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Invaluable Experience

Written by Mike Thee
August 18, 2015

Alaina Bever completed a selective 10-week summer research program at Harvard last week. Bever, a biology and mechanical engineering student entering her senior year, participated in the program as an Amgen Scholar. 

The prestigious Amgen program, which provides hands-on research opportunities for undergraduates working under distinguished faculty mentors, is a partnership with 17 leading institutions throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. 

Fewer than seven percent of applicants were selected to participate in the highly competitive program. Bever was one of 340 chosen from a pool of nearly 5,000 students. 

Bever worked in a bioengineering lab on a project involving a high throughput screening for polymers that stimulate the growth and differentiation of dental pulp stem cells. The goal of the project is to develop a biomaterial that could aid in dental therapy by encouraging healing of the tooth and regeneration of dentin. 

"This summer program has been an incredible experience for me both in terms of professional development and personal experience," says Bever. "I have gained research experience and lab skills, practiced public speaking and presentation of my work, and networked with researchers and scientists. This experience will help me in the future as I have gained invaluable experience for a graduate career in research and the sciences." 

At SU, Bever has worked closely on research with Ian Suydam, assistant professor of chemistry, and Frank Shih, associate professor of mechanical engineering. She also acknowledges PJ Alaimo, professor of chemistry, who manages fellowships for the College of Science and Engineering.  

Suydam speaks highly of Bever and says the Amgen program is "a trajectory-changer for Alaina, particularly if she decides to apply to graduate school." 

To date more than 90 percent of the program's alumni who have completed their bachelor's degree are currently pursuing an advanced degree or career in a scientific field. 

Suydam also sees Bever's selection as "reflective of what many faculty are trying to do in the college-creating programs that are nationally recognized for preparing undergraduates to contribute to modern research."