Beckman High Res Photo 2Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects motor neuron cells in the spinal cord.

At Oregon State University’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, ALS is an item of interest for student and faculty researchers.


“It’s a progressive, paralytic disease,” said 2013 Distinguished Professor Joe Beckman.


Beckman talked about the importance of research yesterday in his lecture: “Why study ALS at OSU?”


“Imagine six months from now I’m in a wheelchair and I can only blink with one eye and I now weigh 90 pounds with my shoulder dislocated because I won’t have enough muscle mass left,” Beckman said.


Motor neurons start to die at a very rapid rate, gradually weakening muscles and causing individuals to lose control of voluntary muscle movements.


The progressive degeneration of motor neurons eventually leads to death, according to the ALS Association.


Around 3,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed every year in the United States.  (read more)



Maria Nguyen tiny

Maria Nguyen is a senior in Biochemistry and Biophysics.  She has been continuously involved in research since her first term in college.  At the end of her sophomore year, she won a competitive national award, the HHMI EXROP fellowship, that took her to the University of California at San Diego for the summer.  Her work there was so impressive that she was given the fellowship for an unprecedented second time. Maria’s research has earned her co-authorship on a paper submitted to Nature Medicine.  She will also be an author on a second publication, currently in preparation.  Maria has been actively involved in the Biochemistry undergraduate club and Sigma Delta Omega, a science sorority, and serves as an Ambassador for both the College of Science and the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts program.  She was also the 2012 President of the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society.