tennessee, and VUcept. In his free time, he loves to play basketball, eat at Taco Mama and Satay, and spend time with friends.

Tammy Le

Tammy is a rising junior studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. Tammy’s research career in the Chazin Laboratory began in the summer of 2023 within the Vanderbilt START program. Her work focuses on the RAGE transmembrane receptor and the development of its inhibitors. Her approach to this project uses techniques such as virtual screening and fragment-based drug design. Outside of the academic setting, she is involved in the Vietnamese Student Association and Global Engagement Fellows on campus. In her free time, Tammy enjoys photography, baking, and reading. As a Nashville native, you can find her visiting the Downtown library or snapping photos at the farmer’s market.

Camilla Guel

Camilla is a senior 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 junior 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 the Vice President of Strategy and Investments at Holtzbrinck Publishing Group where she supports teams at Springer Nature & Digital Science.

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 a Urology Specialist, awarded the Endourology and Kidney Stone Disease Fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. Joseph is also an Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink 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 was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston and is currently an Interventional Radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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 worked as a Disease Area Manager at Oncology Resource Group and is currently a freelance writer and 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, and is currently practicing as a hybrid breast imaging and nuclear medicine radiologist, American Radiology Associates in Dallas, Texas.

Marilyn (Claire) Hanson, nee 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, and “Most Outstanding Third Year Student” at the University of Michigan (2017). Claire is currently a Financial Advisor at LPL Financial.

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. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was awarded the Surgical Critical Care & Emergency Surgery Fellowship, named Chief Resident in emergency medicine (2020-2021), received the Resident Research Award (June 2021), awarded the Fellowship in Surgical Critical Care (2021-2023) where he was also named Chief Fellow (2022-2023). Shyam is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine in Surgery for the Division of Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care and Emergency Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and an attending physician for the Division of Trauma at Grand View Health in Sellersville, PA.

Laura Stoy, nee 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, is CEO and Founder of Rivalia Chemical Company which offers clean technology, and is Co-Founder and COO of RocketJudge.com, 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 and went on to earn her M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in 2018. Jennifer is currently a Doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia.

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. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Biology at Missouri Baptist University.

Zachary Carter (2014-2015 Beckman Scholar) received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry from Vanderbilt in 2016 under Jeffrey Johnston. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2022 at Yale University under William Jorgensen. Zachary is currently the Associate Medical Director at Harrison and Star.

Ravi Chintapalli (2014-2015 Beckman Scholar) received his B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2016 under Julian Hillyer and went on to earn his M.D. from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. While attending medical school, Ravi received the Nels M. Strandjord Memorial Award for outstanding performance in the general field of Radiology. He is currently a Resident Physician at Endeavor Health NorthShore Hospitals.

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 MD-Ph.D. at UCLA studying Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Training Program in the Eisenberg lab doing structure-based drug design for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

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 under Janet Macdonald. 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 under Antonis Rokas. In 2023 he earned his Ph.D. at Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at MIT in The Jacks Laboratory where he was awarded the Margaret A. Cunningham Immune Mechanisms in Cancer Research Fellowship in 2020.  Zackery is currently a Senior Associate at Longitude Capital and a visiting scholar at the Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

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

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 under Steven Townsend. 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 under Janet Macdonald. Tony is currently enrolled at Columbia University in the Chemistry Graduate Program.

Sarah Hourihan (2022-2023 Beckman Scholar) received her B.A. in Music and Biological Sciences with highest honors at Vanderbilt in 2024 under Nicole Creanza. Sarah is currently enrolled at the University of Southern California in the Integrative & Evolutionary Biology Graduate Program.

Return to top