Fall 2016 Alumni Meet-Ups Energize Budding Scientists

This past fall, in a celebration of the global connections forged by Amgen Scholars, the University of Cambridge Amgen Scholars Program invited program alumni to reunite and meet one another. Another group of alumni, budding neuroscientists, convened at the annual Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in San Diego.

Peggie Chien, a 2015 Scholar at the University of Tokyo, traveled to the Cambridge gathering from New York, where she attends the University of Rochester. “I saw this event as an opportunity for me to continue to extend my scientific career internationally. And it did exactly that. I was delighted to see how, even though the program is global, it is still a lifelong family of passionate scientists for many of us.”

The Amgen Scholars Program is in its tenth year and has provided opportunities for more than 3,200 undergraduates to participate in hands-on research at top-notch host institutions. In 2009, the Program expanded to include host institutions in Europe and in 2015 to Japan. One unique aspect of the program is its continual investment in cultivating a community for professional dialogue long after the conclusion of the program.

At Cambridge, about 90 Scholar alumni caught up over an energetic poster session, in which they presented their recent work.

“Clearly, the students had found their summer placement inspirational and many had been stimulated to pursue doctoral training and academic careers in science as a result of the Amgen Scholars Program,” says Abby Fowden, faculty director of the Cambridge Amgen Scholars Program and professor of perinatal physiology at the university, who attended the poster session.

The evening was capped off by a keynote lecture by Philip Tagari, vice president of research at Amgen, on the excitement and challenges in therapeutic discovery in industry.

Large scientific meetings provide another ideal venue for Scholar reunions. At SfN 2016, about 30 Scholar alumni met in the San Diego convention center.

For Emily Aguirre, a 2015 UCLA Scholar, the meeting offered a chance to reconnect with UCLA’s program leaders and to meet alumni from other host sites with shared scientific interests. “This experience made me feel as if I was part of a tight knit community,” she says.

Michael Bergren, director of the program’s global program office (GPO), based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the program will continue to offer chances for alumni to meet again. The next opportunity will be in April 2017 at the American Cancer Association annual meeting in Washington, DC. The program will email alumni with details.

“Alumni want to be connected. They view their experiences with the Amgen Scholars Program as transformative, and they form bonds with each other—and with the host institutions where they participated,” Bergren says.