Amgen Scholars Summer Symposium

It’s the homestretch, but instead of cars racing to the finish line, there are over 200 young scientists scrambling to collect significant data worthy of publication.

Rewind to a week ago and these same Amgen Scholars were basking in the California sun on UCLA’s campus, enjoying a tremendous weekend of lectures, graduate/medical school admissions advice, and networking at the Amgen Scholars Summer Symposium.

The symposium began with a cheer-off in which each research institution came up with their own cheer and tried to outdo the other universities. Of course, Wash U killed it.

UCSF professor of pharmaceutical chemistry Charles Craik then talked about the unique characteristics in all scientists.

“There is something of a scientist in every child. Others outgrow it. Scientists stay that way all of their lives,” said Craik.

Craik also went on to stress the importance of investigating a topic thoroughly, rather than jumping from topic to topic and spreading your mind thin.


“Imagine research as the number of boyfriends or girlfriends on the x-axis and happiness on the y-axis. Something has to give,” said Craik.
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Craik concluded by confronting failures in science. “What is the opposite of success? QUITTING, not failure!”

Saturday consisted of numerous workshops on getting into medical school and graduate school, as well as a trivia competition (Wash U placed 3rd).

Finally, Scholars toured Amgen’s pharmaceutical manufacturing campus and learned about the process of producing pharmaceuticals in an industrial setting.

As you can tell, the symposium is about more than over 200 U.S. undergraduate science nerds getting together and talking about their research. It’s about coming together and meeting your fellow Scholars—Scholars who share the same interests and aspirations as you. It’s about interacting with mentors and professionals in your field that can help guide you along your path to success.

  • “The Amgen symposium at UCLA was probably the highlight of my summer thus far. My favorite part of the [Amgen campus] tour was our visit to the 3D molecular modeling room. I came out of the symposium with a new appreciation for the biotech industry, a more firm grasp of the graduate school application process, and many new friends from across the country.” – Joshua Tworig, Caltech.
  • “I love [Amgen Scholars]. It’s advanced my career. Definitely. Massively.” – Clare Laut, Washington University in St. Louis.
  • “While touring the Amgen campus, [we] were able to interact with industry scientists who showcased career choices outside of academia.” – Adam Braegelman, MIT.
  • “The Amgen Scholars program has been an incredibly didactic experience; it has solidified my desire to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. The program is much more than a summer research fellowship, though. It is the venue through which I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting likeminded peers from across the nation looking to pursue careers as scientists, many of whom I am certain will be my colleagues in years to come.” – Hriday Bhambhvani, Caltech.

I can’t speak for other programs, but like the students above, I can speak about the Amgen program; it is more than a research opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn about who you are, who you want to be, and the steps you need to take to make it to the finish line.

As a follow up to this article, I will be publishing an article on what it means to be an Amgen Scholar. Be sure to check it out!

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