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Richmond science department receives $77,200 for student research

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation has awarded the University of Richmond science faculty members a three-year, $77,200 Beckman Scholars grant for student research.

The money will go toward laboratories, research tools and traveling. "In science, we need the money to solve the problem," said Carol Parish, a chemistry professor and the director of Richmond's Beckman Foundation program.

This is the third consecutive cycle in which Richmond has received the grant, Parish said. More than 150 colleges and universities are invited to apply for funding, and 10 will receive awards from the Beckman Foundation this year.

The Beckman Scholars program was established in 1997 to "provide scholarships that contribute significantly in advancing the education, research training and personal development of select students in chemistry, biochemistry and the biological and medical sciences," according to the Beckman Foundation's website.

Arnold Beckman, the founder and chairman of Beckman Instruments Inc., has taken on various roles as an educator, inventor, civic leader, philanthropist and humanitarian, according to the website.

Richmond senior Emily McFadden is one of the four Richmond students who received $19,300 from the Beckman Scholars grant in 2010.

As a Beckman scholar, McFadden is required to work in her faculty mentor's lab for at least 10 hours a week during the academic year, as well as dedicate two 10-week summer terms to her research.

The grant helps with funding supplies and travel to conferences to present her research, McFadden said.

McFadden's current research is focused on using biochemistry to determine why DNA is prone to certain damages, she said. Her program mentor is chemistry professor Michelle Hamm.

"I couldn't have imagined the work I'm doing with Dr. Hamm before I came to Richmond," McFadden said. "I get to do so much, and she's a great mentor because she gives you guidance and teaches you how to do everything, but is very trusting in you doing your work." She lets you think for yourself and do your own stuff."

Hamm was one of the faculty members identified in the proposal for the previous Beckman grant. "If we get funded, the students have to choose their research projects in one of those faculty labs," Parish said.

Hamm nominated McFadden for the program after McFadden started working for Hamm's research project during the fall of her sophomore year.

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"You look for students who have done well in classes and who have drive," Hamm said. "And you're confident that they're independent and able to move the project forward with their own initiative to some degree. Emily did a great job that first summer in the lab, and I thought she'd be a great candidate for Beckman."

To apply for the grant, committee members from the department sent in a proposal with a description of the research program at Richmond, the success of the science students at Richmond, the number of publications that the students have with the faculty, the number of grants the faculty members have and the makeup of the Richmond mentoring program, Parish said.

"There is no better chemistry or biology program at the undergraduate level in this country - probably in the world," she said.

After participating as a faculty mentor after the first Beckman Scholars grant that Richmond received in 2006, Parish wrote the subsequent grant proposals and became director of the program.

During the two years that Richmond's science faculty was not applying for the three-year grant, she worked for the Beckman Foundation by reviewing other schools' proposals and received an inside look at the other universities' programs, she said.

"Our students don't wash glassware," Parish said. "They're actually discovering new science on a daily basis."

Nominations for student grant recipients of Richmond's 2013 Beckman Scholars grant are due Jan. 25. The faculty members included in the grant proposal submit these nominations.

"We look for students who have some research experience," Parish said.

Full applications are then due on Feb. 8. Selected finalists submit an application that is screened based on their research experience, faculty recommendation, GPA and career plans, Parish said. The final selection also includes an interview before a panel, and the questions are focused on the student's research plans.

"The school and the Beckman Foundation are saying to a student, 'You hold so much promise to becoming a scientific leader that we're going to invest $20,000 into your research education." Parish said.

"When I went to my panel interview, I was really into my research and just wanted to explain it to them. It comes across naturally if you're really into what you're doing."

Contact reporter Kylie McKenna at

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