EXPANDING HORIZONS BEYOND THE RED DOT (Part 5): NTU School of Biological Sciences student Vanessa Koh took part in the Amgen Scholars Programme in 2019. The programme is specially designed by Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation to promote research to its scholars, and is heavily focused on lab attachments and industrial visits, and gives scholars the opportunity to be immersed in cultural experiences. Vanessa shares with us her meaningful experience in Kyoto University!
How were you selected for the Amgen Scholars Progamme?
The Amgen Scholars Programme has various programmes in reputable universities all over the world, and I participated in the programme in Kyoto University. Apart from the usual application forms, writing a personal statement and attaching my resume, I also had to craft a research proposal for a project I wished to do in the laboratory of my choice. This research proposal included project goals, possible hypotheses, methods and expected results. The Amgen team conducted a few rounds of screening to filter potential candidates, and a select few candidates were presented to the host professors of the student’s choice. The professor then picked a scholar to join their laboratory.
How was your experience, and what did you gain from it?
I worked in a laboratory focusing on metabolism and cancer in Kyoto University Hospital. From this whole programme, I learned that it was important to be patient and meticulous during the research process. The scientists in Japan take these values seriously, and I could really see the difference when there’s the added effort to be particularly meticulous whilst conducting experiments. I have also learnt the importance of being clear and concise in order to communicate scientific ideas effectively to my peers, other members of the lab and to collaborators. I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the programme as while the scholars worked really hard, we played hard too. I made valuable friends from all around the world and had cultural exchanges with them and with the local Japanese as well.
Would you recommend students to join this programme?
Definitely! A piece of advice I can share to future students looking to be part of this programme is to have an open mind and to participate in this programme with a growth mindset. Going to a foreign country with a language barrier for work might seem daunting, but it is a truly a fruitful experience as one can learn the culture and a new language at the same time.
You’re currently studying Biological Sciences. How did you find yourself in this field?
I’ve always been passionate about biology and intrigued by how our body functions and how it can malfunction. I’m also very interested in studying potential treatments and therapeutics for chronic diseases, so it was a very natural choice for me to study biology. I’m also very fortunate to join research programmes in NTU, such as the CN Yang Scholars Programme and URECA, where it furthered my interests and gave me the opportunities to hone my skills as well.
What are your plans after graduation?
My plans are to familiarize myself with the industry in Singapore and worldwide. I want to understand the needs and perspective of the industry before furthering my studies in a few years. I think this is vital for anyone intending to pursue research to understand and predict the needs of patients before specializing.
Any words of advice to prospective students keen to pursue Science?
Understand your strengths and how you can bring these strengths to the table. Everyone is different and this diversity is important when working in an interdisciplinary team. No single science can exist and work in silos – the entire scientific community contributes collectively, and that is very exciting to be a part of. It may be difficult to decide which science degree to major in specifically, but these strengths will always be your skillsets for any degree. Most importantly, always stay curious, for curiosity will motivate you to continue working hard towards your goals.
About the Amgen Scholars Programme
The Amgen Scholars Program aims to open the door to research opportunities at 24 host institutions for undergraduates from any four-year college or university in a given region.
Made possible through a 16-year, $74 million commitment from the Amgen Foundation, Amgen Scholars allows undergraduates from across the globe to participate in cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions. 24 premier educational and research institutions across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada currently host the summer program.
Undergraduate participants benefit from undertaking a research project under top faculty, being part of a cohort-based experience of seminars and networking events, and taking part in a symposium in their respective region where they meet their peers, learn about biotechnology, and hear from leading scientists.
Read more about it here.