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Beckman Scholars Program


Vanderbilt is one of 11 universities named in 2012 that offers the Beckman Scholars Program. Beckman Scholars conduct laboratory research for two summers and one school year (15 consecutive months). Students receive stipends of $6,000 each summer and $4,000 for the academic year. A total of seven Scholars (6 supported by the Foundation, and one by the Dean of A&S) will be supported in 2012-2014.


The Beckman Foundation stipulates a few eligibility criteria outside of those related to mentor selection. 
       1. Scholars must be US Citizens or permanent residents. 
       2. As of the application deadline, freshmen/sophomores/juniors are eligible. The basic criteria is that a
          Scholar must complete the contiguous 15 month Scholar tenure from May to the following August. Students
         anticipating a graduation date next year, for example, are eligible provided they commit to completing their 
         research during the summer following graduation. 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 initiated following August (second August, end of the Scholar tenure).

How to Apply

The VU Beckman Scholars Program is currently up for renewal – please check here in December 2014-February 2105 to learn whether there will be a competition for Scholars to begin in summer 2015.

Applications are due on

VU BSP General Information

1. Complete a VU BSP Cover Sheet

2. Write a brief description of your proposed research
2-3 pages, single spaced, graphics included (bibliography additional). You can work with your mentor to develop this proposal, but the writing must be yours.

3. Submit your undergraduate transcript

4. Write a summary of your completed research or other laboratory experience
Maximum of one page. 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 a sealed envelope containing 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.
Write a 1/2 page that describes your long-term career goals and how the VU BSP might help you achieve those goals.

Mail completed applications,addressed to:
Professor Jeffrey Johnston

Campus Mail:
VU Chemistry Department
7330 Stevenson Center
Station B 351822
Nashville, TN 37235

Direct Delivery:
MRBIV 12435 (Laboratories)/12435H (Office)


Applications Due:                                                      
Finalists Announced:
Oral Presentations and Interviews:
Scholars Announced:
Scholar Tenure Start:

Finalists Announced:

A committee will pick the top four to six candidates. These finalists will be invited to interview.

Oral Presentations and Interviews:
Each interview will include a 10-minute public presentation of the proposed research, a 5-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: 

Scholar Tenure Start:

Beckman Scholar Mentors

All Scholars are guided by a BSP Mentor. The VU BSP mentors include:

Walter Chazin (Biological Sciences & Chemistry)
David Cliffel (Chemistry)
Kathy Friedman (Biological Sciences)
Joshua Gamse (Biological Sciences)
Julian Hillyer (Biological Sciences)
Carl Johnson (Biological Sciences)
Jeff Johnston (Chemistry)
Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
John McLean (Chemistry)
Jens Meiler (Chemistry)
Sandra Rosenthal (Chemistry)
Michael Stone (Chemistry)
Gary Sulikowski (Chemistry)

Additionally, the Dean's office has generously provided support for one Scholar over the period 2012-2014. This Scholar will be identical in all respects, except her/his mentor may be any research active faculty member with an appointment in the Departments of Chemistry and/or Biological Sciences. The Dean's Scholar was awarded in 2012, so this position is not available for the 2013 competition.

The Mentor guides the Scholars 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.

See the Beckman Scholars and Mentors »

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 Director.

Scholars are required to travel to the Beckman Foundation 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 the Director.

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 (PhD) or MD/PhD programs.

Scholars should not take courses, including standardized test prep courses, during the summers. Scholars must consult with the College 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.

Any travel abroad should be completed before, or begin after, tenure as a Scholar.

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.

Scholar Timeline:

Year 1:


1)      Begin summer research period
2)      Participate in select workshops with NSF REU (Biomedical Research Program)


1)      Beckman Foundation Symposium (~1st of August)
         -          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 academic year

September (~15th):

-          Meet as a group with Program Directors
-          Short research presentation (10-15 min, ~6 slides)

  • Discuss summer research
  • Background for out-of-field experts

 October / November:

1)      Join outreach with Commons evening as ambassadors


1)      Begin summer research period
2)      Participate in select workshops with NSF REU (Biomedical Research Program)
3)      Meet as group with Program Directors and new scholars
          -          Short research presentation (10-15 min, ~6 slides)


1)      Beckman Foundation Symposium (~1st of August)
         -          Attendance
         -          Travel arrangements made through the Foundation
         -          Present poster or oral talk (by invitation)
2)      Vanderbilt summer researcher poster session
          -          Participate if possible (need to do at least once)

Dean's Beckman Scholar

The Dean's Beckman Scholar is supported by the generosity of the Dean's Office in the College of Arts & Sciences. Students who work with any research-active faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and/or Biological Sciences are eligible to compete for the Dean's Scholar position. Only one Dean's Scholar will be named over the course of the three-year grant (2012-2014). The Dean's Scholar was awarded in 2012, so all applicants must be mentored by a member of the Beckman Scholar Mentors.

Who to Contact

The Vanderbilt University Beckman Scholars Program is directed by Professors Jeff Johnston (Chemistry) and Michelle Sulikowski (Chemistry & VICB). Please email them with any questions about the program.

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."

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