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Texas A&M Physics Major Connor Bowerman Named Beckman Scholar

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Sophomore physics major Connor Bowerman ’24 has been selected as one of two 2021-22 Beckman Scholars at Texas A&M University, as announced April 28 by the Texas A&M LAUNCH: Honors Program.

The Beckman Scholars Program is a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry, biological sciences or interdisciplinary combinations thereof at selected universities across the United States. The program was established in 1997 by the California-based Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to recognize and support outstanding undergraduate researchers 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.

Connor Bowerman

Bowerman, an Austin native, Westlake High School graduate and 2020 Eagle Scout, is the first Beckman Scholar from the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy. He and his fellow 2021-22 honoree — sophomore biochemistry major Katelyn Plank ’24 from Albuquerque — are among 60 undergraduate scholars from 12 universities nationwide chosen to receive more than $1.5 million in 2021-22 Beckman Foundation scholarships.

“The applicant pool for the Beckman Scholars Program was an extremely competitive one and the review process meticulous,” said Beckman Foundation Executive Director Dr. Anne Hultgren in a January press release announcing the 12 institutions selected to receive 2021-22 program funding. “We are excited to announce our 2021 Beckman Scholars Program award winners, a range of universities that includes both past awardees and new institutions we are confident will host excellent research programs for their undergraduates. We look forward to meeting the next cohort of Beckman Scholars, learning more about the research projects they’ll begin this summer, and welcoming them to our upcoming annual Beckman Symposium.”

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 specific scientific fields 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.

Bowerman plans to continue fundamental physics-related exploration with Texas A&M physicist Alexey Akimov, whose expertise lies in quantum photonics, light spin interfaces, optical resonances and other topics at the intersection of condensed matter and quantum science. Bowerman recently began his research experience by studying the detection of COVID-19 using fluorescent nanoparticles and enhancing the sensitivity of lateral flow assays with application to coronaviruses. He will work with Akimov to determine a specific direction for his Beckman Scholar research, with the goal of publishing his work prior to his graduation from Texas A&M.

In general, Bowerman says he enjoys the rigid definitions of physics and is interested in exploring basic physics research in areas such as particle physics, nuclear energy and semiconductors. When not focused on physics, he also enjoys discussing philosophy. Describing himself as “strategic” and “ inquisitive,” his career goal is “to maximize the amount of good I do while minimizing the amount of bad I do.”

In addition to monthly meetings with Beckman Scholars from other universities to discuss their research, Bowerman will attend the annual Beckman Scholars Symposium with his peers from around the U.S., as well as professional conferences related to his specific areas of study. Beckman Scholars also 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.

To date, the Beckman Foundation has awarded $27 million to more than 1,300 students since making its first award 20 years ago. Texas A&M has been an invited member of the prestigious program since 2014. A total of 14 Texas A&M students have been selected during the past seven years as Beckman Scholars, including six from the College of Science: biology students Allison K. Baker ’23, Emily D. Chapa ’23 and Ryan J. Rahman ’22; 2020 Texas A&M biology graduate and Fulbright Scholar Rachel L. Porter ’20; and 2018 Texas A&M chemistry graduate and Brown-Rudder Award recipient Brooke Versaw ’18, in addition to Bowerman.

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 College of Science.

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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 science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M generated annual expenditures of more than $1.131 billion in fiscal year 2020. Texas A&M ranked in the top 25 of the most recent National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development survey based on expenditures of more than $952 million in fiscal year 2019. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental, and applied contributions resulting in economic benefits to the state, nation, and world. To learn more, visit Research@Texas A&M.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

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