Global biotechnology firm Amgen awarded research scholarships to more than 260 students nationwide, including three from the San Fernando and Conejo valleys. Now in its third year, Amgen Scholars is a $27.5 million eight-year initiative which provides undergraduates the opportunity to explore their particular area of research beyond what they might be able to do as part of their regular undergraduate education. This year, 260 Amgen Scholars, who represent 136 schools from across 39 states and territories, were selected from more than 4,000 applications to participate in the company’s U.S. program. “The Amgen Scholars Program provides undergraduate students from across the U.S. with the opportunity to engage in a hands-on research experience at some of the nation’s leading universities,” said Sarah Rockwell, spokeswoman for Amgen. According to Rockwell and as evidenced by recent Dept. of Education reports, the U.S. still lags behind other developed and some developing nations in math and science. She said Amgen is trying to help change that. Rockwell also said getting funding for education is as important as the overall availability quality academics. “Financial support for students is a critical component of the program,” she said. “It seeks to ensure that eligible students, regardless of their financial status, are able to participate.” Locally, students include: Tristan Brown from Woodland Hills, who is participating at Caltech, and chose to make use of Amgen’s program by doing research at Caltech and gain the capacity to approach problems and figure out how to solve them experimentally; Dianne Pulido from Burbank, who is participating at UCLA, and who said she is using the Amgen Scholars experience to “advance my career into higher education, and be a part of a challenging atmosphere that makes my work worthwhile;” and Jonathan Reuter from Agoura Hills is also participating at UCLA. Reuter’s work under the auspices of the Amgen Scholars program is a precursor to his graduate studies. He was part of team Athena that won second place in the 2007 Qualcomm Innovator Challenge, which gave the participants twenty-four hours to design and present an innovative platform for Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chipset. The Valley region students were unavailable for interviews. The Amgen Scholars Program partner universities host undergraduates from across the nation who undertake research projects with the guidance of faculty mentors in fields ranging from biology to bioengineering to chemistry. Additionally, all of the Amgen Scholars attended a three-day symposium at UCLA to discuss their research projects and hear firsthand from leading scientists in academia and industry, including scientists and researchers from Amgen. Participating universities include: California Institute of Technology; Columbia University/Barnard College; Howard University; MIT; Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; UCLA; University of California, San Diego; University of California, San Francisco; and University of Washington. In 2008, the Amgen Foundation announced the expansion of Amgen Scholars to Europe. The initial expansion of Amgen Scholars to Europe is a $2.5 million, two-year pilot program that will provide research experience for students interested in pursuing a graduate degree and a career in science.