Ann Hui Ching

On Nov. 1, the Yale School of Medicine announced a four-year grant from the Amgen Scholars Program for its BioMedical Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, also known as BioMed SURF.

For the past four summers, the medical school’s M.D.-Ph.D. program has hosted BioMed SURF to expose undergraduate first years and sophomores to medical research and clinical practice. Designed for members of underrepresented minority groups and disadvantaged students who aspire to obtain a M.D.-Ph.D. degree, the fellowship lasts for nine weeks and pairs each student with a research mentor at the medical school.

Recently, the fellowship’s website was updated to reflect a partnership with Amgen Scholars and now features a new program name called the Yale Biomed Amgen Scholars Program.

Co-director Barbara Kazmierczak expressed her excitement about the partnership with Amgen Scholars.

“Our mission — to share the resources and opportunities available at Yale with undergraduate scholars across the United States and to support their goal of becoming scientists or physician-scientists — is a perfect fit for the Amgen Scholars Program,” Kazmierczak said in a Yale press release about the grant. “I am delighted that this award will allow us to offer more students the opportunity to move toward these goals at Yale.”

Cheryl DeFilippo, the associate director of the School of Medicine’s M.D.-Ph.D. program, said that she could not answer questions about the program at this time.

The Yale fellowship joins 12 other summer undergraduate programs in the U.S. associated with Amgen Research Fellows. Although each program promotes biotechnology research, they all operate at different institutions and have separate applications.

At the end of each summer, Amgen hosts a conference that convenes all of its 13 U.S. programs’ participants to California at which scholars interact with peers from other institutions and share their summer research.

Past Yale BioMed SURF students lauded the program’s ability to help them reach their academic goals. Itzik Nahmound, one of the 2018 scholars and an undergraduate at Hunter College, said he enjoyed doing research at medical school professor Ifat Levy’s decision neuroscience lab.

“Dr. Levy’s decisions neuroscience lab was very welcoming,” Nahmound said. “At the outset, I was able to meet and collaborate with various collaborators from both the clinical and basic science ends in order to conceive a project and begin collecting preliminary data. Although clinical and human research can be slow, I was able to do all this in two months, and the implications of this work are still unfolding.”

The program introduced the scholars not only to well-established researchers but also to M.D.-Ph.D. students, which Nahmound noted was an important part of the program.

“I very much enjoyed the overall SURF program,” he said. “The peer mentors’ investment in providing personalized career advice was particularly welcoming. They were key players in providing additional mentorship leading up to the oral and poster presentations — making sure that I gave the best presentation I can.”

Ifechukwa Okeke, another 2018 scholar and an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley, also found that the advisers were crucial parts of her experience in New Haven. She was able to shadow some of the graduate students and better shape her career aspirations.

“We got to interface a lot with M.D.-Ph.D. students,” Okeke said. “That was really cool. They were our mentors, so we got to talk to them whenever … I can’t think of an area or question I had or something I was looking to explore that didn’t get answered over the course of the summer.”

The 2019 Yale Biomed Amgen Scholars Program will take place from June 3 to Aug. 2.

Allen Siegler | allen.siegler@yale.edu .