Alex Bates

Alex Bates

London, UK

“The Amgen Scholars Program has been the biggest and most immersive scientific experience I have had in my life.”

Host University: University of Cambridge
Home University: University College London (UCL)
Amgen Scholar Year: 2014
Major: Neuroscience
Expected Graduation: 2015

Journey to Science

The son of two chemists, Alex’s journey to science wasn’t as seamless as one might expect. His father actually encouraged him to pursue law, or other ‘more profitable careers,’ but Alex couldn’t escape the fact that he’d inherited his parents’ passion for science.

Currently the co-science editor of the University College London’s (UCL) magazine, Alex hopes to not only pursue lab work but to also become a science writer. Neuroscience particularly appeals to Alex as there are still a lot of unknowns and it is still a frontier of sorts.

Academic and Professional Ambitions

Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?

“I always wanted to work at this particular laboratory in Cambridge, but what I didn’t have was the funding to make that possible. When you have your heart set on academic research, you really just want to focus on that and not struggle. So the Amgen Scholars Program was really the best available. It also seemed like a great opportunity from a social perspective. There are additional programs funded by other organizations, but they don’t come with the same opportunities to network.”


What did you work on in the lab?

“My research project looked at studying reactive oxygen species as regulators of structural homeostasis at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction. Essentially, this means I was researching how neurons in the fruit fly change their shape in response to how energetic they are. In a nutshell, I was researching how cells structurally change to transform how they communicate.”


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

“Apart from being an extremely valuable career-building opportunity, it really has increased my skill base and helped me to know my way around a lab. It has also helped me to understand what kind of lab I would like to work in in the future. So I have a better understanding of, for instance, if I like working on fruit flies or in basic neuroscience. But I also like communication, and I am also thinking about going into scientific communication. I am the science editor of my university’s magazine, so I write and collate science stories and edit them to make a cohesive issue.”


What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?

“The Amgen Scholars Program has been the biggest and most immersive scientific experience I have had in my life. I have never spent this much time in a lab. From that point of view, it’s made me think more carefully about how I am going to choose a lab for my Ph.D., which I have decided to do directly following my undergraduate experience as an Amgen Scholar.”