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Beckman Grant To Support Research

Published: April 15, 2015

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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARNOLD AND MABEL BECKMAN FOUNDATION
Arnold Beckman

CSULB’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM) was recognized recently as one of only 12 institutions nationwide to receive a Beckman Scholars Program grant. The $130,000 award came with an increase of $33,500 to fund student research stipends.

Each year, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation selects a number of research, doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate universities and colleges to be invited to submit applications for the Beckman Scholars Program. The award supports five Beckman Scholar Awards over a three-year term beginning this summer. Each student named as a Beckman Scholar will receive $26,000 with $21,000 specifically for the scholar and $5,000 for the scholar’s mentor.

The purpose of the Beckman Scholars Program is to provide exceptionally talented scholars with a meaningful undergraduate research opportunity while funding the scholars during their award term in order that they would not need to seek additional employment, according to Kevin Kelley, CNSM associate dean. Each Beckman Scholar will pursue an independent research project under the auspices of an approved mentor. Each scholar is required to perform research activities part-time (10 hours per week) during one academic year and full-time over two summers (10 40-hour weeks each summer). Scholars must be full-time students and maintain a 3.5 GPA at a minimum. The award resulted from a team effort in the CNSM led by principal investigator Brian Livingston, chair of biological sciences.

“This kind of support is transformative for students,” said Maryanne Horton, CNSM senior director of development. “It offers unequaled access to mentored undergraduate research experiences for our most talented students. They can go as far as their brains and determination will take them. The only criteria is excellence.”

Kelley believes such support is vital.

“In the sciences we depend on grants to do what we do,” said Kelley. “Our faculty have to run their labs, which are like little businesses. They want to keep their research programs funded so they will pursue this agency and that agency. If they get slapped down once, they go back again. And their success translates to the critical student research opportunities that make for outstanding STEM education.”

Beckman Scholars will be featured keynote speakers at existing university forums as well as at a new year-end Beckman Scholars Colloquium. The scholars will invite and host an external speaker for a scientific seminar each semester. Beckman Scholars alumni will be invited back to campus to give seminars and to meet with current students and faculty.

“It is the intent that all of our Beckman Scholars will go on to earn an advanced degree,” said Kelley. “At least 80 percent of our Beckman Scholars will complete a Ph.D., an M.D. or an M.D./Ph.D. from one of the top 50 doctoral programs in the country.”

CSULB has received four prior Beckman Scholar Program awards in 2000-02, 2003-04, 2006-09 and 2009-12 that supported 19 Scholars.

“Our Beckman Scholars have produced an average of two peer-reviewed scientific authorships each based upon their CSULB research (39 overall with 11 as first authorships),” said Kelley. “Our Beckman Scholars have joined five Ph.D. programs, one D.V.M./Ph.D. program, three M.D./Ph.D. programs, five M.D. programs, one O.D. program and one M.S. in Engineering program. Three used their science degrees to enter careers contributing to biotechnology-sciences and chemistry-related industry. Their post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral training programs are among the most important research institutions in the nation including Stanford (three scholars to date), Yale, Harvard, NYU, Cornell, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, USC, Princeton, Colorado State, Washington State, New York Medical College, the University of Texas and Caltech.”

Kelley points with pride to the research organizations who have offered support to the university such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, among others, noting that the support has created a record of student success.

“Dr. Arnold Beckman was one of the top five inventors of scientific instruments in the last century that revolutionized the study of human biology,” said Horton. “The Foundation perpetuates his legacy by supporting students, through their universities, who have the potential to go on to be scientific game changers in the future, to go on and do amazing work and advance science for humanity. CSULB was invited to apply based on the quality of our undergraduate research programs and our faculty’s ability to secure competitive grant awards from major agencies like NIH and NSF.”

One of the big reasons for CSULB’s success in research and in attracting external support is the diversity of its students, said Kelley.

“There is every perspective possible coming into our research programs,” he said. “After working as a research scientist for 20 years, I have learned to appreciate the value of perspectives no one else thought of previously. That is diversity in its greatest sense. It comes from the cultural diversity we have here at CSULB.”

Horton encourages continued support for the university. “The need for student research support is huge. We need to enable more students to engage in the lab,” she said. “It is where they hone their skills of discovery, where they learn how to be scientists. When support is invested here, that money goes a long way.”