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Attending the 2015 Europe Amgen Scholar Symposium

Guest post written by LMU Amgen Scholar Weng Ming Ng

Weng Ming Ng

The symposium ended in quite an unexpected and emotional manner for me: 21 LMU Amgen Scholars forming a circle at the entrance of Clare College, Cambridge, on a freezing morning, yet the atmosphere was warmed by an amalgam of tears and laughter. This summer has brought so many bright minds into forging a bond of life-long friendship. As much as it was immutable that the program and the symposium had come to a completion, it really was just the beginning of our science careers.

Rewind to a week earlier, every extra piece of belonging that I packed into my luggage gradually increased its weight as if it was filling up with my precious experiences, motivations and courage. Unable to contain my excitement, I dragged my “luggage” and stood firm with other LMU Amgen Scholars on the ground of the University of Cambridge, taking in deep breaths and preparing ourselves for more adventures at this symposium.

There were several keynote lectures and research presentations throughout the two days, but one that was presented by University of Cambridge Professor Gerald Evan struck my heart and further strengthened and motivated me to pursue my scientific dreams. His caveat “it is a passion, not a career” resonated with me the most, and I intend it to be my life motto from now onwards. He continued to urge us to take risks and never be complacent as a scientist. The best advice he gave us was probably to never lose our sense of humor while demonstrated with some excellent British jokes.

Being in Cambridge meant that punting on the River Cam was one of the signature activities if not mandatory. Historic stories were told by the punters while they propelled the punts – flat-bottomed boats – by pushing against the river bed with poles. Among all that were being told, stories about old pranks that were pulled along the river were really eye-opening. Some of the stories they told were: a car was dangled to the underside of the infamous Bridge of Sighs and paper mâché spheres being dropped from Clare Bridge to punters and passengers below jumping into the river thinking they were real concrete spheres.

Photo by Weng Ming Ng
Photo by Weng Ming Ng

The symposium ended with the hallmark dinner in the college hall. It was one of the best networking opportunities. Emails and name cards were flying among graduate students, professors and Amgen Scholars. Even though networking can often be very intimidating, it was really heartwarming to meet some of the friendliest and most helpful students and professors who were willing to share with us their life stories and tips for graduate applications. I do not think it can be more fulfilling than having to share and listen to research that is so diverse in nature yet pursuing the same fundamental questions in science.

I now have friends and colleagues who support and motivate me to venture further into this scientific journey that I have started. I am very grateful for this symposium to allow more than 100 undergraduate Amgen Scholars to come together and galvanize each other into learning who we are and who we are becoming. The Amgen Scholars Program is more than a research opportunity; it is a spring that blesses the flowers to blossom.

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

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