Miami receives 5th Beckman Institutional Award for undergraduate research

Camaryn Bennett and Hope Kirby are 2020-2021 Beckman Scholars

beckman-program-logoMiami University is one of 12 institutions nationwide to receive the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation’s 2020 -2023 Beckman Scholars Program Institutional Award.

The award supports undergraduate research and faculty mentoring for select students in chemistry, biochemistry and the biological sciences.

Five students will be selected over three years as Beckman Scholars. They will receive $18,200 stipends to work with Miami faculty members on research that extends over two summers and part time during the intervening academic year. Each student/faculty mentor pair also receives $7,800 for research supplies and research-related travel.

Miami is among a select group of institutions to have received the award five times. Rick Page, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Miami’s Beckman program coordinator, said "the program is highly competitive and “focused on supporting outstanding students at universities with sustained excellence in research, scholarship, and teaching in the areas of chemistry and biology."

"We are incredibly proud to be among a select group of schools to have received this award five times."

Miami’s 2020-2021 Beckman Scholars: Camaryn Bennett and Hope Kirby


Camaryn Bennett (submitted photo)

Bennett, a junior chemistry major from Centerville, works with faculty mentor Dominik Konkolewicz, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. She joined his lab group during her first semester at Miami.

She is part Konkolewicz’s research group that is examining the effects of different dynamic bonding units on the properties of self-healing materials.

 “This project is effectively a study of dynamic chemistry to see how we can make and characterize self-healing materials,” she said.

"Camaryn is exceptionally motivated to learn skills from traditionally disconnected areas of science. Her work is at the junction of chemistry, soft materials and engineering mechanics," Konkolewicz said. "I am excited to see where Camaryn's future takes her. "

Working from home this summer, Bennett said she is researching different ways to characterize self-healing materials as a whole based on different variables.

Outside of the lab, Bennett was a member of the Miami University Marching Band and pep band for the past two years, and a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a band service fraternity.

Bennett is in the combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program in chemistry, which allows students to work toward a master's degree concurrently with their undergraduate degree.


Hope Kirby (submitted photo)

Kirby, a junior microbiology major and geology and bioinformatics double minor from Glendale, Arizona, works with faculty mentor Luis Actis, professor and chair of microbiology. She joined his lab group during her first year at Miami.

Originally a pre-medical studies co-major, she was attracted by the medical implications of his research on the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii. The antibiotic resistant bacterium can persist in medical environments and cause serious infections in humans.

She studies the way A. baumannii responds to light. “Understanding the main systems in the bacteria that are light-dependent could be key in understanding how the pathogen works," she said. This work is primarily done through genetic work with molecular cloning and biochemical assays.

"Hope stands out as one of the best among the more than 50 undergraduates I have supervised," Actis said. "She has an amazing capacity to listen, learn and respond by understanding methods, interpreting data and relating them to published observations."

Kirby was recently selected as a 2020-2021 Goldwater Scholar. She is the co-president and cofounder of Miami’s Microbiology Club and a supplemental instructor in the biology department. She is a member of Miami's LSAMP student program and a College of Arts and Science Ambassador.

This summer is working on her research from home, doing bioinformatic analysis and literature review.

Beckman Scholars at Miami since 2003

“The Beckman Scholars Program at Miami has a proud history of helping our students catapult to success,” Page said. Page mentored Matt Morris, a 2018-2019 Beckman Scholar.

Miami’s first four Beckman Scholars 

Megan Matthews (Miami ’05) Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, University of Pennsylvania,

Ryan Fox (Miami ’05, M.S. ’07), Senior director R&D and operations, Orange Grove Bio (pre-clinical drug development company).

Amanda Jones (Miami ’05), Ph.D., scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Christopher Shoemaker (Miami’ ’07) Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and cell biology, Dartmouth College.