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Science Inspires Students through Amgen Biotech Partnership with URI

Angie Marcks, 20, decided to major in Medical Laboratory Science at URI and set her sightson a career in science because as a high school junior she participated in the Amgen Biotech Experience — a program created by Amgen, the biotech leader with an office in Rhode Island, and run by URI.

“That was basically my first exposure to biotechnology and that is what made me choose my major and decide where I wanted to go to school,” said Marcks (pictured above), who remembered the science experiment at Warwick Veterans High School where she got to grow E. coli then genetically modify it.

The Amgen Biotech Experience trains secondary school teachers who then bring what they’ve learned into high school classrooms across Rhode Island. Educators train on a sophisticated suite of biotechnology instruments on URI’s Providence campus and are then loaned kits, each valued at $25,000 and provided by Amgen, to teach a three-week module on biotechnology. To date, more than 60 teachers at 40 schools have participated in the free training and educated 4,000 students.

Would these students have received any biotech education without this opportunity? “The bottom line is most of them would not,” said URI Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology Gregory Paquette, principal investigator for the Amgen Foundation grant (pictured above, left). “That is the beauty of the grant from the Amgen Foundation. It provides a significant level of STEM education and biotech
experience that wouldn’t be in Rhode Island otherwise.”

Since the program was launched in the state in 2007, the Amgen Foundation has contributed $850,000 and it has renewed funding through 2017. The world’s largest biotechnology company, Amgen has a partnership agreement with URI and is a generous donor. Amgen employs more than 100 URI alums and countless interns.

Marcks, who is scheduled to graduate a semester early in the fall of 2016, now works at the Amgen Biotech Experience. Just like the experiment that spurred her interest in STEM, she wants students to know they have choices when it comes to a career and many doors are open to them. “I feel very passionately about that,” she said. “I want to help students, especially girls as you don’t see a lot of girls in the sciences, and let them know that this is a viable option.”