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Amgen Scholars: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty for the Amgen Scholars program.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor. For additional tips on identifying a mentor click here.

Please remember:

  • Students pursuing Amgen must be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or students with DACA status.
  • Students pursuing Amgen must complete the 10-week program from June 18 - August 23, 2024. Students must commit to these dates. No exceptions will be made.
  • Accepted students must live in provided Caltech housing.

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Project:  Nitrogen isotopic comparison of amino acids from bone collagen versus total bone
Disciplines:  Multidisciplinary, Biology, Chemistry, Geobiology, Geochemistry
Mentor:  Julia Tejada, Assistant Professor, (GPS),
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  Amino acid isotopic analyses of bone for archaeological, anthropological, forensic, and paleontological purposes usually encompass two protocols prior analysis in a gas chromatography isotope ratio mass spectrometer (GC-IRMS): (1) collagen extraction and (2) amino acid derivatization. These protocols are not only lengthy and cumbersome but also lead to an inevitable protein loss, a critical concern when dealing with precious materials like fossil samples.
Description:  The student will conduct stable isotope measurements on fossil and modern samples, comparing results with and without the collagen extraction step. The study aims to evaluate nitrogen isotopic differences to ensure comparability between data obtained from total bone and bone collagen. The student will have the opportunity to develop a protocol for derivatization of fossil bone samples without collagen extraction. This research experience will provide exposure to various aspects of biogeochemical research, encompassing sample preparation in a paleontological lab, chemical preparation, isotopic analyses with a GC-IRMS, and data analysis.
References:  Boecklen et al. 2011. On the use of stable isotopes in trophic ecology. Annu. Rev. Ecological. Evolution. Syst. 42: 411-440
Lee-Thorp et al. 1989. Stable isotope ratio differences between bone collagen and bone apatite, and their relationship to diet. J. Archaeol. Sci. 16, 585-599
Clementz et al. 2009. Revisiting old bones: coupled carbon isotope analysis of bioapatite and collagen as an ecological and palaeoecological tool. Geol. J. 44, 605-620
McMahon et al., 2016. Embracing variability in amino acid d15N fractionation: mechanisms, implications, and applications for trophic ecology. Ecosphere 7, 1-26
Tejada et al. 2021. Isotope data from amino acids indicate Darwin's ground sloth was not an herbivore. Scientific Reports 11, 18944
Student Requirements:  basic chemistry/biology, basic math/statistics. Must be willing to work in a dusty environment (paleontological lab) and with chemicals (wet chemistry lab).
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       Amgen Scholars    Non-Caltech students only  
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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