With Hundreds More in Pipeline, the First Amgen Scholars are Completing Their Ph.D.s

In November, Amgen Scholar alumna Seychelle Vos bought a one-way plane ticket to Germany, where she will embark on a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, in the group of Patrick Cramer.

Vos was one of 237 students who participated in the inaugural year—2007—of the Amgen Scholars Program, an undergraduate summer research opportunity now hosted by 13 institutions across the United States and Europe. From this group, University of California, Berkeley, Scholars Julian Codelli and Kar Leung Ma have already earned their doctoral degrees, Vos will receive hers in December 2013, and many more students in the first cohorts are now looking ahead to life after graduate school.

As a rising senior at the University of Georgia in Athens, Vos was accepted into the UC Berkeley Amgen Scholars Program, working with Rachel Brem, a geneticist in the department of molecular and cell biology. There, she manipulated the genomes of yeast to learn how gene expression profiles varied between cells.

The program was a crucial for helping Vos decide to pursue a doctoral degree. Excited and motivated to do basic scientific research, she immediately started applying to PhD programs when she returned to Georgia in the fall. “Going through the Amgen Scholars Program really helped make that decision really clear for me,” she says. For her, jumping into research meant she was generating new knowledge.

Considering doctoral programs on the west coast and in Europe in 2008, Vos picked the same department at UC Berkeley she had worked in as a Scholar—joining James Berger to understand how a class of enzymes called topoisomerases, essential for DNA replication, are regulated in bacteria. Her graduate career resulted in three publications, and a fourth that she will submit soon. She has turned in her dissertation, “Regulation of Bacterial Type IIA Topoisomerases,” and expects to graduate this December.

“It’s an exciting stage in life. There are just so many things you can do,” Vos says. “It’s also bittersweet. I really enjoyed my graduate career and the people I worked with — I’m going to miss them all very much. At the same time, I am excited to try something new.”