Rising senior Austin Chiles is researching plant hormones in Professor Brit Moss' lab as a recipient of the Beckman Scholars Award.
Rising senior Austin Chiles is researching plant hormones in Professor Brit Moss' lab as a recipient of a Beckman Scholars Award.

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Rising senior Austin Chiles and Hunter Hansen ’21 are working closely with faculty mentors to conduct intensive scientific research over the course of two summers and throughout the academic year as the latest recipients of the Beckman Scholars Award

Whitman received the Beckman Scholars Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in December 2018. The three-year, $104,000 award funds student researchers in chemistry, biochemistry and medicine, and is designed for students who plan to pursue advanced degrees. 

Scientific Pursuits

Chiles, a biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology (BBMB) major from Centerville, Utah, is studying plant hormones in the lab of Assistant Professor of BBMB Brit Moss. Chiles is working on developing a novel biosensor for detection of the plant hormone auxin, which regulates plant growth and development, in plant cells. The biosensor will use fluorescent proteins that are illuminated under certain light wavelengths to locate auxin. 

“I am learning how to be very detail oriented and manage my time effectively,” Chiles says. “I think both of these skills are really important for a career in medicine, which I hope to pursue.”

Hansen, a chemistry major from Spokane, Washington, is designing and synthesizing enzyme inhibitors towards the treatment of multiple myeloma, an aggressive cancer of the plasma cells, in the lab of Marion Götz, associate professor of chemistry and Paul Garrett Fellow. 

Chiles and Hansen are also organizing and hosting weekly Summer Science Seminars that bring together students involved with summer research across campus, plus publishing a weekly newsletter. 

Laying the GroundworkSilas Miller ’21, a previous Beckman Scholar.

Silas Miller ’21, a previous Beckman Scholar who is now starting a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes the experience laid the groundwork for a future in STEM. A BBMB major at Whitman, Miller worked in Moss’s lab and was one of only three undergraduate presenters at the 2020 Beckman Foundation Symposium.  

“Gaining research experience was invaluable for my intended career path, and getting more long-term research experience than is typical for undergraduates was even better,” Miller says. “The experience also taught me about scientific communication, giving presentations, interacting with other members of academia, and increased my confidence in a scientific setting.” 

For more information about research opportunities at Whitman, visit the webpage.