Published: Feb. 7, 2017 By

Undergraduate students at the University of Colorado will soon enjoy a new means of conducting scientific laboratory research, as CU Boulder is one of 11 U.S. institutions to receive a 2017 Beckman Scholars Program Award.

The Beckman Scholars Program, funded by a $156,000 grant, offers an in-depth research experience to talented, full-time CU Boulder undergraduates in the biological and chemical sciences. Each Beckman scholar will conduct independent laboratory research under the supervision of one of 15 faculty mentors in the following five departments:

  • Chemistry and biochemistry
  • Ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Integrative physiology
  • Molecular, cellular and developmental biology
  • Psychology and neuroscience

The program will support six undergraduate Beckman Scholars over the course of three years (starting in the summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019), and will designate between one and three new scholars each year.

Each Beckman scholar will receive a stipend totaling $21,000, plus $2,800 for travel and supplies. Each faculty mentor will receive a $5,000 stipend to support the educational expenses associated with the mentor’s scholar. Each scholar will be supported over the course of two summers and one academic year.

The deadline for applications this year is Feb. 22.

Brian DeDecker, faculty director of the CU Boulder Beckman Scholars Program and director of undergraduate research at the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, noted that undergraduate research opportunities are in high demand.


Brian DeDecker

Those who become Beckman Scholars often go on to distinguish themselves in graduate school, he said.

Undergraduate researchers who are in the laboratories of the Beckman faculty mentors at CU Boulder are viewed as “full-fledged members of the lab, as colleagues,” said Paul Muhlrad, science communications manager in molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

DeDecker concurred, noting that undergraduate researchers are deeply involved in “actual, discovery research, and that’s a real change from textbooks, obviously.”

When DeDecker himself was an undergraduate, textbook learning did not inspire him. “But when I got into a lab, I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness. These aren’t just facts that we’re drawing from the air. These are incredible ideas that were developed with lots of hard work and deep thinking.’ That made me appreciate them all the more.”

At CU Boulder, the Beckman Scholars Program is open even to students who don’t have any research experience, Muhlrad noted.

The Beckman Scholars Program is an initiative of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which provides grants to researchers and non-profit research institutions in chemistry and life sciences to promote scientific discoveries, and particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research.

The late Arnold O. Beckman founded Beckman Instruments and created devices that revolutionized the study and understanding of chemistry and human biology. Among other things, he invented the acidmeter, the forerunner of the modern pH meter.

Beckman made the invention, designed to measure the acidity of lemon juice, for a former classmate working at a California citrus plant.

For more information about the Beckman Scholars Program at CU Boulder or to apply, click here.