UAAP Celebrates 2008 Amgen-UROP Scholars Program

By Michael Bergren, Associate Dean, Academic and Research Initiatives, UAAP

On Monday, June 9, 2008, the UAAP kicked off year two of its Amgen-UROP Scholars Program. Introduced in 2007 and funded by the Amgen Foundation, the Program recruits undergraduates interested in science and biotechnology, and places them in MIT laboratories to conduct summer research with MIT faculty. Thirteen of this year’s Scholars are MIT students, while fifteen have been recruited from universities around the country, including Duke, Winston-Salem State, Cornell, Texas Tech, University of Hawaii, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

After a successful first year, recruitment for the 2008 program began this past November. By February, almost four hundred applications had been received, more than twice the amount received for the 2007 program. Senior Associate Dean and UAAP Director Julie Norman was pleased with the response. “While the surge in the number of Amgen-UROP applications challenged our review process,” said Julie, “it is evident that excitement for the program has spread. It is remarkable to witness the passion of young scholars for research and the fact that so many are eager to have that experience at MIT.”

Dean Norman wrote the proposal that resulted in MIT receiving $1M to support the program over four years. Ten universities received Amgen Foundation funding. Associate Dean Michael Bergren serves as Amgen-UROP Director, and UROP Staff Sonia Brathwaite is program coordinator. In addition, three MIT students selected as Amgen Scholars also serve as Program Associates, assisting with programming and logistics, as well as organizing social activities and mentoring those Scholars visiting from other universities.

Amgen-UROP offers its participants a robust summer schedule. In addition to participating in research projects, gaining lab experience, and connecting with faculty, Scholars will participate in a variety of educational programs. The schedule includes a series of lunches where faculty present on their research and discuss their careers; this year’s series will feature Douglas Lauffenburger (Biological Engineering), Kristala Prather (Chemical Engineering), and Sangeeta Bhatia (HST). In addition, an MIT writing instructor has developed weekly workshops that will guide Amgen Scholars in preparing scientific abstracts and posters.

One highlight of the summer will be the Amgen Scholars Program National Symposium, where more than 200 Amgen Scholars will converge at UCLA and take part in lectures, workshops, and discussion groups focused on research and careers in the biological areas. The symposium offers students the opportunity to network with well-established researchers and drug development professionals.