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KU announces 2017 Beckman Scholars

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Beckman Scholars Program has announced its award recipients for 2017: Mattea Keister, sophomore from Arveda, Colorado, majoring in biochemistry, and Zachary Wood, sophomore from Eureka, Missouri, majoring in chemistry. These students will take part in a 15-month program designed to enrich their development as students and scientists through innovative research, mentoring, collaboration and practice in effective communication. The program offers students a unique opportunity to become immersed in the scientific community.

About the Beckman Scholars: 

Mattea Keister grew up in Arvada, Colorado, where she attended Ralston Valley High School. She is majoring in biochemistry. She joined Associate Professor Lisa Timmons’ lab in August 2016, where she started working on an unusual form of gene silencing that was observed in transgenic strains of Caenorhabditis elegans. The findings are reminiscent of genetic imprinting mechanisms in humans and may illuminate unintended consequences of genetic manipulation. The goal is to use biochemical and genetic approaches to uncover the underlying mechanism for this form of silencing. Keister plans to continue her education in a graduate/M.D. program with the goal of pursuing biomedical research.

“We already knew that Mattea was an exceptional student with high integrity, and we are quite pleased that she has been selected as a Beckman Scholar. Her work will benefit our studies of gene silencing mechanisms and will contribute to a better understanding of gene regulation,” Timmons said. 

Zachary Wood is from Eureka, Missouri, where he attended Eureka High School. He is majoring in chemistry with a minor in mathematics. In November 2015, Wood joined Professor Misha Barybin’s research laboratory, where he has been engaged in undergraduate research at the interface of organometallic and materials branches of chemistry.  As a Beckman Scholar, Wood will work toward gaining important quantitative insight into tuning electronic characteristics of organometallic molecular wires with the goal of designing new nanoscale materials relevant to applications in organic electronics. He plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and embark on a research career in the chemistry of functional materials.

 “It has been most gratifying to me as a mentor to see Zach’s scientific confidence surge by a wide margin since he came to KU,” Barybin said. “My research team and I are very excited to continue working with Zach. The Beckman Scholarship will undoubtedly play a huge role in Zach’s professional and personal development as a future scientific leader.”

Funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the Beckman Scholars Program is led by Co-Directors David Benson, associate professor of chemistry, and Lynn Hancock, associate professor of molecular biosciences, along with grant principal investigator Susan Egan, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences, and co-principal investigator Brian Laird, professor and chair of chemistry.

Each Beckman Scholar receives a total of $21,000 via stipend and travel and supply funds over the course of the program. Additionally, the scholars’ mentors each receive $5,000.