News & Updates

Attending the 2015 Japan Amgen Scholar Symposium

Guest post written by The University of Tokyo Amgen Scholar Carly O’Connor


Carly O’Connor

For me, the Amgen Scholars Japan Symposium at The University of Tokyo was the first time I ever identified with being a scientist. And it was huge.

All of the Amgen Scholars in Japan, being hosted at The University of Tokyo or the University of Kyoto, gathered together to discuss our research experience, and how we would use science to address the major problems in global health. We were split into groups based on our discipline (I was in the microbiology group) and discussed broad issues, trickling down to small things that young scientists could do to create a healthier, more stable world. Indeed, when we were asked to present, the different disciplines really shined– while the microbiologists discussed health and infectious disease in developing countries, the bioengineers developed a device that would link data from health projects around the world. To see the disciplines working within their field to answer such huge questions was so inspiring, and I felt very happy to be a part of a generation that would ensure that the world would become a better place in our hands. I think the experience was especially valuable in that, for the first time, someone was asking for our opinions as scientists. I felt as if I were an expert that somebody was consulting, which was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Photo by Carly O’Connor
Photo by Carly O’Connor

We were given fascinating lectures by many professors – the most valuable lecture for me was one by Dr. David M. Reese, who leads translational research at Amgen. As a doctor of medicine, he had very valuable insight both on certain technologies uncovered by Amgen, and also on his own personal journey as a clinician with interest in research. I found this especially important as I had just applied to medical school and was still piecing together how to combine my love of working with patients with my love of research.

The symposium ended with a fantastic time aboard a yakatabune boat, where we were served raw sashimi and sang karaoke. The best part of the Amgen Scholars Program was getting to know my fellow Scholars. They were not only amazing friends and fun people to be with, but I could tell they were very passionate about their subjects. To talk to people so similar to me – people who geeked out about their favorite experiments and who, over sushi, I could vent about failed experiments with – it is something I will never forget. Not only were the students amazing to talk to, but the staff was especially wonderful as well. I'll never forget talking to our program coordinators in Japanese and their patience with my fumbling with the language. The atmosphere was something very friendly and special, something uniquely Japanese.

To learn more about the Amgen Scholars Program, please visit AmgenScholars.com and check out the #AmgenScholars hashtag on Twitter. Follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.