BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — An opportunity to experience one-on-one research with Illinois Wesleyan professors and network with scientists around the country has been made possible for students through funding from the Beckman Scholars Program.

IWU was among 14 U.S. colleges and universities chosen for the program through the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, a non-profit organization established to support leading-edge research, primarily in the fields of chemistry and the life sciences, while fostering the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science. 

The program will provide $156,000 in funding to support six scholar-mentor pairs at Illinois Wesleyan, with two scholars named per year for the three-year award term. Faculty will serve as mentors in the research experience for undergraduate students studying chemistry, biological sciences and neuroscience.

A chemistry student in a white lab coat holds a red petri dish up to the light to view its contents
An student examines a petri dish in an IWU chemistry laboratory. 

In addition to the research time spent on campus, funding will cover travel for scholars to visit California to present their findings at the Beckman Symposium and connect with other scholars and scientists. 

Associate Professor of Biology Tyler Schwend and Assistant Professor of Biology Richard Alvey served as principal investigators of the grant. 

“It is ingrained in IWU culture that every one of our students should pursue their passion by engaging in experiential learning as part of their education,” said Alvey. “The Beckman Scholars Program will provide a crucial foundation for achieving a sustainable research culture and ultimately enhance the quality of our student experience.”

Each Beckman Scholar will participate in the 15-month program for one summer, the following school year and the subsequent summer, resulting in over 1,000 hours of research. The scholarship grant will provide each student with a $21,000 stipend, as well as a budget for research supplies and additional travel opportunities. 

“This is a pretty incredible opportunity for students,” said Schwend. “It will be similar to an apprenticeship. Students will learn under faculty how to complete certain techniques, and that will get them to a level where they can learn and complete research independently. By the second summer, the students will have their own ideas. It will be exciting to see them break free from the apprenticeship and complete work on their own.”

Past institutional recipients of the Beckman Scholars Program include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Yale and University of California, Berkeley. Alvey noted that participation in the program will be sure to stand out on graduate resumes. 

The first pair of IWU Beckman Scholars are expected to be selected during the Spring 2024 semester and will begin research this summer. An information session for students to learn more about this opportunity will be scheduled soon. Interested students may contact Dr. Alvey at or Dr. Schwend for more details. 

“As Arnold Beckman was born and raised in the nearby town of Cullom and moved with his family to Bloomington in 1914, we are particularly eager to bring this program ‘home’ to our institution. We revel in our numerous connections to the Beckman family,” said Alvey.

Arnold Beckman, a world-renowned scientist, philanthropist and business leader, grew up in Bloomington with three siblings. He studied chemical engineering and physical chemistry at the University of Illinois where he was mentored by chemistry professor Carl “Speed" Marvel, a 1915 alumni of Illinois Wesleyan. Beckman spoke at IWU in 1991 and was awarded an honorary degree.

Two of Beckman’s siblings attended IWU. Wilma Beckman graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in 1926 with a bachelor of science degree and was a forerunner and role model for many women majoring in the sciences. The Wilma B. Beckman Auditorium in The Ames Library is a gift from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in her honor. Frederick Beckman studied law at IWU and graduated in 1922. The foundation supported the construction of IWU’s Center for Natural Science, which includes the Frederick P. Beckman Lecture Hall in his memory.