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Two Miami students selected as Beckman Scholars 2012-2013


Dirk Auman, 2012-2013 Beckman Scholar
Miami University students Dirk Auman and Christian Cerda-Smith have been selected as Beckman Scholars for 2012-2013, with both earning scholarships valued at $19,300. Auman and Cerda-Smith will conduct research with their faculty mentors this summer and next and through the intervening academic year.

Dirk Auman, junior biochemistry and engineering physics double major

Auman, from Reynoldsburg, is a junior biochemistry and engineering physics double major, with a minor in computer science. He has been conducting independent study research with Chris Makaroff, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, since his first semester at Miami. He is involved with Makaroff’s research on the isolation and characterization of genes required for meiosis in the plant Arabidopsis (member of the mustard family).

“Dirk is the type of student that faculty love to have in lab,” Makaroff said. “He is very bright, hard working, very independent and an excellent experimentalist.”

As a prospective student, Auman knew he wanted a chance to conduct undergraduate research in college. He attended a presentation by Makaroff and became interested in his research program. Soon after Auman started at Miami, he contacted Makaroff and eventually joined his laboratory.

“Dirk has plans to go to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and have a career in research. I have no doubt that he will be successful in this regard,” Makaroff said. “He has the intelligence, skills and work ethic to be successful independent scientist.”

Auman is a member of the university honors program and is involved in the Miami athletic bands, the Miami Chemical Society and the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society. He was also a 2012 Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention.

Christian Cerda-Smith, senior biochemistry and zoology double major

Cerda-Smith, from Lakewood, is a senior biochemistry and zoology double major. He has been conducting independent study research with Michael Novak, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, since his second semester at Miami.

“The project he works in involves the synthesis and chemical characterization of the likely metabolite responsible for the antitumor activity of a class of benzothiazole-derived drugs that are currently under development,” Novak said.

“It appears from his work, and that of other researchers in my group, that the activity of these benzothiazole-based drugs depends on their ability to generate selective nitrenium ions. During the fall of 2011 Christian began product studies on his compounds that are essential to our understanding of the detailed chemistry of these drugs.”

“Christian is self-motivated and a quick learner,” Novak said. “He has had considerable success because he is willing to put in the time to get his work done.”

Cerda-Smith became involved in undergraduate research after being introduced to it during his chemistry seminar for first year students (required for chemistry and biochemistry majors). He studied faculty research profiles online and thought Novak’s research program would be a good fit.

He fit so well that he stayed on campus to work with Novak in the summer of 2010; last summer he was a Miami Undergraduate Summer Scholar.

Cerda-Smith is a member of the university honors program, and a mentor for both the Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) program and the Chemistry Scholars program (both National Science Foundation-funded programs directed toward underrepresented/underserved students who major in selected STEM fields).

Beckman Program

Miami was one of nine institutions nationwide selected for the Beckman Scholars Program Institutional Award for 2010-2013. The scholarship program established by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation recognizes outstanding undergraduates in chemistry and biological sciences research at select universities throughout the United States.

The Beckman Program's sustained, in-depth undergraduate research experiences and comprehensive faculty mentoring are unique in terms of program scope, content and level of scholarship awards ($19,300 for two summers and one academic year).

Miami faculty mentors involved in the Beckman Scholars program include: Luis Actis (microbiology); Mike Crowder, Ben Gung, Ann Hagerman, Scott Hartley, Gary Lorigan, Chris Makaroff and Michael Novak (all chemistry and biochemistry); John Kiss, Quinn Li, Nicholas Money and Richard Moore (all botany); and Katia Del Rio-Tsonis, Richard Lee and Michael Robinson (all zoology).

Christian Cerda-Smith, Beckman Scholar 2012-2013


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