Molecular and cell biology major Rachel Porter '21 has been selected as one of two 2018-19 Beckman Scholars at Texas A&M University, as announced by the Texas A&M LAUNCH: Honors Program.

The Beckman Scholars Program was established in 1997 by the California-based Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to recognize and support outstanding undergraduate researchers in chemistry and the biological sciences -- those whose studies of "the chemistry of life" will lead to "the invention of new methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science." The award honors the memory of Arnold O. Beckman, founder-chairman emeritus of Beckman Instruments, Inc., and inventor of several scientific instruments, including the Beckman DU Spectrophotometer that revolutionized chemical analysis. Texas A&M has been an invited member of the prestigious program since 2014.

Porter, a Kempner, Texas, native, and her fellow 2018-19 honoree -- sophomore biochemistry and genetics double major Cody Martin '20 from Red Oak, Texas -- are among 58 undergraduate scholars from 12 universities across the nation chosen to receive 2018-19 Beckman Foundation scholarships. A total of six Texas A&M students have been selected thus far for the elite honor, including 2018 Texas A&M chemistry graduate and Brown-Rudder Award recipient Brooke Versaw '18.

Each year on select campuses across the country, Beckham Scholars are chosen on the basis of an intensive written application and interview process that probes each candidate's goals, values and commitment to a career in scientific research and community service. Texas A&M's process begins by identifying the top students majoring in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, chemistry or genetics during the spring semester of their freshman year. As Beckman Scholars, each will start their undergraduate research career with the top Beckman faculty mentors in their departments the summer prior to their sophomore year, embarking on research projects that they will continue through graduation.

Although Porter initally enrolled at Texas A&M in fall 2017, she brought in so many credit hours that she currently is classified as a junior and is on track to graduate early. She has spent the past year as a member of Dr. Steve Lockless' group in the Texas A&M Department of Biology, where she studied ion channels in E.coli, comparing the fitness of strains to observe differences in growth based on different environmental conditions. This summer, Porter will move to the laboratory of another Texas A&M biologist, Dr. Deborah Bell-Pedersen, who specializes in biological clocks -- specifically, how the circadian clock regulates rhythmic gene expression. There, her Beckman Scholar-related research project will seek to determine whether ribosomes -- the protein-producers of the cell -- have different compositions and activiities, depending on whether it is day or night.

Porter recently was selected to the University Scholars Program Class of 2021. As such, she will serve as an ambassador for LAUNCH: Honors in a variety of capacities and contexts while taking advantage of the program's coveted professional and personal development opportunities, including small-group seminars and participation in the Exploration Series. Scholars receive a $8,000 scholarship -- $1,000 per semester for up to eight semesters -- and serve as role models for the Honors community.

Porter, whose long-term goals include graduate school to study biology, says that though her time at Texas A&M thus far has been brief, it has reaffirmed her choice to pursue a path in research.

"Before starting, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in research," Porter said. "After joining the lab, I know I want to. I have enjoyed every aspect of research, from the work itself to the people I've met along the way."

In addition to lab research, Beckman Scholars are expected to participate in a series of leadership and research programming designed to give them a unique depth and breadth of understanding of the overall research enterprise. These experiences and opportunities include access to student-peer mentors and faculty research advisors, leadership training such as communication skills and conflict management, insight into and participation in the scientific review and publication process and preparation for national fellowship and graduate or professional school applications.

Beckman Scholars receive significant scholarship support from both the Beckman Foundation and the Texas A&M Division of Research during summers and academic years as well as additional funds to help defray the cost of research supplies or travel to professional conferences. Their efforts also are supported in part by generous donations from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students.

Learn more about the Beckman Scholars Program or Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research at http://launch.tamu.edu/Honors.

Find additional information about undergraduate research in the Texas A&M Department of Biology.

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research and Development survey (2016), based on expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M's research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu; Dr. Steve Lockless, (979) 845-9824 or lockless@bio.tamu.edu; or Dr. Deborah Bell-Pedersen, (979) 847-9239 or dpedersen@bio.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Rachel Porter '21

    (Credit: Texas A&M LAUNCH: Honors.)

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