Meet Amgen Scholars Alumni Alex B. Munster
Host University: Kyoto University
Home University: University of Cambridge
Amgen Scholar Year: 2016
Expected Graduation: 2019
Journey to Science
How did you become interested in science?
I was the first of my large family, including parents and extended family, to go to university. I enjoyed studying biology in school, but it was my fascination with human biology that led me to pursue a career as a physician scientist. I am now undertaking my clinical studies at the University of Cambridge.
Academic and Professional Ambitions
What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?
Working in Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Biostudies, I studied the mechanisms human cells use to respond to stress and how specific genes affect those responses. Such investigations may be applied to understand cancer, and in particular may eventually lead to new therapies that nullify the pathways permitting cancer cells to tolerate and respond adaptively to stress. Having finished this placement, my personal ambition is to now finish my clinical studies and begin a PhD in a discipline of clinical science.
Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?
Growing up, I was always intrigued by Japan as a unique place, with a history and culture that I knew had to be experienced to be truly understood. Despite alternate internship offers, I chose the Amgen Scholars Program because of its significant length (8 weeks) and the incredibly generous funding support provided by the Amgen Foundation. I was also well aware of the useful perspective I would gain, and the potential future academic connections I would make from coming to work at a top research university in Japan.
What aspects of the program did you enjoy most?
This program has given me the depth of exposure to laboratory techniques I wouldn’t have received in a UK lab, at least not in the 8 weeks afforded by the program. The freedom, trust and respect my supervisor and lab colleagues showed toward me allowed me to flourish on my own, and has suitably prepared me for PhD life after I graduate–and my future career as a physician scientist.
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