GVSU undergraduate research gets national boost

two women in side-by-side photo
Sok Kean Khoo, left, and Susan Mendoza will direct the Beckman Scholars Program.
Image Credit: University Communications

Grand Valley’s undergraduate research reputation was boosted nationally after the university was one of 11 selected to administer the Beckman Scholars Program.

Funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the program will award two Grand Valley undergraduates $21,500 grants each to conduct a 15-month long research project. A total of five students will be selected as Beckman Scholars through the duration of the three-year program.

Sok Kean Khoo, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, and Susan Mendoza, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, will direct the program. They collaborated to write the Beckman application, and successfully navigated a field of 180 applicants and 28 finalists.

Robert Smart, vice provost for Research Administration, said the Beckman Scholars Program accelerates the university's pledge to engage talented students through mentored undergraduate research. 

"Being one of only a small handful of institutions selected this year, reflects very favorably on the caliber of life-science research at Grand Valley, the quality of our faculty and undergraduate students and our university’s growing commitment to support collaborative faculty-student research,” Smart said.

Grand Valley was the only institution in the "master's large" category to earn the Beckman Scholars Program in the 2016 application cycle. Khoo said it an honor for Grand Valley's undergraduate research program. The program is one of the nation’s most notable awards designed to stimulate, encourage and support research activities by undergraduate students.  

Students majoring in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, or biomedical sciences, and have a strong research interest, and a GPA of 3.7 or higher can apply to the program. The selected scholars will be mentored by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty members, and will have the opportunity to travel to conferences and meet visiting scholars on campus.

“The exposure to diverse narratives of success is critical for students who are pursuing graduate and professional school,” Mendoza said. “Engaging with leaders of industry, nationally renowned academics, as well as campus speakers on the life sciences helps students see a path for themselves”

The application deadline for students is February 22; selected scholars will be announced in March and expected to begin their projects in May. Details are available online, click here.

Research through the program will be conducted under the guidance of 12 Beckman Faculty Mentors: Bopi Biddanda and Kevin Strychar, Annis Water Resources Institute; Shannon Biros, David Leonard, Richard Lord, Rachel Powers and Brad Wallar, chemistry; Dawn Hart and Sok Kean Khoo, cell and molecular biology; Jennifer Moore and Amy Russell, biology; and Cynthia Thompson, biomedical sciences.