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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:  Probing the Function of Retinal Neurons in Health & Disease
Disciplines:  Neuroscience, Regulation of retinal cell signaling
Mentor:  Steven Barnes, Professor of Ophthalmology & Neurobiology, (BBE),, Phone: 6263444771
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  NOTE: This project is being offered by a UCLA Professor and is open only to Caltech students. The project will be conducted at the UCLA affiliated Doheny Eye Institute at 150 N. Orange Grove Ave in Pasadena. Doheny Scientists perform research relevant to retinal function and ophthalmological diseases.
Description:  Outstanding scientists such as Carver Mead, Kwabena Boahen and Tobi Delbruck have built neuromorphic chips that reproduce functions carried out by neurons in the retina that separate critical information entering the eye and send that to the brain for further analysis. It's challenging to figure out how these microcomputers work and to build and program them.

But let's talk about figuring out how a real mammalian retina works, using its own electrical microcircuits, built from neurons with their own ion channels, chemical synapses and light sensing opsins. Consider learning the microtechnologies used to record signals in live neurons in isolated retinas responding to patterns of light. And add the challenge of how things work, or rather, don't work due to the many retinal diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma. Record the millivolt-range signals generated by live healthy and diseased retinal neurons.

Engage with the lab Principle Investigator (Steven Barnes, PhD) and research scientist (Ben Smith, PhD) to learn how we access light-induced signals in living retinal neurons. This is not a desktop computer-oriented summer project. It's a "wet lab" performing biophysically-based recordings, with amplifiers run partly by computers, and analyses of the kHz bandwidth signals that the neurons use to do their work. We record from all types of retinal neurons. We also use human cells, in the form of retinal organoid-derived retinal ganglion cells grown in culture from control and genetic mutation-carrying patient stem cells, or from cells edited with Crisper-Cas9 to produce or correct mutations in genetic retinal diseases.
References:  Deep dive paper, as an example:

Social media news about Doheny:

Student Requirements:  Introductory Physics (Electricity and Magnetism), Introductory Biology, Introductory Organic Chemistry
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

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

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