ATLANTA—Two rising seniors in the Honors College have been named Georgia State University’s inaugural Beckman Scholars.
Veda Balaji, a neuroscience major from Marietta, Ga., and Sabria Lataillade, a biology major from Sandy Springs, Ga., will begin their independent, laboratory research this summer.
“The Beckman Scholars program will not only advance their knowledge and skills in the fields of biology, chemistry and neuroscience, but will also position them to pursue graduate educations and careers in science,” said Marise Parent, interim associate dean of the Honors College and principal investigator of the Beckman Scholars Program Award. “This program makes it possible for our exceptional undergraduates from all backgrounds to focus less on financial burdens and more on successfully developing career paths into graduate education in the sciences.”
Balaji is joining Georgia State’s L-STAR lab, investigating social anxiety under the supervision of Erin Tone, associate professor of psychology. Her interest in neuroscience and psychology began with her curiosity about criminology and forensics.
“I want to learn more about the biological bases of why people do things,” said Balaji, who is also minoring in criminal justice. “That’s where it all ties together. I want to understand why people commit certain crimes or what makes someone easily victimized—what biological factors are involved.”
Balaji, who is also a Presidential Scholar at Georgia State, has interned for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and worked as a research assistant in the university’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Her long-term plans include graduate school—earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a juris doctorate—and then pursuit of a career as a criminal defense attorney.
“I’m really interested in cancer research because cancer is such a big health issue,” Lataillade said. “One of my good friends, her mother passed away from breast cancer, and it hurt seeing her going through that. So, it’s really important to me that I do my due diligence and make an impact by learning all I can and committing myself to research.”
As Beckman Scholars, Balaji and Lataillade will receive $21,000 over 15 months, including travel and supplies, and their faculty mentors will receive $5,000 to support educational expenses.
The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation selected Georgia State University as a recipient of the Beckman Scholars Program Award, which creates research and mentoring opportunities for exceptional students majoring in biology, chemistry and neuroscience. Georgia State was one of 12 institutions of higher learning nationally to receive the award this year. The program is a collaborative effort among the Honors College, the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni, the departments of biology and chemistry, and the Neuroscience Institute.