Inaugural Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Fellowship Awarded

Lydia Kisley has been awarded the inaugural Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow, which provides three years of funding for a postdoctoral student affiliated with the Beckman Institute. The fellowship is named in honor of Dr. Arnold O. and Mrs. Mabel Beckman, who provided the gift that created the Beckman Institute, and Theodore “Ted” Brown, founding director of the Beckman Institute.

Kisley received her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Rice University in 2015. She has been working as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois with Deborah Leckband and Martin Gruebele. Her research interests lie in using novel spectroscopic techniques to understand and inspire engineering of materials.

“Lydia Kisley exemplifies the values and interdisciplinary spirit of Dr. Arnold Beckman and our founding Director Professor Ted Brown,” said Art Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute. “We welcome Lydia to the Beckman Institute and are excited about the research that she has proposed, and are looking forward to having her get involved in other research collaborations with our faculty, staff and students.”

Kisley’s research uses fast relaxation imaging spectroscopy to study protein folding at polymer brush and hydrogel materials important in biosensor and medical device industries. Further interests lie in applying this approach to a variety of materials and devices, such as tissue engineering scaffolds and drug delivery materials. She plans to work with Paul Braun and Leckband from the 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, and Gruebele from the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group.

“One of the primary reasons I came to Illinois for my post-doc was due to the amount of positive collaboration I saw occurring between research groups, so it is a great honor to receive the inaugural award,” said Kisley. “It is also nice to be recognized for incorporating interdisciplinary work in my application and current research. In the several months I've been at Illinois, I have been working with chemists, material scientists, molecular and cell biologists, chemical engineers, biochemists, biophysicists, etc. I appreciate this opportunity and I hope to produce some great findings with the funding the fellowship provides.” 

A $5 million dollar gift from the Beckman Foundation Board created the fellowship, along with the Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science, which will be held in September 2016. The gift honors Dr. and Mrs. Beckman, who in 1985 provided a gift of $40 million to create the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on the Illinois campus. The Beckman’s gift was the largest donation to a public university at that time.

The gift also honors Brown, the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. Brown co-wrote the initial proposal for an interdisciplinary research institute, which incorporated many features and organizational concepts new to academia at that time. Brown and Beckman were instrumental in achieving the vision of presenting an innovative space in which disciplines, ranging from the physical and life sciences and engineering to social and behavioral sciences, could not only co-exist but meld together to initiate and pursue innovative interdisciplinary projects of unprecedented scope.