UA scholars present research at Beckman Symposium

University of Arizona national Beckman Scholars Amanda Warner and Randall Eck presented the cumulation of a year of scientific research at the annual Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation symposium.

IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — University of Arizona students Amanda Warner and Randall Eck presented a year of their scientific research into the biology of neurodegenerative disease at the annual Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation symposium.

Group picture of Catherine Weibel, Amanda Warner, Randall Eck, and Jamie Takashima
UA Beckman Scholars Catherine Weibel, Amanda Warner, Randall Eck, and Jamie Takashima (pictured left to right) at the 2019 Beckman Symposium.

Warner and Eck’s poster presentations represented the cumulation of their time as Beckman Scholars, a program sponsored by the Beckman Foundation to financially support a handful of innovative undergraduate students in chemistry and the life sciences across the US.

With the support of the Beckman Foundation as well as UA’s Undergraduate Biology Research Program, Warner and Eck have been able to work extensively in the exceptional research labs at the University of Arizona and present their findings to fellow scientists.

Warner poster told the story of her expression of the a mutant human Huntingtin protein in yeast and its association with endosomes, a transport vesicle found in the cytoplasm of cells.

Picture of Amanda Warner in front of her poster
Amanda Warner presents her poster at the 2019 Beckman Symposium in Irvine, CA

As a Beckman Scholar, Warner, a molecular and cellular biology senior, investigated the clearance of huntingtin protein implicated in Huntington’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease impacting cognition and motor coordination, in a yeast model in the lab of Ross Buchan, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology.

“After presenting my poster about endocytosis as a potential novel clearance mechanism, I had a renewed vigor to incorporate the feedback I received from others and progress my project,” Warner said.

Across the hall, Eck, a neuroscience senior, examined the role of RNA stress granules, a major component of the cellular stress response, in aging and ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease impacting motor function, using rats and fruit flies in the lab of Daniela Zarnescu, a professor of molecular and cellular biology.

“RNA stress granules help our cells respond to stress by protecting the mRNAs that makes new proteins, yet the chronic formation of RNA stress granules can lead to neurodegeneration,” Eck said. “My research has focused on the consequences of the inability to form RNA stress granules during aging.”

Alongside his colorful poster, Eck explained to symposium attendees that his statistical model linked the differences in the abundance of RNA stress granule components to differences in the performance of rats on specific behavioral tasks across age.

“The Beckman Symposium and the program itself was an amazing experience,” Warner said. “As I talked to fellow scholars during the poster session, I was inspired by their determination and passion for research.”

In returning to the conference for a second year, Warner enjoyed strengthening friendships with fellow Beckman Scholars from across the nation and hearing about their future plans. “It really is nice to discuss career paths with others and learn about all the options that are available in the science field from industry to law to academia and everything in between,” Warner said.

Picture of Randall Eck and Jamie Takashima playing chess
UA Beckman Scholars Randall Eck (left) and Jamie Takashima (right) challenge each other to a game of chess at the Beckman Symposium

With the diverse range of research that was presented at the conference, Eck had “the opportunity to explore potential research interests and hear about top-of-the-line research programs at universities across the nation, helping me refine my future in science and make a few new friends along the way.”

In Warner and Eck, UA’s research talent was on display for the Beckman Foundation as they joined a community of diverse, pioneering scientists.