Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

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For the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, see List of California Institute of Technology buildings and facilities.
The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
The building of the Beckman Institute
Established 1989
Focus Biological Intelligence, Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction, Integrative Imaging, Molecular and Electronic Nanostructures
Director Arthur F. Kramer
Location Urbana, Illinois, United States of America
Address 405 North Mathews Avenue

The Beckman Institute is a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dedicated to interdisciplinary research. A gift from scientist, businessman, and philanthropist Arnold O. Beckman (1900-2004) and his wife Mabel (1900-1989)[1][2] led to the building of the Institute which opened in 1989. It is one of five institutions which receive support from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation on an ongoing basis.[3][4] Current research at Beckman involves the areas of nanoscale structures and processes, biological intelligence, imaging science, and human-computer interaction. Researchers in these areas work across traditional academic boundaries in scientific projects that can lead to the development of real-world applications in medicine, industry, electronics, and human health across the lifespan. [4]


The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology has its origins in a 1983 meeting in which John E. Cribbet, Theodore L. Brown, Mort Weir, Lewis Barron and Ned Goldwasser strategized about approaching private sources to fund new large-scale science projects and centers on the University of Illinois campus.[5]:4 Two committees were formed, chaired by Bill Greenough (psychology) and Greg Stillman (electrical and computer engineering) (later Karl Hess) to develop ideas for a broadly multidisciplinary research facility.[5]:6-7 Their reports were combined to propose an institute with two main divisions, a center for biology, behavior, and cognition, and another center for materials science, computers and computation. The institution's research program would explore intelligence in the broadest possible sense, extending "from artificial systems invented by man to natural systems found in the biological world".[5]:14

Arnold Beckman was approached with the proposal by university president Stanley Ilkenberry, Lew Barron, and Mort Weir. Beckman estimated that the proposal would require the unprecedented sum of $50M.[5]:10 On October 5, 1985, the university officially announced that Arnold and Mabel Beckman had made the largest donation ever given to a public university at that time – $40M, with a $10M supplement from the state of Illinois – to build a research center at Illinois that would encourage scientists and engineers from different disciplines to work together.[5]:x, 12-13 By December 10, 1985, the university had chosen the architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls (SH&G) and architectural designer Ralph Youngren for the project.[5]:16-17, 19 A symbolic ground-breaking ceremony took place October 10, 1986.[6] Theodore L. Brown. who had been actively involved in the project as vice chancellor for research and graduate dean, became the first director of the institute as of March 12, 1987.[5]:30 Bill Greenough and Karl Hess became associate directors, with half-time appointments, in the fall of 1987.[5]:38

By December 1988, the building was sufficiently advanced that faculty groups could begin to move in.[5]:46 Administrative offices were temporarily located in the basement. An official inauguration ceremony was held on April 7, 1989, to open the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology as one of the first research centers in the world dedicated to interdisciplinary research.[5]:53 Theodore Brown was succeeded as director in the summer of 1993 by chemist Jiri Jonas.[5]:71

According to the 2013-2014 Annual Report of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, more than 200 faculty members from 11 colleges and over 50 different departments are involved in the Beckman Center. They work with postdoctoral and research scientists, and graduate and undergraduate students doing science in a wide variety of areas.[7]


Scientific exploration at the Beckman Institute is centered around four broad research themes: Biological Intelligence, Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction, Integrative Imaging, and Molecular and Electronic Nanostructures.

The Biological Intelligence research theme (BioIntel) is comprehensive in scope, as researchers seek to understand the brain, cognition, and behavior from the molecular and cellular levels to higher expressions of intelligence like memory, attention, and human behavior. BioIntel research groups include Cognitive Science (higher mental processes, such as language, memory, information processing, and learning), Cognitive Neuroscience (the relationships between brain physiology and structure and cognitive functions like memory, emotion, and attention), and NeuroTech (brain organization and function, including how information is coded and processed by neural systems and the molecular and cellular origins of disorders and brain plasticity).

The Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction (HCII) research theme seeks to enhance human-machine interface design through the optimization of state-of-the-art technology development and engineering of multimodal interface design concepts. HCII also explores the mechanisms of human perception, cognition, and action that are relevant to industrial, military, and consumer products. Projects in HCII involve the close collaboration of computer scientists, electrical engineers, neuroscientists, linguists, psychologists, and others in pursuit of knowledge involving the human-machine interface. Research groups include Artificial Intelligence, Human Perception and Performance, and Image Formation and Processing.

The Integrative Imaging (IntIm) research theme is geared toward the interdisciplinary discovery of fundamental principles in imaging science, and developing new technologies for the next generation of imaging instruments and novel techniques for basic and translational research. Many researchers in the IntIm theme are working on biomedical applications for use in medicine, such as handheld devices for fast, accurate clinical use, and advanced imaging techniques for diagnosis at the molecular level. Research groups within IntIm include the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory and the Bioimaging Science and Technology group.

The Molecular and Electronic Nanostructures (M&ENS) research theme brings together scientists from disciplines like biology and engineering, and physics and chemistry, toward both understanding and working with, nanoscale structures and processes. The five research groups comprising M&ENS are: 3-D Micro- and Nanosystems, Autonomous Materials Systems, Computational Multiscale Nanosystems, and Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials. Within these groups, M&ENS researchers develop and use computational tools for simulating biological processes and for designing nanosystems, fashion nanoelectronics for applications in biomedicine and consumer products, and construct autonomous multifunctional materials systems.

Beckman Fellowships[edit]

See also: Beckman Fellow

The Beckman Institute offers a variety of fellowship programs, which enable researchers to work for short periods of time at the Institute.[7] Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowships are awarded to Beckman scholars who receive 3-year appointments, including both a stipend and a research budget. The first Beckman postdoctoral scholars were Efrat Shimshoni (condensed matter physics) and Andrew Nobel (information theory and statistics).[5]:66 [8][7] Beckman Graduate Fellowships are awarded to students who are working at the master's or doctorate level.[9][7] Beckman Senior Fellowships are awarded to senior faculty from other institutions.[10][7]

Beckman Fellowships administered through the Beckman Institute should not be confused with those administered through the Center for Advanced Study (CAS) at the University of Urbana-Champaign.[11] The CAS awards a series of Beckman Fellowships and Beckman Research Awards which support faculty at Urbana-Champaign in their research activities. These awards were funded through an endowment from Arnold and Mabel Beckman, given in the late 1970's, prior to the establishment of the Beckman Institute. They are administered separately and are awarded throughout the university, not just within the sciences.[5]:3-4

Beckman Open House[edit]

The Beckman Open House is a biennial event that is held in conjunction with UIUC Engineering Open House. It has been held on March 8–9, 2013;[12] March 11–12, 2011; March 13–14, 2009; March 9–10, 2007. The Beckman Open House features displays by scientists, engineers, and other researchers working there. On alternate years, the Illinois Simulator Laboratory holds its Open House, which includes an FAA-certified flight simulator, the CAVE and Cube 3-D immersive virtual reality environments, a driving simulator, and other immersive visualization tools.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hahn, Barbara (2012-10-29). "A small town boy who found a book - Arnold Beckman". Barbara Hahn's Blog. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Arnold Thackray and Minor Myers, Jr. ; foreword by James D. Watson. (2000). Arnold O. Beckman : one hundred years of excellence. Philadelphia, Pa.: Chemical Heritage Foundation. ISBN 978-0-941901-23-9. 
  3. ^ Gochman, N. (2004). "Arnold O. Beckman, PhD (1900–2004)". Clinical Chemistry 50 (8): 1486. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2004.037861. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "About the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Brown, Theodore L. (2009). Bridging divides : the origins of the Beckman Institute at Illinois. Urbana: University of Illinois. ISBN 978-0252034848. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Leetaru, Kalev. "Beckman Institute". University of Illinois: Virtual Campus Tour. University of Illinois. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Kramer, Art. "2013-2014 Annual Report". Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Postdoctoral Fellows Alumni". Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Graduate Fellows Program". Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Senior Fellows Program". Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "CAS Fellows Archive". Center for Advanced Study. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "Beckman Institute Open House". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Illinois Simulator Laboratory". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°06′57″N 88°13′39″W / 40.115720°N 88.227390°W / 40.115720; -88.227390