Michael Cory and Aidan Dmitriev are using KU’s healthy undergraduate research environment to help make the world healthier.
Cory, a junior biochemistry major, and Dmitriev, a junior microbiology major, say they came to KU to take advantage of its strength in the sciences. Now they’ve become the first two KU students to be chosen for the national Beckman Scholars Program – which provides financial and faculty support for undergraduate researchers in biology and chemistry.
For the duration of the 15-month program, Cory will study E. coli mutations under the mentorship of John Karanicolas, KU associate professor of molecular biosciences. In the lab, Cory and Karanicolas are attempting to design proteins that can be controlled through external small molecules — like a molecular light switch — to better understand the protein’s function.
Although it is not unusual for leading research universities like KU to encourage undergraduates to tackle research projects, the Beckman Scholars Program provides more in-depth experience. Students in the research-in-residency program receive a $21,000 stipend, allowing them to forgo part-time work and spend more time in the lab.
“Before getting the Beckman, I was helping graduate students with their projects and learning the ropes,” Cory says. “But this program allowed me to choose a specific project and undertake it as my own.”
Dmitriev also says becoming a Beckman scholar expanded his research opportunities and helped narrow his focus. “I came to KU knowing I was interested in science and medicine but needed guidance in determining exactly what I wanted to do.”
An interest in infectious disease initially led Dmitriev to associate professor Scott Hefty’s lab, where he now studies proteins of unknown function in Chlamydia in an attempt to understand why the pathogen is so successful.
“I’m getting a true taste of what it's like to work in the field,” says Dmitriev, who plans to attend a research-oriented medical school after he graduates. “Now I’m in a situation to really contribute, to have the opportunity to publish my research and to network with other scientists. It's a great opportunity.”
To learn more about the Beckman Scholars Program, visit beckman.ku.edu