The Collegian
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Westhampton junior receives national research scholarship

Emily McFadden, a Westhampton College junior and biochemistry major, recently received the national Beckman Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate research in the chemistry and biological sciences.

The Beckman Scholars Program , established in 1997, was designed to provide scholarships that contribute significantly in advancing the education, research training and personal development of select students in biochemistry and its relative fields, according to the program's website. The nationwide scholarship is awarded to six undergraduate students each year.

McFadden, one of the six students selected to receive the scholarship in 2012 , said the $19,200 grant would cover her research costs for the next two summers and her senior year.

"The grant funds travel to symposiums and conferences across the country where I can present my research," McFadden said. "It also plays for supplies in my lab."

McFadden's research, which she has been conducting for the past year and a half, takes place in a Gottwald biochemistry lab with the help of a faculty mentor.

"I've been researching a specific enzyme involved in DNA repair," McFadden said. "My upcoming project is looking at an alternative enzyme, and comparing the two to see how their efficiency in DNA repair is different."

McFadden said the final culmination of her research would take place next summer, when she would present her project results at the Beckman Scholars Conference in California.

"I'll have the opportunity to show my work to the members of the Beckman Foundation, as well as any other scientists who may be interested in my findings," McFadden said.

Michelle Hamm , associate professor of chemistry at the University of Richmond , serves as McFadden's mentor and nominated McFadden to receive the scholarship.

"Emily is a bright and talented student with a passion for science," Hamm said. "The Beckman award is for future scientific leaders, and I thought that description fit Emily well."

Hamm said McFadden joined her lab in 2010 , and has been pursuing her research project under Hamm's guidance ever since.

"I trained Emily in the techniques required to address her research question," Hamm said. "We also talk a lot as she gets results and makes day to day decisions -- we brainstorm together about these results and what conclusions might be drawn."

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Though a candidate for the Beckman Scholarship must be nominated to win the award, a competitive process of interviews and essay applications follows the acceptance of the nomination.

"After Dr. Hamm nominated me, I applied formally and had to show that I met all the requirements of a Beckman candidate," McFadden said. "It was about a two-week process overall."

After graduation in 2013, McFadden plans to attend graduate school for scientific research. Until then, she hopes to further her knowledge in lab research by working with Hamm, and possibly obtaining an internship in the biochemistry field.

Contact reporter Laura Allen at laura.allen@richmond.edu

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