ORONO — Gwendolyn M. Beacham of Farmington is the 2015 valedictorian at the University of Maine.

Beacham, a biochemistry major and honors student, was named the Outstanding Graduating Student in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture, according to a written statement from UMaine.

She received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a national award given to rising undergraduate juniors and seniors in the STEM fields, and the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship to study abroad in spring 2014 at University College Cork in Ireland.

Most recently, she was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

A graduate of Mt. Blue High School, Beacham has been involved in the national Phage Genomics Program at UMaine, sponsored by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, by taking the HON 150/155 phage genomics course. She interned at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, an affiliate of Cornell University, where her work focused on the commercial algae biofuel production, and the MDI Biological Laboratory, studying cilia differentiation in sea urchin and sand dollar embryos.

On campus, Beacham’s research has focused on mycobacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium. In collaboration with Assistant Research Professor Sally Molloy, Beacham studied a particular phage named Ukuleke that was isolated at UMaine in the phage genomics course Beacham took in her first year.

Beacham’s project focused on identifying which genes encode the proteins that are involved in regulating Ukulele’s life cycles.

Her numerous awards for research and academic achievement included fellowships from UMaine’s Center for Undergraduate Research, and research fellowships from the Maine IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

Beyond the laboratory and classroom, Beacham has been involved in many student organizations, including the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which took her to Honduras in 2013 to finish installing a septic system in a rural community. She also was a member of Alternative Breaks, and campus-based All Maine Women and Sophomore Eagles honor societies. Beacham was a teaching assistant and, in 2013, took first place in the annual Rezendes Ethics Essay contest.

In the fall, Beacham plans to enter the Ph.D. track at Cornell University in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology. She hopes to be a professor and contribute to science policy.

Beacham is the daughter of Robert and Nancy Beacham of Farmington.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.