Cassandra Baker

Cassandra Baker

Springfield, Missouri

“Ultimately, I aspire to become a principal investigator (PI) with my own lab crewed by brilliantly blossoming scientists.”

Host University: Washington University in St. Louis
Home University: University of Houston
Amgen Scholar Year: 2017
Major: Psychology
Expected Graduation: December 2018

Journey to Science

How did you become interested in science?

I spent 3 years taking care of my grandparents who both had very debilitating diseases. Through that, I worked very closely with their doctors to enhance their quality of life. The experience opened up this world of science, this beautiful methodology that I hadn’t ever connected with intimately before. And I found it to be this really beautiful approach to understanding the universe and why things happen the way that they do.

Academic and Professional Ambitions

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

In the lab of Dr. Robyn Klein, we are investigating the causality of sexual dimorphism in the progression and disease susceptibility of the autoimmune disorder multiple sclerosis. Molecular biology in the area of brain and behavior is what excites me and produces intriguing and beautiful answers. 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. I anticipate my lab, once I successfully become a PI, will focus on these areas of interest. Additionally, I aspire to become a professor and mentor to underrepresented undergraduates and high school students interested in STEM fields.

Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?

I actually, initially, became interested in applying to the Amgen Scholars Program in order to soothe my frustration from being rejected for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. While investigating the program and deciding which schools I would apply to, I became incredibly excited for the opportunity to complete a formal internship in some of the most sophisticated and prestigious labs in the country. My goal in applying was to throw myself into an area of research that I do not have access at in my home institution whilst creating lasting connections with future colleagues and friends.

What aspects of the program did you enjoy most?

The experience has been incredibly eye-opening – the pace through which the Program pulls you through various scenarios is enlivening and exciting. You get access to brilliant people at every step. I have grown tremendously this summer and am very grateful for the experience.