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The Amgen Scholars Program

2013 Amgen Scholars

Below are the participants in the 2013 University of Washington Amgen Scholars Summer Program.

Alexander Alvarez
Institution: University of Arizona
Faculty Mentor: Michael Regnier, Bioengineering; Physiology & Biophysics

Alex Alvarez is a rising junior studying biomedical engineering at the University of Arizona. While in Tucson, Alex researches the effects of various pathologies on the integrity of white matter in the brain using Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This summer, he is researching radically different material in the Regnier Lab, studying the effects of a novel treatment for cardiac aging in mice. Using this treatment, a viral vector will be transduced into mice myocytes, resulting in an overexpression of a gene that converts ATP into dATP (deoxy-ATP). This dATP will then cause the heart to contract more rapidly and forcefully, allowing mice (and eventually humans) to retain cardiac function into older age. Outside of the lab, Alex enjoys running, cycling, and swimming with the TriCats triathlon team in Tucson, practicing martial arts in Albuquerque, and attending church services wherever he may find himself.

Clara Amorosi
Institution: Harvey Mudd College
Faculty Mentor: Elhanan Borenstein, Genome Sciences

Clara is a rising senior at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, majoring in mathematical and computational biology. She recently returned from four months in Costa Rica studying tropical ecology at various field locations. This summer she is working in the Borenstein lab in the Genome Sciences department, studying whether allometric scaling laws are present in human microbial communities. After college, Clara plans to pursue a PhD in a field relating to computational biology, bioinformatics or microbiology. In her free time, Clara enjoys playing ultimate frisbee on her school's team. She also enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and biking.

Simon Ammanuel
Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Faculty Mentor: Gwenn Garden, Neurology

Simon Ammanuel is from Dallas, Texas. He is a rising junior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he majors in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics. At Johns Hopkins, he helped build a device that can possibly be implemented in India called "The Cooling Cure," a therapeutic hypothermic device for infants. Here at the UW, he is working in Dr. Garden's Lab working on neuroinflammation and its causes, especially ischemia, examining the behavior of microglia and astrocytes in mice. He is currently considering pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering or medical school with a specialization in neurosurgery. In his free time, he likes to play football and basketball, write music and play video games.

Neha Ansari
Institution: California State University, Fullerton
Faculty Mentor: AJ Boydston, Organic Chemistry

Neha Ansari is a rising junior at California State University, Fullerton, where she is pursuing a degree in biochemistry as well as a minor in print journalism. At her home institution in Southern California, Neha conducts undergraduate research in an organic chemistry lab, where she studies the reactive intermediates of oximes and oxime ethers. As an Amgen Scholar at the University of Washington, Neha is working in the Boydston lab, where she studies polymer chemistry and the formation of micelles after trigger-induced depolymerization. Besides doing research, Neha enjoys spending time with family and friends whether it's cooking, grocery shopping, travelling, or going to Disneyland. In addition to these things, she also uses her spare time to participate in leadership roles, outdoor activities, and the joy of trying new foods.

Victor Bass
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Faculty Mentor: Dan Ratner, Bioengineering

Victor Bass is a rising senior majoring in biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. During the school year, he performs research analyzing proteomic changes that result from changes in a cell's environmental conditions. This summer, he is working as an Amgen Scholar in Professor Dan Ratner's lab. His project is to build an optical test bench for testing novel biosensors designed and fabricated by the lab using technology called silicon photonics. This includes both writing code to operate the test bench and finding and testing materials to improve the microfluidics integrated within the test bench. When not in the lab, Victor enjoys volunteering for TutorNet, a group run by a CMU professor that tutors middle school students in the Pittsburgh area, and Alternative Break, a group he has spent his last two spring breaks with while volunteering in Guatemala and Pittsburgh. After graduation, he plans to pursue a PhD in biochemistry or cell biology.

Andrew Bell
Institution: Clemson University
Faculty Mentor: Hong Shen, Chemical Engineering

Andrew Bell is a mathematical science major at Clemson University, and will graduate in 2015 as a member of the Calhoun Honors College. His interest lies in fields that use both biology and mathematics, such as epidemiology and immunology. His passion for math was recognized in April 2013 by the Clemson University Department of Mathematics when he was awarded the Jennifer Joyce Young Annual Memorial Scholarship given to a math student who has interests in both math and biology. As an Amgen scholar, Andrew is working in the lab of Dr. Hong Shen performing research in immunology involving using complex imaging and mathematical modeling to count disease cells and antibodies in infected tissues. During his spare time, Andrew enjoys golf, tennis, participating in student government, and being an active member at the Clemson Chapter of the Delta Chi Fraternity.

Alissa Bleem
Institution: Montana State University
Faculty Mentor: Wendy Thomas, Bioengineering

Alissa Bleem is a rising senior at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where she studies chemical engineering and conducts research involving metabolic engineering and modeling of Escherichia coli mutants. As an Amgen Scholar at the University of Washington, Alissa is working with Dr. Wendy Thomas to design a microfluidic chamber for microbial adhesion studies. Transport simulations, analytical calculations, and experimental measurements will all be instrumental in achieving the goal of developing a novel device that can be used to simultaneously measure bacterial adhesion to many glycans in multiple flow conditions. Some of Alissa's favorite Montana activities include mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and camping. She is a 2013 Goldwater Scholar, and is involved in the University Symphony, Running Club, and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society at Montana State. After obtaining her bachelor's degree, Alissa plans to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering or bioengineering with the eventual goal of conducting research and teaching at the university level.

Jacquelyn Blum
Institution: Wellesley College
Faculty Mentor: Jens Gundlach, Physics

Jackie is a rising senior at Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she is a chemistry major. This summer, she is excited to be working in the Gundlach Nanopore lab studying DNA sequencing using nanopores. After graduation, she hopes to enroll in a Physical Chemistry graduate program. In her free time, Jackie enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading, and volunteering for political campaigns.

Lucas BonDurant
Institution: Missouri State University
Faculty Mentor: Dustin Maly, Chemistry

Lucas is a rising senior at Missouri State University where he majors in cell and molecular biology with minors in analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, and Spanish. At MSU he conducts experiments to trace the desensitization pathway of the P2Y2 receptor. He is excited to be participating in the Amgen Scholars Program at the University of Washington in the research group of Dr. Dustin Maly. His project involves assembling a light cleavable fusion protein for a protein enrichment protocol that allows researchers an easy way of isolating and profiling scarce proteins. He plans on pursuing a PhD in the future and hopes to be a professor at some point in his life as education has always been a passion of his. In his free time Lucas enjoys meeting new people, being outdoors, and playing the violin.

Danielle Bright
Institution: Seattle University
Faculty Mentor: Kim Woodrow, Bioengineering

Danielle Bright is a rising senior studying biochemistry at Seattle University. At Seattle U Danielle has been researching with Dr. Ian Suydam on various methods to purify Maraviroc, Etravirine, and Raltergravire from their medicinal capsule forms. She also serves as a study group facilitator for organic chemistry and president of the Chemistry Club. This summer, Danielle is working in Kim Woodrow's lab on encapsulating different HIV inhibitors into nanoparticles and characterizing the loaded particles via dynamic light scattering and high performance liquid chromatography. After graduating, Danielle plans to attend graduate school to pursue of a PhD in organic chemistry.

Michelle David
Institution: Washington State University
Faculty Mentor: Bo Zhang, Bioanalytical Chemistry, Electrochemistry

Michelle David is a rising junior at Washington State University studying neuroscience, computer science, and Spanish. At WSU, she works in a lab analyzing the innervation of the vagus nerve in the hypothalamus, specifically focusing on feeding behavior. As an Amgen Scholar, Michelle is working in electrochemistry with Dr. Bo Zhang to image biological molecules using bipolar nanoelectrodes. The lab is working to increase spatial and temporal resolution of single cell exocytosis detection. Outside of the lab, Michelle likes to dabble in amateur cinematography. She also enjoys traveling and hopes to spend a semester studying abroad in South America. In the future, she wants to pursue a PhD and continue researching. Eventually, she would also like to bring science education to places where it is lacking, specifically among Spanish-speaking populations.

Rachel Drake
Institution: University of Minnesota
Faculty Mentor: Peter Rabinovitch, Experimental Pathology

Rachel Drake is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in biochemistry and Spanish. While at U of M she has been conducting research with graduate student Julianne Spencer and Professor Paul Iaizzo mapping out the coronary venous system in human heart samples to use as inputs for the development of medical devices. She is also a track and field and cross country athlete and co-chairs the Student Health Advisory Committee. This summer, Rachel is investigating the molecular mechanisms of cardiac aging in mouse models in the Peter Rabinovitch lab. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys sailing, snowboarding and camping. Her future plans include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and pursuing an MD/PhD so that she can become a physician scientist and use scientific exploration for the advancement of healthcare.

Joshua Feng
Institution: California State Universty, Long Beach
Faculty Mentor: Champak Chatterjee, Chemistry

Josh is a senior at California State University, Long Beach majoring in philosophy and biochemistry. His research in Long Beach is concerned with understanding the changes in protein expression in developing neurons during exposure to environmental contaminants. This summer, Josh is working in Dr. Champak Chatterjee's lab, using the tools of synthetic organic chemistry to study the effects of SUMO-modified (small ubiquitin-like modifiers) histone proteins on gene expression. In his spare time, Josh enjoys listening to music, thinking about grammar, and reading.

Zachary Jarin
Institution: University of Washington
Faculty Mentor: Jim Pfaendtner, Chemical Engineering

Zack is a rising senior majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Washington and plans to graduate in 2014. He has been working for Professor Pfaendtner for a year before the Amgen Program. He continues to work in the Pfaendtner research group, which focuses on using multiscale modeling to understand problems with real world applications. A perfect example is Zack's work to use atomistic modeling to elucidate the effects of non-aqueous solvents on biomass to improve pretreatment methods. When he's not in the lab, Zack enjoys fine dining and discovering the city. Although, he has lived in western Washington for 13 years, Zack knows there is always more to see and do in the wonderful Emerald City.

Ross Jones
Institution: University of Washington
Faculty Mentor: Hannele Ruohola-Baker, Biochemistry, Institute for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Ross is a member of the University of Washington class of 2014, and is majoring in bioengineering with a concentration in cells, tissues, and systems engineering. His current research aims to automatically quantify apoptosis and DNA damage of cell samples. This summer, Ross is working in the Ruohola-Baker lab, researching metabolomics of stem cells during development. He is also assisting with the completion of an earlier project investigating micro RNA secondary structure. After completing his undergraduate degree, Ross plans to pursue a PhD in bioengineering. In his spare time, Ross enjoys hiking, camping, playing recreational sports, and cheering on UW/Seattle sports teams. He is also involved with the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and will serve as academic chair of the UW Biomedical Engineering Society chapter during his senior year.

Matthew Kahabka
Institution: Clarkson University
Faculty Mentor: Danilo Pozzo, Chemical Engineering

Matthew is a rising senior studying chemical engineering at Clarkson University. His research at Clarkson has been in the field of directed self-assembly of magnetic nanoparticles in the lab of Dr. Sergiy Minko. Last summer, Matt worked as a researcher in Braunschweig, Germany, studying the fouling behavior of pharmaceutical nanoparticles. With the Amgen Scholar Program, Matt is working with Professor Danilo Pozzo on the synthesis of gold nano rods using a custom protein template. The project has planned applications as a high definition medical imaging modality. He is currently developing iPhone applications for uses in chemistry and chemical engineering. When he's not in the lab Matt enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and skiing.

Katherine Lacy
Institution: Willamette University
Faculty Mentor: Xiaosong Li, Chemistry

Katherine is a rising junior at Willamette University, where she is studying mathematics and chemistry. This summer, she is excited to combine these two interests in Dr. Xiaosong Li's computational chemistry lab. As part of the molecular dynamics team, Katherine is modeling the trans-cis photoisomerization of azobenzene, a molecule with a wide variety of applications including light-triggered switches, protein probes, and molecular electronics. In her free time, Katherine enjoys reading, playing soccer, swing dancing, eating tasty food, and being outside.

Samuel Lewis
Institution: Williams College
Faculty Mentor: Lynn Schnapp, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Sam is a rising junior at Williams College in western Massachusetts majoring in biology with a focus in molecular biology. At Williams, he is a member of a laboratory researching plant defense pathways and the pathogen-host interactions of the soil pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens. During his summer at UW, Sam is excited to be working in the Schnapp Laboratory on a project seeking to elucidate the role of the extracellular matrix protein nephronectin in both lung development and in lung injury in a mouse model. He currently hopes to eventually be involved in both clinical medicine and medical research. Sam enjoys exploring the outdoors, travelling, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Benjamin Maldonato
Institution: University of Virginia
Faculty Mentor: Rheem Totah, Medicinal Chemistry

Ben is a rising senior studying biochemistry at the University of Virginia where he researches possible enzymatic function of human copine proteins, is president of his fraternity chapter and tutors high school students in the local Upward Bound program. This summer, Ben is excited to be working in Dr. Totah's lab in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry studying drug metabolism. He is conducting gene silencing experiments and clopidogrel metabolite analysis in an immortalized human cell line. In the future, Ben hopes to become a tenured professor at a research university.

Ann O'Leary
Institution: Carthage College
Faculty Mentor: Alex Paredez, Molecular and Cellular Biology

Ann is a rising senior at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin majoring in neuroscience and biology. This summer, she is working with the Paredez lab on Giardia, focusing on creating an active form of a mutated protein that causes an error prone cell cycle to occur. She is using microscopy to determine its location and activity during mitosi in the hopes of finding a potential therapeutic specific to Giardia. In her free time, Ann enjoys hanging out with friends and family, shopping, sewing, and golfing. Her future plans include attending graduate school.

Alfredo Perez
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Faculty Mentor: Lutz Maibaum, Chemistry

Alfredo will be earning a B.S. in biochemistry and chemistry from University of California, San Diego in December 2013. At his home campus, he works in Professor F. Akif Tezcan’s research group where he is working on engineering a metalloenzyme that can catalyze ester bond hydrolysis and carbon dioxide hydration. For the summer of 2013, he is working in Professor Lutz Maibaum’s research group at University of Washington where he is using molecular dynamics simulations in order to elucidate the mechanism of the formation of spatial heterogeneities in ternary systems involving high melting point lipids, low melting point lipids and cholesterol. Alfredo is originally from San Diego and enjoys cooking and attending live music events.

Elizabeth Perez
Institution: Mount Holyoke College
Faculty Mentor: Judit Villen, Genome Sciences

Elizabeth is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts where she is studying biochemistry. At her home institution, Elizabeth is studying fat body remodeling in Drosophila melanogaster, and has done previous research on a hereditary mutation in Alzheimer's disease. This summer, she is working in Dr. Judit Villen's lab and is using mass spectrophotometry to study phosphorylation in cancer proteomics. Elizabeth plans to attend graduate school. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis and violin, reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends.

Nathan Phillips
Institution: Eastern Washington University
Faculty Mentor: Matt Kaeberlein, Genetics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

Nathan is a senior at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington where he is majoring in biochemistry and biology and aims to pursue a MD/PhD degree through the Medical Scientist Training Program. At EWU, Nathan performs research in Dr. Andrea Castillo's lab examining a secondary virulence gene in H. pylori and in Dr. Robin O'Quinn's lab evaluating phylogenetic relationships between alpine flora. During the Amgen Scholars Program, under Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, he is investigating the potential of rescuing mitochondrial mutants of S. cerevisiae via bacterial transformation utilizing the wild type gene in C. elegans. Outside of the laboratory, Nathan works as a whitewater rafting guide on the weekends and enjoys backpacking and skiing.

Margaux Pinney
Institution: University of Washington
Faculty Mentor: Trisha Davis, Biochemistry

Margaux Pinney is a biochemistry and chemistry double major with an ACS certification at the University of Washington who will be graduating spring of 2014. At the UW, Margaux does research with the Mayer Group investigating the reversibility of compound I formation in horseradish peroxidase. This information could be used to better describe compound I of cytochrome P450s, which is the highly studied enzyme that oxidizes most foreign substances that enter the body and is of particular interest in drug development. As an Amgen scholar, Margaux is working in the Davis Lab describing the protein complexes that form kinetochores, which are the molecular machines that drive chromosome segregation and couple microtubules to the centromeres of sister chromatids. A more complete understanding of the kinetochore could help scientists discern what goes wrong in cancer, where cells are dividing out of control and errors in chromosome segregation are common. Margaux grew up approximately thirty miles southeast of Seattle, in Black Diamond, and enjoys spending time outdoors and exploring Seattle. After graduation, she will be attending graduate school to obtain her PhD in chemistry.

Julia Zhao
Institution: Rice University
Faculty Mentor: Suzie Pun, Bioengineering

Julia Zhao is a rising junior studying chemistry at Rice University in Houston, Texas. This summer she is working in Dr. Suzie Pun's lab on developing polymers designed for gene delivery. Her past research includes computational modeling of biomolecules, analysis of particle-tracking trajectories, and spectroelectrochemical tuning of plasmonic dimers. At school, Julia is a proud editor-in-chief of Catalyst, Rice's undergraduate science research journal. Following graduation, she hopes to pursue a PhD either in chemistry or bioengineering. Julia enjoys sci-fi/superhero movies, a good game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and spending time with friends and family when she's home for break.