“It’s really cool to be in an environment to conduct research with other undergrads. I can be involved in the core of what’s going on in the decision-making process.”
Like many young scientists, Imaani Easthausen grew up curious about everything. She never ran out of questions, and always dug deeper in search of answers. She’d be the first to admit, the more she learned, the more confused she became, realizing that new answers just brought on a new set of questions. But one thing was clear to Imaani, a gay woman of color: Society often turned its back on her and her gay single mother.
All the racist and sexist remarks only fueled this future scientist to push harder and farther. In addition to obtaining an M.D.-Ph.D. in molecular biology, to research and create life-saving medicines, Imaani wants to make sure the right questions are being asked in the lab and for the right reasons. She wants to ask questions that get at what’s best for the greater good.
Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?
“Coming from a small liberal arts school, I knew becoming an Amgen Scholar would provide me with the hands-on research experience I couldn’t get back home. This experience offered me the chance to understand what it means to be a scientist on a daily basis.”
What did you work on in the lab?
“My research was all about figuring out how organ tissues know how to stop growing, specifically in relation to cancerous tumor growth. Over the summer, I had the chance to run a drug screening in order to identify compounds that are effective in reducing tumors associated with the Hippo signaling pathway (HSP). Since the HSP is involved in regulating tissue growth, if there’s a problem with it, then tissues will grow uncontrollably.”
What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?
“I think a lot of questions being asked in the lab are removed from today’s most urgent social issues. I want researchers to think critically about the questions they’re asking: Where are these questions coming from? I’d rather have scientists look at how social issues such as racism and socioeconomic disparity are implicated in disease, instead of purely at funding. For this to happen, society will need to step up and identify research questions that are integrated with issues of social justice.”
What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?
“The best part of this lab has really been the mentorship. I’m in a much smaller lab, so I have had the chance to gain more hands-on experience with big projects. It’s really cool to be in an environment to conduct research with other undergrads. I can be involved in the core of what’s going on in the decision-making process.”