Skip to main content

Beckman Scholars



Zachary Carter

VU Beckman Scholar: Zachary Carter

Zach is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, with minors in biology and neuroscience. He was born and raised in Chicago, IL. Zach is a Chancellor’s Scholar and continuing Resident Advisor in the Martha Ingram Freshmen Commons. He is also the Cultural Chair of the Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic Students. Zach took organic chemistry as a Freshman and gained research experience through the Department of Epithelial Cancer Biology. In 2014 he began work with the Johnston laboratory in an effort to apply new chemical methods to the synthesis of natural products with interesting biological activity. His postgraduate plan is to attend medical school in pursuit of an MD/PhD dual degree, eventually specializing in neurosurgery.

Jeff Johnston

VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Jeff Johnston, Stevenson Professor of Chemistry

Professor Johnston obtained his B.S. (Honors) in Chemistry (summa cum laude) in 1992 from Xavier University. While at Xavier, he completed his undergraduate thesis research with Professor Robert G. Johnson. He continued his training in organic chemistry at the Ohio State University working with Leo A. Paquette. There, he developed the oxonium ion-mediated pinacol rearrangement and was involved with two efforts in natural products total synthesis (polycavernoside A, taxol). In 1997, he moved to Harvard to join Professor David A. Evans as an NIH postdoctoral fellow. In the Evans group, he developed (with M. Willis, U. Bath) the first highly diastereoselective and enantioselective Mukaiyama-Michael reactions using bisoxazoline copper(II) Lewis acids as catalysts while delineating the associated mechanistic details. He began his independent career at Indiana University in 1999 and was ultimately promoted to Professor of Chemistry with tenure. In 2006, he moved with his research group to Vanderbilt University where he is currently a Stevenson Professor of Chemistry and a member of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology. His research has resulted in both fundamentally new chemical reactions and powerful reagents for activation and stereocontrol to create carbon-carbon and/or carbon-heteroatom bonds. These transformations have been successfully applied to structurally and functionally complex natural products, typically alkaloids. Prof. Johnston is currently Director of the VU-Beckman Scholars Program for undergraduate research. His research program has been recognized by several organizations, including the Boehringer-Ingelheim New Investigator Award, the Yamanouchi and Astellas faculty awards, an Amgen Young Investigator Award, and an Eli Lilly Grantee Award. At Indiana University, he received the IU Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, as well as an IU Trustees Teaching Award. In 2011, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), awarded a Stevenson Endowed Chair, and was a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Research. He was a 2013 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellow, and will receive the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2014.

Ravi Chintapalli

VU Beckman Scholar: Ravi Chintapalli

Ravi Chintapalli is a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. Hailing from Omaha, NE, Ravi actually began to act on his interests in the world of biological research during high school. At the University of Nebraska Medical Center, he was involved in research to design anticancer small molecular inhibitors. Upon completing early coursework at Vanderbilt, he developed a particular interest in basic anatomy and physiology of living organisms, ultimately leading to the Hillyer lab at Vanderbilt University, which specializes in the analysis of mosquito physiology and their role in transmitted infectious diseases. It is here that he became involved in characterization of mosquito wing APOs, an organ that the scientific community has largely ignored in the past. Upon completing his undergraduate work at Vanderbilt, he plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. dual degree, and continue work in the world of anatomy.

Julián Hillyer

VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Julián F. Hillyer, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Dr. Hillyer received his B.A. in Biology from the University of Chicago in 1996. He moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in 1999 he earned an M.S. in Veterinary Science under the guidance of Dr. Ralph Albrecht, and in 2004 a Ph.D in Comparative Biomedical Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce Christensen. From 2004 to 2007 Dr. Hillyer was a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Kenneth Vernick (now at Institut Pasteur) at the University of Minnesota, and in 2007 he joined Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. Dr. Hillyer's long-term interests lie in the biology of pathogens in the mosquito hemocoel (body cavity), focusing on aspects of immunology and circulatory physiology that limit systemic infections. In this quest, the Hillyer lab employs imaging and molecular approaches to expand our understanding of the biology of mosquito hemocytes (immune blood cells), and the propulsion of hemolymph (insect blood) throughout the hemocoel.

Also see: