May 16, 2023

UCalgary student heads to Japan as part of prestigious Amgen Scholars program

Emily Chang to take part in groundbreaking chemistry research at Kyoto University
UCalgary Chemistry student and Amgen Scholar, Emily Chang
UCalgary Chemistry student and Amgen Scholar, Emily Chang. Emily Chang

Emily Chang never imagined her passions for Japan and chemistry could intersect. 

But this summer, the third-year University of Calgary chemistry student is set to experience just that by participating in cutting-edge organic chemistry research as part of the Amgen Scholars Program, which gives undergraduate students interested in pursuing a PhD a chance to participate in trailblazing scientific research. 

When she arrives in Kyoto University in June, she will work with the Fukazawa Group led by Dr. Aiko Fukazawa, PhD, a former visiting professor at UCalgary’s Faculty of Science. There, Chang will help to synthesize novel chemical frameworks using advanced laboratory techniques and instrumentation for potential applications in technology and medicine. 

“I’ve learned about the research they do in Kyoto in chemistry class, but I’ve never researched it before; and ever since it was introduced to me, I was just fascinated by it,” says Chang. “When I got this opportunity, I thought, ‘This is perfect.’ It aligns with my interests, and I get to go to Japan!” 

While leading her own research project under the supervision of top faculty, Chang will also attend seminars and networking events and end the rigorous program with a symposium in Singapore where she will meet with peers in the Asia Amgen cohort to learn about pioneering research in biotechnology and hear from leading scientists. 

But, before she jets off to Kyoto — where she says she’s keen to enjoy a delicious bowl of authentic ramen and visit the sights in one of the oldest cities in Japan — Chang acknowledges she wouldn’t be going at all if not for the support of the UCalgary community. 

“I’m really thankful. Everyone’s been really supportive, from the professor who introduced me to this program, to my PI [principal investigator], Dr. Darren Derksen, and labmates in the Derksen Lab,” she says. 

Chang first learned of the program during an impromptu conversation at UCalgary and, when she decided to apply, the chemistry department in the Faculty of Science surrounded her with support. 

Colleagues at the Derksen Research Group, where Chang is employed as an undergraduate student-researcher, provided her with references, guided her to relevant research for her proposal and helped her refine her application. In the chemistry department, professors shared their experiences conducting research abroad and reaffirmed her interest in organic chemistry. 

“I’m excited to live in another country by myself for two months, conducting research,” says Chang. “By the end of it, I hope to grow my interpersonal, laboratory and time-management skills. I’m looking forward to the whole experience.” 

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