Ester Álvarez-Benedicto

Ester Álvarez-Benedicto

San Juan, Puerto Rico

"I learned about the Amgen Scholars Program through a program back at home called MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers). I really liked the idea that you get to do research at a really well-known institution. Coming from a small campus and a really small public university, we don’t get a lot of funding. My home university is undergoing major budget cuts in the next few years, so it’s going to be tough for both education and research."

Host University:
University of California, Berkeley
Home University:
University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
Amgen Scholar Year:
2017
Major:
Chemistry
Expected Graduation:
May 2018

Journey to Science

How did you become interested in science?

I come from a big family so I grew up with a lot of people around and a lot of things happening at the same time. I look at science as a way to stop and stare – to look at things closely and find the beauty in small things that happen in everyday life.

 

Academic and Professional Ambitions

What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?

I worked in the lab of Dr. Matthew Francis under the mentorship of Emily Hartman in the design of pH-sensitive MS2 virus-like particles (VLPs) for drug delivery applications. Drug delivery is really challenging right now, especially with cancer, where it is very hard for a drug to go directly to the tumor. Most of the drugs kill everything, not just the cancerous cells. If we could find a way to deliver drugs directly to where we want them to go, it will greatly improve patient healthcare. After I graduate, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical biology to keep addressing drug delivery challenges. I have always enjoyed teaching others, as a result, I see myself combining research with a career in academia.

Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?

I learned about the Amgen Scholars Program through a program back at home called MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers). I really liked the idea that you get to do research at a really well-known institution. Coming from a small campus and a really small public university, we don’t get a lot of funding. My home university is undergoing major budget cuts in the next few years, so it’s going to be tough for both education and research. I was looking for opportunities to grow outside my home institution through a well-rounded experience.

What aspects of the program did you enjoy most?

I love that it’s a diverse program. I have had the pleasure of meeting my fellow Amgen Scholars from different parts of the country. I also enjoyed that we got to do research at a high-level institution for the 10 weeks, so we get to develop more independence, critical thinking, and to get an idea of research life and potential careers.

Next up:
Cassandra Baker

Cassandra Baker

"Ultimately, I aspire to become a principal investigator (PI) with my own lab crewed by brilliantly blossoming scientists. As of now, I am fascinated by neuroimmunology and the role of neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases."

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Amgen Scholars is an international program funded by the Amgen Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge.

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