Ask the Expert: What’s the Amgen Biotech Experience and How I Can Volunteer?

Learn how you, as an Amgen Scholar, can make a difference in high school biology classrooms

If you’re reading this, you probably love scientific research. Do you want to inspire a similar passion for hands-on experimentation among younger students and their teachers? If so, as a former Amgen Scholar, you might be interested in volunteering for the Amgen Foundation’s other big STEM initiative at the high school level called the Amgen Biotech Experience (ABE). On October 21, 2015 the Amgen Foundation announced an additional $4 million committment to support and stregthen the program across the U.S., Puerto Rico, UK, and Japan.

The ABE is a three-week long laboratory practical for high school (and some middle school) students that enables them to use recombinant DNA technology to manufacture red fluorescent protein within E. coli cells and purify the protein. The curriculum is designed to take students through the same basic process that biotechnology industry researchers follow in the making of new medicines.

Participating secondary schools, located across the U.S. and in the U.K. and Ireland, and their students, love ABE. And it’s been rewarding to get so many kids excited about science. During the 2013-2014 school year alone, more than 60,000 students and 800+ teachers at nearly 500 schools participated in the program.

 “For a lot of our schools, this is one of the few science labs they do. They just can’t afford many labs,” says Rebecca Lewis, who directs the ABE Program Office at Education Development Center, Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts. 

If you’re as pumped about ABE as we are, then consider giving your time and talent to motivate the next generation of scientists. Here’s what Rebecca told us about how you can get involved.

What are the possible ways that Amgen Scholars can contribute to this program? 

If you are located close to either a program site or a participating school, then you might consider giving an informal presentation about your research at either a professional development session for teachers or interacting directly with the students, in person (or via email). Fill out the contact form on the ABE site to get directed to the nearest site and to start a dialog on how you might contribute. 

Let me give you few examples how you might spend your time.  If you’re interested in the hands-on aspect of the ABE lab, you might show a high school teacher or a student how to use a pipette during their experiment. You could help teachers while they are training to implement the ABE labs. 

Your contribution could also come in the form of a brief presentation for students or teachers about, for instance, what doing scientific research is like, or how you’re working toward your career goals. You might give a presentation about the animal model you’re using in your lab and how it works. 

Your experience with volunteering would likely be tailored to your interest, expertise, and the time you’d like to give — and as well to the needs of the program site and participating teachers.

Where are the participating schools?

The schools currently offering ABE are located in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Washington DC, Washington (state), Ireland, and the United Kingdom. For the list of schools with a participating teacher in each of these regions, explore ABE’s ‘Where We Are’ map.

Do I need to work in the biotechnology space to be able to volunteer? 

No, not at all. Just by participating in the Amgen Scholars Program, you have gained valuable experience you can share with ABE students. They might be inspired to see a scientist-in-training whom they can relate to, and who is actually pursuing the path. I think that’s huge. 

What would I gain from helping out ABE? 

This is an intrinsically rewarding way to give back to STEM education, by interacting with teachers or students at the high school level. You may find that it helps you better understand what a potential career in teaching is like. You might also use the experience to refine your science communication skills for general audiences.