Meet Amgen Scholars Alumni Nicole Półtorak
Zduńska Wola, Poland
Host University: ETH Zurich
Home University: University of Southern Denmark
Amgen Scholar Year: 2016
Expected Graduation: 2017
Journey to Science
How did you become interested in science?
As a child, I was surrounded by nature and thought a lot about why we as humans exist, and why the world exists. But one experience in particular started my passion for science. When I was in primary school, my sister (who was 13 years older) helped me with some of my math homework, and then she showed me something far more advanced. I was surprised to be able to understand it. That motivated me to learn more.
Academic and Professional Ambitions
What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?
My work at ETH Zurich in the lab of Giacomo Indiveri focused on artificial intelligence. I built software, inspired by the biological principles, to be able to recognize digits. I would like to consider graduate school and eventually start an artificial intelligence business. More immediately, I want to apply what I’ve learned to real life problems. For example, I would like to help improve the educational system by creating software that gives teachers feedback on how engaged students are, which would help students meet their best potential.
Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?
I was reading theory about artificial intelligence in my free time but didn’t have any formal research experience. I applied because I wanted to learn the state-of-the-art methods in the field, and gain access to knowledge and others’ expertise that I couldn’t otherwise through my internet searches.
What aspects of the program did you enjoy most?
If I had to pick one, it would be interacting with my lab members, who are ambitious and passionate people pursuing a range of different projects, and especially my mentor Michael Pfeiffer. I had a chance to listen to them and learn what they do. We often gave each other feedback. It was great, because they often challenged me. It was mostly graduate students and postdocs, and I had to rise to their level.
To learn more about the Amgen Scholars Program, please visit our website and check out the #AmgenScholars hashtag on Twitter. Visit AmgenInspires.com and follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.