Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation promotes research and scholarship in chemistry and the life sciences through programs aimed at elementary school students, college students majoring in a life science field, and beginning faculty in higher education who show potential for advancing the state of knowledge in chemistry and the life sciences.

IP TAKE: The highly selective Beckman Foundation wants to support the young scientists of today and develop tomorrow’s leaders in the field. If you're an undergrad, doctoral candidate, or recent Ph.D. in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or a related field, this funder may be your new best friend.

PROFILE: The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, headquartered in Irvine, California, focuses its grantmaking activities in STEM higher education on the life sciences, including chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and related fields. Its mission is to support “researchers and non-profit research institutions in chemistry and the life sciences, to promote scientific discoveries and particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open up new avenues of research,” and it operates through four areas: Beckman Scholars, Beckman Young Investigators, Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research, Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows.

The Beckman Scholars Program makes awards to institutions of higher education. Each year, the foundation selects a number of research universities and solicits applications from them to nominate one student conducting research in “chemistry, biochemistry, [or] the biological and medical sciences.” Recipient institutions then award the funds to the winning student (the scholarships are not awarded by the foundation directly to individual students).

The foundation does not choose just any institution for the Beckman Scholars Program. Colleges and universities are selected based on a number of factors, including research support from the National Institutes of Health, research awards from the National Science Foundation, grants and awards from other foundations, and participation in the National Conference on Undergraduate Research annual meetings. In short, universities chosen for this program generally have a record of funded research and scholarship.

For new faculty members in chemistry and other life sciences, it is a constant challenge to secure sufficient funding to pursue a program of independent research leading to publication in peer-reviewed journals and tenured positions on a science faculty. Beckman's Young Investigators program supports these scholars in the early stages of their academic careers.

Faculty members selected for the Young Investigators Program must be working in the “chemical and life sciences,” and should have projects that have the potential to “foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science.” Grant awards are for up to four years and may be as high as $750,000. The funds are not without strings attached, however. Continued funding beyond the first two years is contingent on demonstrated progress in the funded project. To qualify, your project must be a “truly high-risk” new direction in research, and you cannot have received a “major award from another institution.”

The Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows Award program is another invited program for top-tier research institutions across the United States. The award supports postdoctoral scholars “who are judged to have the highest potential for success in an independent academic career in chemistry and the life sciences” to help assist in their “transition from graduate student to independent researcher.” Many recent awardees have hailed from the nation’s top-tier universities, though several recipients were scholars at lesser-known institutions.

Finally, a relatively new initiative, the Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research is intended “to reward individuals who are making significant transformative breakthroughs in vision research.” Unlike the other programs, this award is given to only one individual per year. The recipient of the Beckman-Argyros Award will receive a total of $500,000 ($100,000 directly to the individual, and the remainder allocated to the winner’s university or charity in the form of a research grant).

In order to qualify for this award, nominees must be at a university, research institution or other qualifying public 501 (c)(3) charity. In addition, the nominating party ”must be holders of an established post, such as an Officer, dean or other authorized person” at a university or public charity or hold a similar position at a “private/public corporation,” as well as be qualified to “identify the [nominee’s] significant transformative research.”

In short, if you are a driven, innovative scholar at any level in the early stages of your STEM-related career, Beckman is a strong supporter who can help you push the bounds of your research and raise your career to the next level.


  • Jacqueline Dorrance, Executive Director