UVM Awarded Prestigious 2014 Beckman Scholars Program
- By Jon Reidel
The University of Vermont is among 12 recipients selected for a prestigious 2014 Beckman Scholars Program award recognizing outstanding undergraduate research students in chemistry and biological sciences.
The award from the Beckman Foundation totals $130,000 for five Beckman Scholars, payable over the three-year term of the award beginning in the summer of 2014. It provides scholarship assistance in the amount of $21,000 per student for two summers and one academic year in support of a sustained, in-depth undergraduate research experience. Scholars are expected to perform research activities for 10 hours each week during the semester and 40 hours per week during summer research internships in 2014 and 2015.
Jim Vigoreaux, professor and chair of biology, has overseen the Beckman Scholars Program effort and is currently heading up the selection process by soliciting nominations from faculty for exceptional students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher majoring in biology, biological science, chemistry, biochemistry, zoology, neuroscience and psychology. Three students will be selected in 2014 and two more in 2015 out of a pool of 12 based on a rigorous vetting process that includes an application with career goals and research interests, presentations to faculty, and in-depth interviews.
Beckman Scholars are expected to pursue an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Vigoreaux said five faculty mentors will be matched with students based on areas of interest. Mentors receive a $5,000 stipend to train scholars, equipping them with the "foundational knowledge required for the pursuit of graduate level research" and developing them into “future leaders of scientific research and innovation."
Vigoreaux, who served as director of the UVM McNair Scholars Program for nine years before funding dried up, said the motivation to apply for the program was threefold.
"One of the strategic priorities of our president is to make education affordable and this program allows students to allocate scholarship funds towards their academic year tuition," said Vigoreaux. "We also firmly believe in research as a valuable experience for undergraduates that is a complement to the classroom, so anything we can do to facilitate and encourage students to get involved in research is important. The other reason is that this program fills the void left by the ending of the McNair Scholars Program, although they are somewhat different."