FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior diver Lana Christensen was one of two Northern Arizona University students to be named a Beckman Scholar by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for the 2010-11 academic year. The scholarship contributes to the advancement of undergraduate education, research training and personal development of select students in chemistry, biochemistry, and the biological and medical sciences.
Christensen, majoring in microbiology, is a three-time Academic All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC) recipient and Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete Award winner. Her scholarship runs for two summers and one full academic year in which she will conduct original research identifying and characterizing unique virulence factors produced by co-cultures of bacteria present in chronic rhinosiusitis tissue.
“I love diving, but it is not going to last forever,” Christensen said. “I enjoy having success in both academics and athletics for different reasons but for me I see academics as a higher priority. It was the way I was raised. My parents have always been school first and I am like that too. I will never get back these four years of diving. It has been great, but I see academics lasting my whole life. My education will always be there for me so I put a lot of emphasis on it.”
Christensen successfully presented her project to the Beckman committee at NAU in March and will perform her research over the next year after receiving the scholarship in May. Her project is entitled, “Discovery of Molecular Beacons Uniquely Expressed during Bacterial Co-culture.”
In addition to her academic achievements, Christensen is one of the Lumberjacks’ most accomplished divers over the last three years.
The native of Casper, Wyo., has collected four All-WAC Awards during her sophomore and junior seasons with a first-team selection and fourth-place finish on the 3-meter springboard at the 2009 WAC Championships. She was a second-team selection after a fifth-place result on the 3-meter at the 2010 WAC Championships
Christensen placed 16th at the 2010 NCAA Zone Regional Championships, the qualifying meet for the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. She was 17th on the 3-meter the previous year at the Zone Championships.
“What is most impressive about Lana is she has all of the regular commitments that every student has, but on top of that she is an All-WAC diver,” said Jeff Leid, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Christensen’s project mentor.
“I do not think student-athletes get enough credit for the things they do. This is a national award and there are very few Beckman scholars across the United State every year. The fact we have two is fantastic, and that one is a student-athlete with success in the pool and classroom is phenomenal. It says a lot to have someone come to NAU and be able to excel academically and athletically at such a high level.”
Since 2008, 33 institutions have produced Beckman Scholars consisting of an elite field with fewer than 100 recipients around the country conducting research funded by the Beckman Foundation. Northern Arizona University has totaled five over the past three years, but Christensen is the only NAU student-athlete to ever receive the award.
For Christensen, the Beckman Scholars Program culminates in a national symposium that allows students finishing up projects in the summer of 2011 to share their work and findings with the Beckman Foundation and other interested parties.