The two most recent Beckman scholars

Student grants will support research to fight cancer and bone diseases

March 13, 2023

Research & Innovation

Sophomores Abigail Ali and Auden Wilson have been awarded prestigious Beckman Foundation Scholarships to further their faculty-mentored research on fighting diseases.

Ali, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, is researching methods to treat skeletal diseases like osteoporosis. Under the mentorship of biology professor Isaac Skromne, she is working with adult Casper Zebrafish that have regenerative properties and are ideal for this research because they are genetically modified to have transparent skin, which makes it easier to track the medicine delivery.

“Our research is looking at targeted treatment and ways to deliver medication directly to bones,” said Ali, who plans to attend a Ph.D. program after UR. “The opportunity to help people suffering from diseases that affect their quality of life is rewarding.”

Wilson, a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and health studies, is researching light-activated chemotherapy treatments for lung and breast cancer. Wilson’s research is conducted under the guidance of chemistry professor Julie Pollock.

"Photoactivated chemotherapies are an improvement to traditional chemotherapies because they can be targeted for activation in specific parts of the body,” said Wilson, who plans to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D degree and is committed to cancer research. “The drugs would have targeted effects like radiation therapy — targeted activation means less side effects.

Beckman Scholars are selected among undergraduate biology and chemistry students based on commitment to research, strong academics, and potential to become scientific leaders.

“The Beckman Scholars Program invests in the education and development of the scientific leaders of the future,” said Floyd D. and Elisabeth S. Gottwald Professor of Chemistry and Associate Provost Carol Parish, who directs Richmond’s Beckman program. “Under the mentorship of UR faculty, our Beckman Scholars are advancing important scientific research while gaining world-class training experiences.”

These scholarships are part of a larger award to the University of Richmond from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which supports faculty-mentored student research in the sciences.