Amanda Miller, a senior biochemistry major from Plano, spent her summer at Harvard University conducting research as a 2017 Amgen Scholar. This experience opened doors for her future career.
“When I first came to Tech, my goal was to become a pediatrician, but after being involved with this hand-on experience, I want to incorporate research into my career,” Miller said. “I want to get my M.D. after my undergraduate biochemistry degree. It is a huge commitment, but after seeing professionals act in this field, I know it is for me.”
Miller was one of 200 students chosen for the Amgen Scholars program. According to its website, Amgen Scholars gives undergraduate students from across the world the opportunity to participate in prestigious research programs at high-ranking institutions.
Miller is the first Texas Tech student to participate in the program at Harvard University.
“Applying for the Harvard program is different from some of the other institutions because it requires not only a transcript, resumé and letters of recommendation, but I also had to do a Skype interview,” Miller said.
For the 10 weeks she was in Massachusetts, Miller said she worked on Project Abbie.
“Project Abbie is inspired by Abbie Benford, a young girl who died from anaphylactic shock,” Miller said. “Essentially, Project Abbie is creating a sensor that detects the early symptoms of an allergic reaction and injects epinephrine automatically.”
Miller said this device will help save lives because it involves early detection and will aid in injecting medicine into individuals who are unable to do so themselves.
“Anaphylaxis is a huge problem,” she said. “Getting help in time is a huge issue. So much time is already wasted even before the symptoms are noticeable.”
As an Amgen Scholar, Miller said the Amgen Foundation funded her research at Harvard.
“Amgen is one of the biggest biotechnology companies in the United States,” Miller said. “Because of its funding, the Amgen Scholars program is possible.”
Wendoli Flores, director of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships in Tech’s Honors College, said being chosen as an Amgen Scholar will open many career avenues for Miller in the future.
“Honors like these hold a lot of prestige and gives the student credibility,” she said. “The nature of summer research is very beneficial to students because it exposes them to a different way of learning through other universities.”
Miller said her love for research began in her general chemistry course, taught by Dominick Casadonte, Minnie Stevens Piper Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.
“Amanda (Miller) was one of the strongest general chemistry students that I have had here at Texas Tech in over 25 years,” Casadonte said. “She has a lot of research and intellectual attributes that I would see in senior graduate students. Her ability to think through a problem clearly is one of the strongest I think I have ever seen.”
Along with his general chemistry class, Casadonte has also had Miller partake in his undergraduate research for three years.
“She takes everything she does very seriously and does it very well,” he said. “That seriousness characteristic is something that I think stood out in terms of her application.”
Along with the Amgen program, Miller was also awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in the spring.
“At the time, Amanda (Miller) was applying for the Amgen Scholars, she was honorable mentioned for the Goldwater Scholarship. She had not officially received it yet,” Flores said. “The Goldwater Scholarship is such a prestigious award that even just being honorable mentioned helped her get into the Amgen program.”
Miller said this program was a great experience because she did not have to take actual classes: It was entirely research oriented.
“This program was amazing because I got to work as if I was a graduate student when I have not even finished my undergraduate degree yet,” she said. “I also got to meet and talk to some of the celebrities of the biotechnology field. It was an incredible experience.”