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Carley Beeman stands in an OSU leotard after finishing a bar routine.

Balancing Acts: Carley Beeman, chemistry award-winner, dazzles in Pac-12 gymnastics

By Hannah Ashton

Carley Beeman’s resume is impressive. Studying Honors chemistry with a focus on advanced biochemistry and a minor in biology, she has been a consistent figure on the Oregon State University Honor Roll. In January, she was announced the chemistry undergraduate of the quarter.

Her resume is also unlike the majority of college students at Oregon State. She belongs to a special category, consisting of only 2% of her peers.

Four to five times a week, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Beeman trades the clinking of laboratory equipment for a different rhythm—the swooshing sounds of a gymnast soaring through the air, defying gravity as if it's a mere suggestion. Beeman is a Pac-12, Division 1 gymnast who specializes in the uneven bars and the balance beam.

She is no stranger to the stereotypes student-athletes face.

“People think, ‘Oh you’re an athlete. That's why you’re here—that’s your focus. You couldn’t be here for school,” she said.

But, Beeman chose Oregon State for more than one reason. “It was a combination of things. They have a great gym team. And I really liked the people here that I talked to both for athletics as well as for academics, and there’s a strong academic focus on research,” she said.

That focus on research drew her to the College of Science, where her journey is just beginning.

“I want to show that you can become a successful scientist and go in that direction while pursuing time-intensive extracurricular activities, whatever those might be."

Carley Beeman is vertical on the high bars.

Carley Beeman soars through the air during an uneven bars routine at an Oregon State gymnastics home meet.

Growing up in Golden, Colorado, Beeman started gymnastics at three years old. A friend invited her to mommy-and-me classes, and she was hooked.

Although gymnastics includes four events—uneven bars, vault, beam and floor—Beeman specializes in two.

“My favorite is bars. For one, it’s my best event but it’s also really fun. Spinning around, flipping and trying to catch the bars. It can be scary, but I think it’s the most fun,” she said.

In between flying from an eight foot and five foot bar that are anywhere between four and six feet apart, Beeman doesn’t think about the fear. She focuses on what’s in front of her and her goal to improve her highest score of 9.85 out of 10.

Oregon State gymnastics is a competitive program, boasting impressive back-to-back Pac-12 regular season championships. Collegiate gymnastics requires a complicated balancing act of classes, travel schedules and homework.

“Traveling does impact school. But I manage it by communicating with professors, and then we’re always doing school on the road. If we have any downtime, like at the airport, we all pull out our laptops. Just fitting it in whenever possible,” Beeman, who is a junior, said.

She is not the sole gymnast in the College of Science. First year student Taylor DeVries and sophomore honors student Ellie Weaver are both studying biology.

“Gymnasts are known within the academic community to be good at academics, I would say,” she said.

The College of Science has supported her dual life as a student and athlete. “Professors in the chemistry department have been great about working with me. That’s something that’s really appreciated.”

Although on the surface, gymnastics and chemistry are vastly different domains, Beeman can find more similarities than differences.

“The response to life is the same. If something isn’t working or a test doesn’t go well, you can always turn it around and come back. One bad test or event score doesn’t determine how the next one is going to happen. Just not giving up when something gets hard,” she said.

Beeman’s strong academic record helped her land an internship the summer after her sophomore year participating in the ASPET research fellowship at the University of Michigan. ASPET stands for the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Because of her hectic schedule during the academic year, finding an internship in the summer was the best option.

Carley Beeman sits at a desk looking at data on a computer.

Carley Beeman conducts research during her summer internship at the University of Michigan.

For three months, Beeman jumped into the deep end and became involved with research for the first time.

“Everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone that you’re going to encounter knows that you’re just starting out and they’re willing to help. Because they were there once,” Beeman would tell students nervous to participate in research. “You’ll learn a lot once you get your foot in the door.”

She worked with Associate Professor Erica Levitt in her neuroscience laboratory, studying opioids and their connection to respiratory depression, and possible therapies to prevent respiratory depression that happens from overdosing. Beeman ran electrophysiology experiments, assigned to her own piece of equipment.

Participating in a hands-on research experience didn’t help her narrow down her future career path—in fact, it did the opposite. “It opened my eyes to all the possibilities,” she said.

Looking forward, Beeman wants to pursue her Ph.D. in the biomedical science field and be a role model for young girls.

“I want to show that you can become a successful scientist and go in that direction while pursuing time-intensive extracurricular activities, whatever those might be,” she said.