Bowdoin Wins Beckman Scholars Award for Scientific Research

Bowdoin continues to be a magnet for illustrious awards, with several major grants totaling more than $1.6 million awarded to faculty and programs at the College in recent months.

kacey berry

Ketura (Kacey) Berry ’13, Bowdoin’s most recent Beckman Scholar, worked with biology professor Hadley Horch to study crickets’ ability to regrow neurons. Berry has gone on to a Fulbright research fellowship at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany.

Bowdoin is one of only 12 colleges nationwide to win the coveted Beckman Scholars Program award, receiving $104,000 to support the research of four student-mentor pairs over the next three years in fields related to chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and medicine. The program’s mission is “to help stimulate, encourage and support research activities by exceptionally talented undergraduate students at our nation’s universities and colleges; young people who ultimately will become prominent leaders in their scientific and professional pursuits.”

Even a nomination to apply for the award is an honor, said Bowdoin’s Director of Health Professions Advising Seth Ramus, who directs the Beckman Scholars program at the College. To be among the winners speaks to the exceptionally high caliber of science research and education at Bowdoin. “It says that we have a program that is excellent in the quality of our faculty and their research, and in our ability to mentor undergraduates for careers in science,” Ramus said.

Students become Beckman Scholars through a competitive application process, with one or two students applicants chosen each year. Each of the accepted students – who are “exceptional sophomores and juniors,” Ramus said – will spend a summer, a full academic year, and the following summer doing research with a faculty mentor, completing the program either just before senior year or after a post-baccalaureate summer. As the scholars progress through the program they become mentors themselves for younger students. Students receive stipends plus funding for travel and supplies each summer, as well as during the intervening academic year. In addition, each student–mentor pair is funded to travel to the annual Beckman symposium in Irvine CA during the final summer.

Bowdoin’s Beckman Scholar program is currently gearing up to select the first scholar of the three-year award, to begin in June 2014. Applicants select a mentor from a pool of 13 faculty members, chosen based on their records as scientists and their previous mentorship of students who have gone onto careers as leaders in science or medicine. Those faculty members are Jack Bateman (Biology), Patsy Dickinson (Biology), Danielle Dube (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Hadley Horch (Biology and Neuroscience), William Jackman (Biology), Bruce Kohorn (Biology and Biochemistry), Anne McBride (Biology and Biochemistry), John Lichter (Biology and Environmental Studies), Barry Logan (Biology), Collin Roesler (Earth and Oceanographic Science), Elizabeth Stemmler (Chemistry), Richmond Thompson (Psychology and Neuroscience), and Mary Lou Zeeman (Mathematics).

The steering committee for the program includes Professor of Biology (and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs) Barry Logan, Associate Professor of Biology Anne McBride, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Richmond Thompson, and Professor of Chemistry Richard Broene.

As program director, Ramus helps administer the program and advises aspiring Beckman Scholars during the application process. This role aligns well with his position in the Office of Health Professions Advising, in which he not only assists students and alumni as they apply to graduate and professional schools, but also meets early on with students who are exploring paths in the sciences. “As they consider medicine and research and other careers, I try to help them identify their passions, choose the right classes, and find ways to engage in their future careers so that they can ‘try them on,’” said Ramus, who previously spent a decade on the Bowdoin faculty in neuroscience and psychology. “I’m deeply interested in the mission of the College in the sciences, as well as the mission in diversity.”

Bowdoin has twice previously won the Beckman Scholars award, in 2005 (lasting through the 2007-08 academic year) and in 2010 (lasting through 2012-13).

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