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Two Arts and Sciences Students Selected as Beckman Scholars

By Jesi Jones-Bowman 

photos of students
Elizabeth Elliott, left, and Shasanka Lamichhane

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 24, 2024) — Two University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences students will participate in the Beckman Scholars Program, titled Scholars United by Chemistry: Cultivating Excellence through Science Stewardship. 

The Beckman Scholars are:

  • Elizabeth Elliott, a biology major and chemistry minor.
  • Shasanka Lamichhane, a chemistry major and mathematics minor. 

They will begin their independent, laboratory research this summer.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation’s Beckman Scholars Program is a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry, biological sciences and interdisciplinary combinations. UK was selected as one of 14 institutions to receive the award in 2022.

Elliott will look into the effect of ion channel misexpression on membrane potential and relationship to temperature and extracellular ion concentration within fly models in the lab of Robin Cooper, Ph.D., professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology. Ion channel misexpression can lead to fetal miscarriage, deaths in infants and adults, developmental abnormalities, cystic fibrosis, autism, epilepsy, cardiac diseases and cancer.

“Given how committed the SUCCESS program is to serving Kentucky’s practical needs — including those connected to neuroscience — participation in the program will help move me toward my goals of improving the quality of health care available to contemporary patients through research,” Elliott said. 

When not in the lab, Elliott looks for ways to serve and improve her community. She helped a non-native English speaker prepare for the TOEFL exam, tutored classmates, trained high school students in the lab and served on the first board of Aperture, UK’s new peer- and expert-reviewed interdisciplinary undergraduate research journal. 

Lamichhane will investigate the interface chemistry of metal-organic frameworks in contact with electrolyte solutions, materials that are of interest for energy generation and storage, in the lab of Chad Risko, Ph.D., professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry

“Becoming a Beckman Scholar will be a great stepping stone for me toward my goal of becoming a professor,” Lamichhane said. “The program allows me to bring my unique perspectives and creative insights into novel problems as I continue to develop as an independent researcher and will allow me to expand my scientific repertoire helping me further explore the diverse, and interdisciplinary landscape of chemistry.”

With a focus on service and accessibility, Lamichhane serves his community as a volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, producing YouTube chemistry tutorial videos to help make STEM education accessible to people of all backgrounds and education levels and a resident assistant at a dementia unit.

As Beckman Scholars, Elliott and Lamichhane will receive a$21,000 over 15 months: $18,200 for a student stipend and $2,800 to support scientific supply and travel for current research activities. Faculty mentors will also receive $5,000 to support educational expenses.

Each Beckman Scholar will perform research activities part-time during one academic year and full-time over two consecutive summers. They will also complete a required training and professional development series, and at least one outreach or service activity during the academic year. Scholars will participate in leadership workshops, present at the UK Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars in April 2025 and attend one Beckman Scholar Symposium.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.