This summer, University of Rochester students Aaron Cravens '14 and Benjamin Goulet '14 will engage in independent research experiences, thanks to a scholarship from the Amgen Foundation, an entity of the Amgen biopharmaceutical company. The Amgen Scholars Program is designed to provide undergraduates with hands-on biological science research experiences in world-class labs at leading institutions around the country while also preparing them for graduate study and science research careers.
Launched in 2006 as an eight-year initiative, 10 participating institutions, including MIT, Stanford, University of Washington, and Columbia University/Barnard College, host students during a 10-week summer program. Students are selected through a highly competitive national application process and must have strong interest in pursuing a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. Prior to this year, five Rochester students have participated in the Amgen Scholars Program, three in 2008 and two in 2011. Past UR Amgen Scholars are pursuing graduate degrees at Yale, Berkeley, and Rochester's School of Medicine & Dentistry.
Cravens, who is pursuing a degree in mathematics with a minor in biomedical engineering, will be matched with a faculty mentor at the University of California San Francisco and will complete an original research project in bioengineering. In addition to his work in the lab, he will have the opportunity to attend seminars on the graduate school admissions process, skill building workshops, faculty research presentations, and journal talks.
"I'm looking forward to conducting research the fields of tissue engineering or biomaterials and networking with faculty while I'm in San Francisco," said Cravens, who is motivated by the many possibilities in biological engineering research and intends to obtain a doctoral degree in bioengineering. "This is a great opportunity to explore new fields of study, hone my research skills, and evaluate the graduate studies program at UCSF."
Cravens, a native of Champaign, Ill., has already had several opportunities to learn lab techniques while at Rochester. In Prof. Alan Grossfield's lab, in the Department of Biophysics, he initiated research on the mechanisms of anti-fungal action of fengycin using course-grain molecular dynamics. In summer 2012, he worked on an independent literature review as a member of Prof. Lisa DeLouise's lab in the Department of Dermatology. This past fall, he assisted with the analysis of O2A progenitor cell populations in twitcher mouse models working under the guidance of Professor Mark Noble, of the Department of Biomedical Genetics. Additionally, Cravens has spent two summers working in three different labs at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, including a project under a graduate student in Prof. Paul Selvin's biophysics lab, where he investigated high resolution imaging of DNA microsatellite repeats. This project led to a paper that Cravens co-authored; the paper was published in Nano Letters in 2012. He currently works with Rudi Fasan, assistant professor of chemistry at Rochester, where he researches chemical synthesis of biological molecules. Cravens intends to continue to work in the Fasan Lab when he returns next fall for his senior year.
In addition to his lab work, Cravens has served as a teaching assistant in two math courses and is a resident assistant in a campus residential building. He is a member of student theater troop Off Broadway On Campus, and as an accomplished pianist, was a recipient of the University's Prince Street Music Scholarship.
For two academic school years, Goulet, an ecology and evolutionary biology major (who is also working on a minor in studio art), has worked in an Evolutionary Genetics Lab at Rochester. Under the guidance of Professor Daven Presgraves, he conducted independent research there, studying the genetic basis of postzygotic isolation among three species of Drosophila (fruit flies). As an Amgen Scholar, he will spend his summer at Columbia University working in Professor Daniel Kalderon's lab, where he will continue to study Drosophila. His specific research project will look at Hedgehog signal transduction (a pathway which is implicated as cancer-causing when disrupted).
Goulet, who plans to pursue a doctoral degree in evolutionary biology, said he is looking forward to the immersive experience that the Amgen Scholarship program offers. "This summer will be an opportunity for me to learn biology that will contribute to my research and coursework at Rochester," he said, noting that learning how to prepare a research presentation will be particularly helpful when he returns to work on his senior thesis. "I'm going to be challenged more than ever to really be an expert on my research project and to communicate that to others."
A native of Lexington, Mass., Goulet has served as a teaching assistant in courses on genetics and biology. He is a perennial member of the Dean's List, was named a National Merit Scholar, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa this spring. Outside of the classroom, he served as the public relations chair for the Music Interest Floor and is a member of the University of Rochester Jazz Ensemble, the staff of the LOGOS Literature and Art Magazine, and the Creative Arts Club.