2015 Valedictorian and Salutatorian: Gwen Beacham, Katelyn Massey at the Top of their Class

Gwendolyn Beacham of Farmington, Maine, is the 2015 valedictorian at the University of Maine and Katelyn Massey of Waterville, Maine, is the salutatorian.

They will receive their degrees at UMaine’s 213th Commencement in Harold Alfond Sports Arena May 9.

Beacham, a biochemistry major and honors student, was named the Outstanding Graduating Student in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

She received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a national award given to rising undergraduate juniors and seniors in the STEM fields, and the George J. 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.

At UMaine, Beacham has been involved in the national Phage Genomics Program, 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 Mount Desert Island 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 Ukulele 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 (INBRE).

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.

This fall, Beacham will 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.

Massey is a psychology major with a concentration in development and a minor in communication sciences and disorders. Her academic honors include the Frederick W. and Marianne Hill Scholarship, the Marcus L. Urann Scholarship, Class of 1945 Scholarship, and the Jane Gerry Chase Hangar Scholarship. She also was named a Kornetsky Scholar as the graduating psychology student with the highest GPA.

For the past four years, Massey has been a forward on the UMaine women’s ice hockey team, serving as assistant captain this year and taking Hockey East Top Scholar Athlete honors from 2012–14. She and her teammates have been active in fundraising and volunteer activities in the community, and local youth hockey clinics.

This fall, Massey will pursue graduate work in communication sciences and disorders at UMaine. She also has been selected for a clinical assistantship in UMaine’s Audiology Clinic.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745