Assama Ketegou

Assama Ketegou

Brooklyn, New York

“I felt a sense of community among my peers in the Amgen Scholars Program.”

Host University: Washington University in St. Louis
Home University: New York University
Amgen Scholar Year: 2016
Major: Pre-medicine
Expected Graduation: 2017

Journey to Science

How did you become interested in science?

One source of my passion for science and medicine is that I was born with a chronic illness called sickle cell disease. It’s a rare genetic blood disorder that predominantly affects people of African ancestry. The complications that come along with having sickle cell— like pain crises which land me in the hospital almost monthly—puts me on the frontlines of health care. Treatment options are limited for sickle cell, and research is the only way to change that.

Academic and Professional Ambitions

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

I was challenged this summer in a lot of new ways. I got sick, and needed to manage and complete my project. I had to learn to communicate with my mentor about my illness and about my scientific goals. Despite being in the hospital, I was able to discover a potential new therapeutic target for sarcoma, a rare and lethal blood cancer. This summer affirmed my passion for research, and showed that I can be successful. I’m planning to pursue an MD/PhD.

Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?

I applied because I knew research was something I wanted to do. Getting training in the lab is so important in science. While I had some research experience in the past, I wanted to get a high-quality research experience and to expand my skill-set.

What aspects of the program did you enjoy most?

My mentors—including the Amgen Scholars program leaders—challenged me to think about how my illness fits into my career, rather than the other way around. Also, I felt a sense of community among my peers in the Amgen Scholars Program. Everyone was in the same boat, trying to figure out what they wanted to do for careers. My new friends also pushed me think about my own goals.