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BYU Gaining National Recognition for Undergraduate Research Support

Archimedes was one of history’s most influential mathematicians, in addition to being an astronomer, engineer, and physicist. He developed an unprecedented method for determining the volume of objects and invented a heat ray to torch ships attacking his hometown. In explaining the principle of the lever, he said, “Give me but a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.”

BYU has been that “firm spot” for countless undergraduate researchers striving to “move the earth.” The school’s focus on research has enabled students to accelerate their learning and make real contributions as undergraduates.

In recognition of these accomplishments, BYU was recently named a recipient of the prestigious Beckman Scholars undergraduate research award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The award funds the research of outstanding BYU undergraduates studying chemistry, biology, or medicine.

“The Beckman Scholars Award gives promising undergraduate students the opportunity to do impactful research, report it, and advance their career in ways not previously possible,” said Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry associate chair Barry Willardson.

Willardson is the coordinator of a committee of chemistry, life science, engineering and psychology professors from BYU that applied for the Beckman Scholars grant, highlighting the school’s commitment to supporting undergraduate research.

“For example, in the chemistry and biochemistry [department], all twenty-eight research faculty [members] mentor undergraduate researchers, and 88 percent of the 2016 graduates participated in research,” the committee’s report said.

Seventy-five schools applied for the Beckman Scholars program. Eleven were selected.

“It was a fun opportunity for me and for the mentor group to highlight the things BYU is doing in undergraduate research,” Willardson said. “We also highlighted the success that undergraduate mentoring had on our students, noting that BYU now ranks fifth in the number of students that go on to receive PhDs.”

Undergraduate students will now have an opportunity to apply for one of five $26,000 scholarships to fund their research and work closely with a mentor for a period of 18 months. During that period, recipients will have the opportunity to present their work at the Beckman symposium in Irvine, CA.

Willardson’s committee will select the recipients.

“We’re looking for some of the very best undergraduates, among the many who do productive research at BYU, and give them this unique opportunity,” Willardson said.

The reception of this award continues to highlight the strength of BYU’s support for undergraduate research.

“It’s a significant recognition of BYU’s efforts in undergraduate research,” Willardson said. “Not every school gets these.”

Students interested in the BYU Beckman Scholars program can visit beckman.chem.byu.edu to apply for a scholarship.

By James Collard Posted on