Undergraduate research at Colorado State University is receiving national recognition through a three-year grant from the prestigious Beckman Scholars Program. The $115,800 award will provide sustained, in-depth, faculty-mentored undergraduate laboratory research opportunities for six undergraduates in chemistry, biological sciences and biomedical sciences.
Colorado State is one of 14 universities nationwide selected this year to receive the Beckman Scholars Program Award. Colorado State also received the Beckman Scholars Program Award from 2001-2003 and is the only institution in Colorado to win the award.
"The Beckman Scholars Program Award recognizes the quality, innovation and success of Colorado State’s research programs and enhances the university’s focus of integrating research into the undergraduate learning experience," said Anthony Frank, provost and senior vice president at Colorado State. "The Beckman award will allow Colorado State students unparalleled opportunities to work directly with top scientists and gain hands-on experience with advanced research projects."
Each Beckman Scholar will receive $19,300 over three years and is required to work with a faculty mentor and perform 10 hours of research activities each week during the academic year and full-time research activities over 10 weeks for two summers. Sophomores and juniors studying in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, biology, chemistry, or microbiology, immunology and pathology are eligible to apply for the award, which includes funds devoted to travel and supplies. The first recipient will begin research this summer.
"It’s an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to get involved in meaningful research activities," said Jan Nerger, associate dean of Colorado State’s College of Natural Sciences. "Having experience in hands-on research is the best way to train scientists. Students gain insight into scientific method and theory and learn problem solving, critical thinking and other scientific skills."
Students who received the award in the past went on to study in highly prestigious graduate programs or to jobs within their scientific disciplines, Nerger said.
The Beckman Scholars Program is an invited program for accredited universities and colleges in the United States. It provides scholarships that contribute significantly in advancing the education, research training and personal development of talented students in chemistry, biochemistry and the biological and medical sciences. Other institutions selected for the award this year include Boston University, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Minnesota and North Carolina State University.
Jacqueline Dorrance, executive director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation that distributes the award, said recipients "have convincingly demonstrated excellence, distinction and distinctiveness in their undergraduate research capabilities and commitments as well as in their plans and activities for their Beckman Scholars."
Undergraduate research is one of Colorado State’s priorities, with several initiatives to stimulate, encourage and support research activities by undergraduate students. These include the longstanding Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity symposium, which allows students from across campus to present their work each spring. The College of Natural Sciences has initiated an Undergraduate Research Connections Web site that provides students with an interactive search engine and database of a variety of research projects that are available on campus and also administers the Student Leaders in Science project, a stand-alone program promoting interdisciplinary research in the physical and mathematical sciences. The college has been successful in seeking external funding to create an Undergraduate Research Institute and is pursueing funding opportunities to enhance this project.
"We have a strong commitment to undergraduate research," Nerger said. "Programs like the Beckman Scholars Award can serve as a centerpiece of that effort and enhance research opportunities for our undergraduate students. Our vision is to have all science students engaged in meaningful research experience from their freshmen year until graduation."
Consideration for the Beckman Scholars Program included an evaluation of the institution’s historical and current commitment to undergraduate research programs in chemistry, biochemistry and the biological and medical sciences; a review of sponsored research activities; discussions with the foundation’s Grants Advisory Council; conversations with undergraduate research program directors at the National Science Foundation; discussions with faculty members who have led nationally recognized undergraduate research programs in chemistry and biological sciences; and communications with the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
More information about the Beckman Scholars Program is available on the Web at http://www.beckman-foundation.com/index.html.