The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation: Grants for Science Education

 

OVERVIEW: The private foundation of the family of California science and tech pioneer Arnold Beckman makes grants in both research and scholarship in chemistry and the life sciences.

IP TAKE: This foundation has pretty deep pockets, with opportunities for undergraduate students, doctoral candidates, and new post-docs in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or a related field. But keep in mind its education grants are very specific, channeling scholarships through select research universities and supporting early science ed in its home county.

PROFILE: Arnold Beckman made it into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the development of the first pH meter, which formed the basis of his company Beckman Instruments. Beckman’s family foundation seeks to spur along scores of other young aspiring scientists. Grants are aimed at 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. It also has a program that entirely supports K-6 science education in Orange County schools.

Much of the foundation’s annual giving goes directly to basic science research, particularly to young researchers and inventors to realize their early potential, and more than a dozen facilities and research centersbear his name at universities and research institutes around the country.

But the Beckman Foundation has one additional avenue that supports science education. The Beckman Scholars Program is an undergraduate scholarship grant awarded to academic institutions that then distribute them to deserving students (awardees are selected rather than applying for the program directly).

Each year, the foundation selects about 10-25 research universities to receive funding for the scholarship. Colleges and universities are chosen based on strict criteria and generally have a record of funded research and scholarship. The $26,000 scholarships last two summers and one academic year and allow undergraduates to pursue research in chemistry, biochemistry and biological and medical sciences with in-depth faculty mentoring. The total scholarship funds are allocated to a student stipend, scientific supply and travel, and to the mentor.

For early career faculty members, there is Beckman's Young Investigators program. Directed at scholars in the early stages of their academic careers, the goal of this award is to help them pursue a program of independent research leading to publication in peer-reviewed journals and tenured positions.

Faculty members selected for the Young Investigators Program must be working on “truly high-risk” research in the “chemical and life sciences” 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. Continued funding beyond the first two years is contingent on demonstrated progress in the funded project. To qualify, you cannot have received a “major award from another institution.”

The Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows Award program is another invite-only program for top-tier U.S. research institutions. The award supports postdoctoral scholars believed to be destined for success in an “academic career in chemistry and the life sciences,” and helps 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 have come from lesser-known institutions.

Finally, a relatively new initiative, the Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research is given once per year “to reward individuals who are making significant transformative breakthroughs in vision research.” The award totals $500,000: $100,000 directly to the individual, and $400,000 to the winner’s institution in the form of a research grant. It probably goes without saying that self-nominations are not accepted.

While the focus of Beckman’s science education funding is somewhat restrictive, for the right school district or educational institution it can take aspiring scientists' first laboratories far beyond the backyard toolshed.

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