left quote There is no satisfactory substitute for excellence. right quote   Dr. Arnold O. Beckman
cal tech

Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation


The Beckman Young Investigator Program was the brainchild of Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, whose generosity was as great as his affinity for science.

In 1990, shortly after the death of his beloved wife Mabel, he decided to launch this program and accelerate his philanthropic mission to make a significant impact on mankind. He was keenly aware of how important financial support can be for scientists in the early stages of their careers. When he established the BYI award, Dr. Beckman carefully considered its value. He wanted it to become one of the most prestigious awards in academia – and he succeeded.

A Beckman Young Investigator award is the scientific equivalent of winning a golden ticket and a brass ring in one fell swoop. All agree: No other organization has supported young, promising scientists in quite the same way. With this award, they were encouraged to take big risks, think out of the box, and test their "wild ideas." This award would fund the high-risk, innovative research of brilliant young scientists that no other funding agency was likely to fund.

Since 1991, a distinguished group of 307 Beckman Young Investigators was selected at 87 academic and research institutions. Armed with the funds for new equipment, research assistants and supplies, these scientists went for it. They used their insatiable intellectual curiosity, passion for exploration and perseverance to prove what was once thought of as inconceivable.

Back in their labs, they tinkered with their theories and ideas over and over again. Their research took on a life of its own ­– and spawned incredible new discoveries. This was their proving ground, a magical time to show the world how they could make a difference.

Indeed they did. As you'll read in the pages that follow, they found ways to bring sight back to the blind, remediate toxic soil, view an embryonic heartbeat in 3-D, and peer inside the brain on a molecular level. They pioneered the fields of nanotechnology, optogenetics and cellular and molecular cognition. They searched for ways to alleviate health problems that plague society – AIDS, cancer, cholera, malaria, developmental and neurodegenerative diseases. They developed new vaccines, new instruments, new materials, new optics and new software that have left an indelible imprint on science and made the world a better place.

Their novel ideas were patented, published and celebrated. Collectively, these Beckman Young Investigators garnered another $1.4 billion dollars in funding. Some esteemed researchers received tens of millions of dollars in additional funding. They filed 404 patents and patent applications domestically, and a few internationally. Their Beckman-funded research appeared in more than 3,655 articles in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of American Chemical Society, Science and Nature and those articles have been cited prolifically ever since. They have also written books and textbooks that shape the minds of future scientists.

A Beckman Young Investigator award served as a launch pad for their careers. In recent surveys, most admit it accelerated their tenure track for successful careers at top universities around the country. Another 54 responded that they were inspired to start their own businesses. Others are widely sought after as scientific advisors for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. In fact, three Beckman Young Investigators serve as scientific consultants to our government and armed forces. One is a member of the President's Council of Science and Technology, one contributes to the JASONs, an independent group of scientists that advises the United States Government on matters of science and technology, and another works with the U.S. Air Force.

It is no easy feat to be selected as a Beckman Young Investigator – and the scientific industry knows it. As is often the case, one good thing leads to another. Many of our awardees were later chosen for other prestigious awards.

For example, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) selected 24 Beckman Young Investigators as active investigators and one is now an alumni investigator. In 2009, this organization announced that five out of 50 Early Career Scientists came from the 2007 and 2008 classes of Beckman Young Investigators. Each of these scientists will receive a full salary, benefits and a research budget of $1.5 million over the 6-year appointment. Between 1991 and 2005, approximately 12% of our Beckman Young Investigators became active HHMI investigators. In the class of 2000 alone, eight more were recruited as HHMI investigators.

The list goes on. The National Academy of Sciences elected eight Beckman Young Investigators. The National Academy of Engineering chose one as an elected member. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected nine Beckman Young Investigators. The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) elected two Beckman Young Investigators. Lastly, MIT's Technology Review Magazine chose a staggering 45 Beckman Young Investigators for its TR100 award, named among the top 100 young (under 35) innovators in technology and business.

They have caught the attention of mainstream media, too. Their innovative breakthroughs in agriculture, biology, chemistry, energy, medicine, and technology have been featured on major news outlets such as CNN, NBC, MSNBC, BBC, National Geographic, NPR, and the Discovery Channel.com. They have been covered in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and dozens of other newspapers.

It all began with one devoted couple's selfless dream to reinvest their wealth. Between 1991 and 2009, they bestowed $71 million to these young scientists. Arnold and Mabel Beckman's mission has been performed with care by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation's Executive Director and Board of Directors.

They created a culture of collaboration by holding the Beckman Young Investigator Symposium each year. It is a meeting where originally Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, and then his predecessors, imparted their wisdom and inspired the next generation. It is a place where Beckman Young Investigators are exposed to multidisciplinary areas of science ­– from biology and chemistry to instrumentation and medicine. They share their ideas and experiences, exchange business cards and make friendships that will last a lifetime. This fruitful professional networking has led to speaking engagements, referrals, career advancements, start-ups and more. Thirty-eight Beckman Young Investigators have gone on to collaborate on projects together; one had three different collaborations.

Together, they improved crops, energy, medicine and the environment. They revolutionized manufacturing, technology and a broad range of industries. They changed lives. They changed history – and they will change the future.

When Dr. Arnold O. Beckman started the Beckman Young Investigator program, he proved how a novel idea has the power to change the world.

Beckman Scholars

The Beckman Scholar Program reaches out to undergraduate students who show particular promise in biology and chemistry. Since 1998, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation has funded scholarships for 909 Beckman Scholars at 87 of the leading academic institutions nationwide, for a total of $17 million.

The money that has been invested thus far has produced remarkable dividends. Almost every Beckman Scholar has gone on to even higher levels of education, and the greatest percentage have chosen to focus on science. Several are working as research assistants in labs, which are entry-level scientific careers in industry. They are also teaching science. One is starting a non-profit organization for the benefit of bringing science to the impoverished peoples of another country.

Currently, there are over 60 Beckman Scholars pursuing their master's degree. Another 81 Beckman Scholars are in medical-degree programs (or internships) and 36 are practicing medicine. In fact, a recent update in our institutional reports indicates that we now have 81 Beckman Scholars actively engaged in the M.D./Ph.D. programs and another eight Beckman Scholars have completed both degrees and are now finishing their internships. A total of 167 Beckman Scholars have completed or are pursuing a Ph.D. There are another 31 Beckman Scholars in post-doctorate positions and 12 Beckman Scholars are now professors at various institutions nationwide and in Japan and Switzerland. These Ph.D. Beckman Scholars have actively gone into science-related industries at major companies or newer start-up companies. One of them is a co-founder of a company in North Carolina and another is president of a small start-up company in Wisconsin.

A few Beckman Scholars have chosen to become medical practitioners by pursuing degrees in dentistry, optometry, and veterinary medicine. Three other Beckman Scholars have become science writers, including one who has worked with several academic institutions in the western United States. Eleven of our past Beckman Scholars have received their Masters degree, along with their teaching credentials, and are now taking their enthusiasm for science into high school classrooms.

In addition to pursuing the fields of science or medicine, several of our Beckman Scholars have chosen to go into law. Presently there are four Beckman Scholars who have either completed or are pursuing a law degree, working specifically with intellectual property issues. Two more Beckman Scholars received their Master's in Business Administration.

Our Beckman Scholars have received several other prestigious awards, including the Fulbright Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship, Marshalls Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship, several Goldwater Scholarships (approximately 38.5% of the Beckman Scholars have received this award), American Cancer Society, Gates Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. Many have garnered these institutions' highest awards.

The Beckman Scholars also participated in the annual Beckman Scholars symposium and networked with leading scientists. Each year, a few of our Beckman Scholars are plucked from the symposiums to work in the labs of our noted speakers. This past year, three laboratories actively recruited our Beckman Scholars.

Leave it to Arnold O. Beckman to bring these research efforts around into a full circle. These Beckman Scholars have not only studied under our Beckman Young Investigators as undergraduates, but as graduate students, Ph.D. candidates and post-doctorates. Most recently, a Beckman Scholar successfully made it through the rigorous BYI review process and was chosen as a 2009 Beckman Young Investigator. These Beckman Scholars are forging ahead into new areas of cutting-edge science today.

Preparing children today for a world of science tomorrow.

During the late 1990s, Arnold O. Beckman spotted two growing trends that were completely at odds with one another. On the one hand, our country would need a more educated workforce as the world becomes more dependent on advanced technologies. Yet, funding for science education and student test scores were both in a negative spiral. It pained him to think that if this trend continued, America might lose its competitive edge.

He wanted to do more to prepare today's children for the incredible new advances of tomorrow. Many of those advances, Dr. Beckman knew, would be discovered or developed right here in Orange County, California.

He declared, "I would like to find a way to sustain children's natural curiosity about science. I've always been strongly interested in education, and I am especially interested in the education of teachers and children." Those words became the impetus for the Beckman@Science program for elementary students and teachers.


Dr. Arnold O. Beckman recalled two experiences in his youth that instilled his passion for science. One was a trip to a science museum. The other was finding a chemistry book in the family attic: Fourteen Weeks in Science by J. Dorman Steele, which inspired his father to convert a tool shed into a makeshift chemistry lab for young Arnold's 10th birthday. This was where he first discovered the kind of investigative, hands-on learning that served him well throughout his long, successful career.

It was time to bring this same gift to a new generation of little ones. Since the Beckman@Science Program was first initiated in 1998, it has made science a core subject throughout the elementary school system in Orange County, California. Thus far, approximately 1.2 million students and nearly 30,000 teachers have been impacted by this comprehensive program. By providing $23 million in funding since 1998, the program has bolstered the quality of the science curricula by providing teachers with innovative training and teaching materials, and garnering community support from parents, scientists, business leaders and local universities.

Classrooms erupted with excitement and energy as children conducted their own experiments with their discovery kits and took notes in their science journals. These studies extended beyond textbook learning. They became active scientific investigators by, for example, examining the lifecycle of a butterfly under a magnifying glass. The knowledge they gained spilled over into other subjects. As a result, they became better readers, better writers, better communicators, and better mathematicians. They became critical thinkers and they achieved higher test scores across the board.