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2011 Syracuse University Beckman Scholar selected
Vivian Yaci Yu, a junior biochemistry major in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been selected as the University’s 2011 Beckman Scholar. The highly competitive program, funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, supports select students interested in chemistry, biochemistry and the biological and medical sciences.
Beckman Scholars receive $19,300 in financial support over two summers and a full academic year for laboratory research, scientific meeting travel funds and research supplies.
“The review committee considered an amazingly gifted and talented group of students for the University’s inaugural award, making the decision-making process difficult,” says James T. Spencer, associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Vivian’s scholarship, and the significant accomplishments she has already made in scientific research, will provide a solid foundation for the work she will undertake as a Beckman Scholar.” Spencer directs the University’s Beckman Scholars Program.
For the past two years, Yu has been a member of Robert Doyle’s research group on a project to discover new yeast organisms that produce a critical coenzyme (CoQ10) that can be purified for oral human supplementation.
“Vivian’s work in our lab has meant that she has had to embrace analytical chemistry, biochemistry, yeast cell biology and molecular biology,” Doyle says. “She has charged ahead fearlessly. She is an exemplary student, who is among the best I have mentored.” Doyle is an associate professor of chemistry and adjunct professor of biology in The College of Arts and Sciences.
CoQ10 supplements are used to treat symptoms related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS), and other diseases, as well as a supplement for people taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which inhibit the natural production of the enzyme. Yu’s work led to a publication in the journal Chemistry and Biodiversity and a second paper that has been submitted for publication in Analytical Biochemistry on which she is the second author.
As a Beckman Scholar, Yu plans to expand on her work to test whether CoQ10 production can be increased through genetic manipulation of the yeast. She hypothesizes that the gene knockout experiments she has designed will permit the yeast to significantly increase CoQ10 production.
Yu’s goal is to become a scientist and teacher. She is particularly interested in applying scientific research to finding new ways to treat such things as heart disease, cancer and hepatitis. She is a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, a McNair Scholar, a Remembrance Scholar and a recipient of the University’s Chancellor’s Scholarship, the Crown Award, the Academic Excellence Scholarship and the Albert Shanker College Scholarship.