Beckman Scholars Program
In 2021, Virginia Tech was selected as one of 12 institutions nationwide to host a Beckman Scholars Program. The program leveraged the funding provided by the Beckman Foundation to form a partnership with the Fralin Life Sciences Institute to provide a fully-funded research experience like no other on the Virginia Tech campus. Through unique programming in communication, leadership, grantsmanship, and diversity and inclusion awareness, our goal is to create the next generation of scientific leaders.
- $18,200 student stipend ($6,800 first summer, $4,600 academic year, $6,800 second summer)
- $4,800 in supply and travel funds
- $5000 faculty mentor stipend
- Must perform research activities part-time (ten hours per week) during one academic year, and full-time over two consecutive summers.
- Must complete the Beckman Scholars Training Program, including workshops on communication, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and grantsmanship.
- Must submit a progress reports to the VT Beckman Review Panel at the conclusion of the first summer, academic year, and research experience.
- Must present their research at the annual Summer Research Symposium held by the Office of Undergraduate Research at Virginia Tech.
Our mentors have
- An active research program in the biomedical-related field,
- A track record in mentoring undergraduate students, including co-authored publications and presentations,
- A commitment to interdisciplinary research, assessed by collaborative, cross-disciplinary research projects and leadership roles in cross-disciplinary institutes,
- Strength of research program, assessed by the ability to attract external funding and publication record, and
- Diversity across academic rank, gender, and racial/ethnic background.
- The numerous awards received by our 12 mentors demonstrate their sustained ability to involve undergraduates in innovative research. For example, of our 12 mentors, one is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, three hold named Chairs, four have won NSF CAREER or Presidential awards, four have won Virginia Tech awards for mentoring or teaching, and the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation has designated two as Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars. Since 2014, the 12 mentors have published 80 peer-reviewed articles with 84 undergraduates as co-authors and have garnered over $14 million in external funding from NIH, NSF, and other competitive funding sources.
Amanda Morris and Sanket Deshmukh
The Morris-Deshmukh Beckman research project focuses on the design of porous materials, known as metal organic frameworks, for drug delivery. A combined computational (Deshmukh) and experimental (Morris) approach aims to accelerate materials discovery through exploitation of machine learning and targeted synthesis. Scholars will gain experience with material synthesis, characterization, drug loading and delivery studies, and computational methods.
Eli Vlaisavljevich and Irving Allen
The Vlaisavljevich-Allen Beckman research project is focused on the development of ultrasound for non-invasive cancer ablation, including the oncological and immunological effects of ultrasound. The Scholar will gain direct experience and training in experimental techniques involved in medical device development, rapid prototyping, benchtop ultrasound experiments, cell culture, cancer immunology, and in vivo studies of histotripsy tumor ablation in small and large animal models (including veterinary clinical trials).
Rana Ashkar and Kevin Edgar
The collaborative research project in the Edgar/Ashkar groups is centered on the design, synthesis, and characterization of robust, biocompatible, polymer-augmented liposomes for the delivery of hydrophobic drugs and mRNA vaccines. Scholars joining this project will learn how to synthesize and characterize novel copolymers based upon renewable polysaccharides. Scholars will then be trained in the Ashkar Lab to evaluate the structural and mechanical properties of liposomal nanoparticles augmented by the novel block copolymers synthesized in the Edgar Lab.
Patricia Dove and Kevin Edgar
Living organisms deploy an organic matrix of macromolecules, often in a hydrogel-like setting, to direct the patterned nucleation and growth of crystals during biomineralization. The Beckman Scholar will work with an interdisciplinary team of biopolymer chemists and geochemists to prepare chitosan hydrogels with tailored compositions as simple models for crystallization in intracellular or extracellular settings. The research goal is to quantify controls of functional groups and degree of substitution on the timing and placement of CaCO3 crystals.
Chris Williams and Abby Whittington
Beckman Scholars working in the DREAMS Lab will explore a variety of additive manufacturing (3D Printing) processes and novel material systems to address challenging biomedical research. Using high-resolution vat photopolymerization technologies, students will explore additive processing of biopolymers and bioceramics to create tissue scaffolds with tailored porosity to encourage cellular growth. Working with doctors at the Carilion Clinic, scholars will investigate how 3D printing of biomimicking polymers can be used in surgical training.
John Matson and Abby Whittington
Beckman undergraduate scholars working in the Matson/Whittington group will work on gelatin-based biomaterials with an eye toward potential applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. These efforts will involve chemical synthesis, functionalization of gelatin, characterization of the constructs using various spectroscopic and imaging methods, and evaluation in mammalian cells.
Bahareh Behkam and Sheryl Coutermarsh-Ott
Cancer drug delivery to unresectable tumors remains a formidable challenge plagued by low systemic delivery efficiency (<1%) and inadequate transport of therapeutics to malignant cells distal from blood vessels. Beckman Scholars will work with an interdisciplinary team of bioengineers and immunologists to engineer an army of millions of engineered self-propelling bacteria as intelligent "cargo" (i.e., nanomedicine) carriers for targeted on-demand drug delivery towards more efficacious cancer therapy.
- Application opens: November 1, 2021
- Application deadline: January 10, 2022
This includes all application components, including recommendation letters
- Interviews: Weeks of January 24 and 31, 2022
Finalists will be invited for individual interviews, to be held in-person or virtually, as conditions allow
- Award notification: February 7, 2022
- Program start date: May 23, 2022
- Must be a full-time Virginia Tech sophomore in the spring 2022 semester
- Must be majoring in Chemistry, Biology, or Biochemistry
- Must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its territories.
Required application materials will be submitted via an online form. The deadline for 2021 applications has now passed. The application form for 2022 will reopen in November 2021.
- Your resume: including major, GPA, List of courses taken and grades received, any other items demonstrating your qualifications for the award
- Three one-page essays on the following topics:
- (1) career plans - where do you see yourself in 10 years? how might the Beckman Scholars program help you achieve your goals?,
- (2) motivation for applying - why you want to pursue undergraduate research?, and
- (3) preparation for a research experience - what do you have to offer a potential lab in terms of your interest, experience, motivation, and dedication?
- Two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from a potential Beckman mentor
Please direct programmatic questions to Dr. Amanda Morris.