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October 17, 2006

Stanford receives undergraduate research grant from Amgen Foundation

Stanford is among nine universities each receiving $1 million over the next four years from the Amgen Foundation to support undergraduates in hands-on summer science research experiences. The foundation, which aims to advance science education, improve patient access to quality care and strengthen the communities where Amgen staff members live and work, announced the awards today. The grants will help students develop fundamental research skills, learn more about the scientific discovery process and network with peers and top scientists.

"One of the most remarkable attributes of Stanford University is its commitment to fostering research experiences for its undergraduate students," said Philip Pizzo, dean of the School of Medicine. "The wonderful new Amgen Award will provide additional opportunities to enhance these programs and will help attract some of our brightest students to pursue careers in biomedical research."

Amgen Scholars is a $25 million, eight-year program that will provide research experience for students interested in pursuing a graduate degree and eventually a career in science. Other universities receiving grants are the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University/Barnard College, Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of California-San Diego, University of California-San Francisco and University of Washington.

"The Amgen Scholars Program is an exciting opportunity for Stanford biosciences since it will allow a substantial enlargement and enrichment of our current Stanford Summer Research Program," said Ellen Porzig, associate professor (teaching) of developmental biology and associate dean for graduate education in the School of Medicine. In existence for more than a decade, the Stanford Summer Research Program selects high-potential undergraduates from across the United States and Puerto Rico for research opportunities.

"We have hosted between 16 and 21 students," said Porzig, who will administer the grant program at Stanford and is the grant's principal investigator. "With Amgen funding, we plan to host about 36."

She continued: "The undergraduates who are attracted to this program are exceptional young scientists who relish the opportunity for hands-on science with School of Medicine faculty and graduate students. The range of undergraduate research topics is astonishing." Guadalupe Villareal, for example, worked in the laboratory of developmental biology Professor David Kingsley to identify an important regulatory element controlling Pitx1 gene expression in three spine stickleback fish. Sherika Sylvester worked with Assistant Professor of Medicine Amar Das on database-derived learning of drug resistance patterns to improve clinical treatment of HIV.

Outstanding undergraduate researchers have been admitted to Stanford's biosciences PhD programs and MD programs in increasing numbers. Porzig pointed out Kenny Gibbs (doctoral candidate in immunology), Alicia Shields (doctoral candidate in genetics) and Alex Red Eagle (Medical Scientist Training Program student) as three examples and noted many Stanford faculty launched their own careers as scientists from undergraduate summer research opportunities. "We feel that this is a chance to offer similar encouragement to the next generation of biomedical researchers," she said.

Award-winning faculty volunteering to mentor undergraduates include Man-Wah Tan, assistant professor of genetics and of microbiology and immunology; Richard Myers, chair of the Department of Genetics; and William Talbot, professor of developmental biology and chair of the Committee for Graduate Admission and Policy.

The funds will allow Stanford to accept undergraduates to work in the laboratories of scientists in 12 biosciences doctoral programs: biochemistry, biophysics, biological sciences, cancer biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology and immunology, molecular and cellular physiology, molecular pharmacology, neurosciences and structural biology.

Participating scholars will attend scientific seminars and take part in an annual three-day symposium at which they will discuss their research projects and hear firsthand from leading scientists in industry and academia.

"At Amgen, we believe we have an important responsibility to inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists," said Jean Lim, president of the Amgen Foundation, which since 1991 has provided $70 million in grants to local, regional and national nonprofit organizations and has supported disaster relief efforts both domestically and internationally. "We believe our partnership with Stanford will provide students with a pivotal experience that will encourage them to pursue further education and training in the sciences."



Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,


Ellen Porzig, Developmental Biology: (650) 498-6880,

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