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Kat Xia Selected as SCU’s First Beckman Scholar

Biology major Kat Xia ‘20 will spend the next 15 months conducting research on polymers thanks to funding by the Beckman Scholars Program which supports outstanding students in the sciences.

Biology major Kat Xia ‘20 will spend the next 15 months conducting research on polymers thanks to funding by the Beckman Scholars Program which supports outstanding students in the sciences.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Apr. 30, 2019—Junior biology major Kat Xia has been selected as Santa Clara University’s first Beckman Scholar following a rigorous selection process. Over the course of two summers and one academic year, she will be researching the greening of polymer synthesis and coupling reactions. This project is funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation which provides undergraduate students the opportunity to explore and develop cutting-edge research and become leaders in the fields of chemistry or biology.

A local student from Mountain View, California, Xia has been studying polymers in SCU’s  Tillman Lab since 2018. This prestigious scholarship will allow her to continue her research with Tillman to find more environmentally friendly methods of synthesizing and coupling polymers.

“I am most excited to be able to dedicate my remaining time here at SCU to doing one of the things I love the most,” says Xia. “I hope that by dedicating myself to research I will develop skills that will not only better prepare me for future research, but also help me to more effectively serve others within my community.”

Passionate about research and working in the lab, Xia wanted to take advantage of any opportunity to grow in the field.  “It not only makes me very happy, but it also gives me hope that we can make things better for future generations,” she says.

Through her work in the Tillman Lab, she has contributed data to a paper in the peer-reviewed journal, Polymers. “To publish in a high level journal as an undergraduate is rare, and illustrates Kat’s potential as a scholar and her ability to put in hard work,” said SCU Chemistry and Biochemistry Chair, Eric Tillman, who will be Xia’s mentor throughout this process.

“Kat is very impressive and has great potential to contribute to society,” said Katy Korsmeyer, director of special projects for the College of Arts and Sciences at SCU. “This is evident from her high academic excellence and passion for science in lab work and the research culture, to her dedication to societal plights through volunteer work with the homeless, emergency medical team, and women in STEM clubs.”

Each August, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation sponsors the Beckman symposium which highlights funded researchers and provides students with the opportunity to network with other Beckman Scholars. At the end of her final summer, Kat will present her research findings at this annual event.

“Some of my biggest inspirations and role models have been my fellow students,” Xia says. “Being able to learn from and work with them really inspired me to be more devoted to research. I am excited to meet many other passionate and hard-working student researchers through the symposium and to be able to learn from them as well.”

“Kat’s passion for science really shines through. We are proud of what she has achieved so far and we are confident of what she will achieve in her work through the Tillman Lab as a Beckman Scholar,” said Debbie Tahmassebi, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Santa Clara University. “I am incredibly proud of the talented faculty mentors who contributed to the successful proposal to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The award is very selective and was made to a specific group of mentors because of the high quality of their research programs and scholarly productivity as measured by external funding and publication record.”

Santa Clara University is one of 13 universities across the United States to receive funding from the Beckman Foundation this year. This funding will support three more SCU students and their research over the next three years.

Founded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1997, the Beckman Scholars Program recognizes and supports outstanding undergraduate students in chemistry and life sciences research at select universities across the United States. The program aims to promote scientific discoveries, and foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open up new avenues of research. It is a limited-submission, invitation-only program where invited institutions demonstrate a significant commitment to undergraduate research in chemistry, the biological sciences and/or interdisciplinary combinations thereof. They also show the capability to compete successfully on a national level for scientific research funds in peer-reviewed government and private foundation supported programs over previous years.


About the College of Arts and Sciences at Santa Clara University
The College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of Santa Clara University. Our faculty integrate transformative teaching and innovative scholarship to engage students in the processes of learning, discovery and reflection as members of a community of scholars. The College of Arts and Sciences Corporate Partners Program aims to redefine corporate engagement with undergraduate universities. As the Jesuit university in the Silicon Valley, the College of Arts and Sciences is distinctly positioned to provide companies a unique platform to serve their community. For more information, see

About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked the No. 1 regional university in the West by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

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Beckman Scholar Kat Xia with her faculty mentor Eric Tillman, chair and Fletcher Jones Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department.