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Beckman Scholars Program

This program is currently in renewal, please check again January 2020.


Vanderbilt is one of 12 universities named in 2016 that offers the Beckman Scholars Program. Beckman Scholars conduct laboratory research for two summers and one academic year (15 consecutive months). Students receive stipends of $6,800 each summer and $4,600 for the academic year. A total of six Scholars will be supported in 2016-2020.


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 funded through 2020.
Applications are due on TBD.

VU BSP General Information

  1. Complete a VU BSP Cover Sheet. (1 page limit)
  2. Write a brief description of your proposed research. (3 page limit) 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. (Printout from YES is fine)
  4. Write a summary of your completed research or other laboratory experience. (1 page limit) 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 (or email Prof. Johnston) 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. (half-page limit) Write a 1/2 page that describes your long-term career goals and how the VU BSP might help you achieve those goals.

Deliver 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: TBD

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

Oral Presentations and Interviews: TBD 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: TBD

Scholar Tenure Start: TBD

Beckman Scholar Mentors

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

Seth Bordenstein (Biological Sciences)
Walter Chazin (Biological Sciences & Chemistry)
David Cliffel (Chemistry)
Brandt Eichman (Biological Sciences)
Julian Hillyer (Biological Sciences)
Lauren Jackson (Biological Sciences)
Jeff Johnston (Chemistry)
Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
John McLean (Chemistry)
Jens Meiler (Chemistry)
Antonis Rokas (Biological Sciences)
Louise Rollins-Smith (Biological Sciences)
Michael Stone (Chemistry)
Steve Townsend (Chemistry)

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):
  1. Meet as a group with Program Directors
  2. Short research presentation (10-15 min, ~6 slides)
  3. Discuss summer research
  4. Background for out-of-field experts
October / November:
  1. Join outreach with Commons evening as ambassadors

Year 2:

  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
  4. 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 research poster session
    • Participate if possible (need to do at least once)

Who to Contact

The Vanderbilt University Beckman Scholars Program is directed by Professor Jeffrey Johnston. Please email him 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."