Meet Amgen Scholar Alumni Maryann Castillo

May 21, 2015 10:15 AM ET

Amgen Scholars

Maryann Castillo

Anthony, NM

“This program gave me a great opportunity to conduct prestigious research and make countless professional connections.”

Host University: Stanford University Home University: New Mexico State University Amgen Scholar Year: 2014 Major: Biology & Biochemistry Expected Graduation: 2015   Journey to Science 

The daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States with no formal education, Maryann was forced to tackle school alone. She discovered her passion for science as a result of her stubbornness and perseverance: when one of her high school teachers jokingly told her she wasn’t ‘fit to pursue a science career,’ she wanted to prove them wrong.

During her freshman year of college, Maryann was accepted to a National Institutes of Health-funded minority research program where she fell in love with being in the lab. To see the benefit of her research first-hand, Maryann started volunteering at a local hospital to make the connection of what comes after ‘the scientific discovery.’ A first-generation college student, Maryann is working toward an M.D.-Ph.D.

Academic and Professional Ambitions 

Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?

“My classmate in the NIH-Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program at my home institution gave a presentation of her summer internship research as a 2013 Amgen Scholar at UC Berkeley. She said the Amgen Scholars Program was a rigorous and great experience with high expectations and many program activities and workshops – that Amgen Scholars focuses on preparing you to become a very competitive graduate school applicant. I had previously conducted research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and listening to my classmate’s experience intrigued me to apply for a second time to a summer internship, specifically for the Amgen Scholars Program, and experience first-hand all that it had to offer.”

What did you work on in the lab?

“Medulloblastomas are central nervous tumors that most commonly manifest in children and serve as one of the leading causes of cancer-related morbidity.  My research focused on understanding the molecular basis of the second most frequently mutated gene, DDX3X, in the WNT and SHH subgroups of medulloblastoma in order to help generate new treatment strategies for the disease.”

What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?

“I want to do top-of-the-line research and have my own clinical trials. I want to bridge the gap between research and the clinic with a primary focus in neuro-oncology. I look forward to ultimately using the complementary nature of medicine and research to motivate, contribute knowledge, and most importantly, impact the lives of those affected along with their loved ones in a positive way.”

What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?

“I think the most rewarding part was doing research outside of my home institution at a top academic institution. My school is minute compared to Stanford, and this research is top-of-the-line. This program gave me a great opportunity to conduct this type of prestigious research and make countless professional connections.”


To learn more about the Amgen Scholars Program, please visit our website and check out the #AmgenScholars hashtag on Twitter. Visit and follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.