two students standing in lab
Students Camryn Carter (left) and Helen Xia were awarded Beckman Scholarships to support their research aimed at combatting disease.

Undergrads' hard work in the lab rewarded with prestigious scholarships

March 6, 2022

Research & Innovation

Two University of Richmond students were awarded prestigious Beckman Foundation Scholarships to support their research aimed at fighting disease.

The scholarships for junior Camryn Carter, of North Chesterfield, Virginia, and sophomore Helen Xia, of Coppell, Texas, are part of a larger award to the University of Richmond from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which supports student research in the sciences.

Under the mentorship of chemistry professor Carol Parish, Carter’s research focuses on designing drugs to combat COVID-19. Carter was part of a research team that recently performed computational mutations to study the omicron variant and how it gains entry into human cells. She is the lead author on an upcoming article detailing this research for the journal Scientific Reports.

Carter, a double major in computer science and chemistry, participated in UR’s Integrated and Inclusive science program and URISE, a pre-first year program that aims to increase the number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and math disciplines.

“This award represents my passion for chemistry and commitment to using research as a tool to develop solutions to significant problems,” said Carter, who aspires to attend a Ph.D. program and conduct research at a Department of Energy national laboratory. “As someone who is financially independent and supporting my own education, this award relieves a financial burden that will allow me to focus more effort on my research projects.” 

Under the guidance of chemistry professor Wade Downey, Xia’s research focuses on the field of synthetic organic chemistry with indoles. Indoles are an organic compound found in many natural products and medicines. This past summer, Xia spent more than 400 hours conducting product research. The results were published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry in December 2021.

“Research has been the most rewarding part of my education and what has driven my academic ambition,” Xia said. “This award gives me resources to continue my research in synthetic organic chemistry with indoles that has a wide range of application in medicinal drugs for treating critical human diseases. It also inspires me to strive to become a scientific leader that can improve the life of others in my future career.”

“The Beckman Scholars Program invests in the education and development of the scientific leaders of the future,” said Parish, who oversees the UR Beckman Scholar program. “Under the mentorship of UR faculty, our Beckman Scholars are advancing important scientific research while gaining world-class training experiences. Past recipients have gone on to pursue impressive scientific careers, and we have no doubt Camryn and Helen will follow in those footsteps.”

Beckman Scholars work at least 10 hours a week during the academic year and full-time during two 10-week summer terms in a faculty mentor’s laboratory. The $26,000 awards cover travel, lab supplies, and the faculty mentor’s stipend.