Justin Amakor

Meet Justin Amakor: a 3rd year Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology major. During his freshman and sophomore year, he previously participated in the PEERS program; an intensive two year program that is committed to promoting academic excellence and professional development for students dedicated to careers in the life or physical sciences or mathematics. The primary objective of the program is to increase the number of students who develop a strong foundation in the sciences and make teaching and/or research a part of their life’s work. Justin also participated in the Richard Morgan Undergraduate fellowship program whose objective is to increase diversity in the physician-scientist workforce by providing individualized research preparation and mentorship for undergraduate students who plan to apply to MD-PhD programs, including the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Justin is currently an active member of the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) and recently attended his first conference this past weekend. We were fortunate enough to gain a little insight on Justin’s research experience at UCLA:


1. How did you first get involved in your research project?

As a freshman, I participated in a program called PEERS. There I was provided with valuable mentorships and was taught how to get into research. I was then introduced to my research project
through the Richard Morgan Undergraduate Fellowship Program, a summer fellowship aimed at increasing diversity in the physician-scientist workforce. From this program, I joined the Spencer
Lab, where I am currently studying the effect of osteopontin on cell-cell communication in the dystrophic muscle niche.

2. How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

My research experience at UCLA has been nothing short of amazing. From my research experience, I have learned a multitude of skills both inside and outside of lab work. The
challenges I have faced have been a great learning tool to strengthen my critical thinking, analytical, and laboratory skills. The Spencer Lab is so welcoming and supportive, and it is an
absolute pleasure to work with them. Most importantly, my experience has confirmed my passion for pursuing the MD/PhD route.

3. What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

To get into research, actively seek out opportunities by talking to your science professors, cold emailing, and joining UCLA science newsletters. To fully enjoy research, don’t be afraid to ask
questions! Dedicating time to research is what makes it satisfying and enjoyable. Put in what you want to get out.

4. Have you attended a conference before? If so, can you describe your experience on preparation, presenting, etc.?

I will attend the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) symposium in February, which will be my first conference. My past presentation experience would be at the summer
undergraduate research showcase. Presenting your research can be nerve-racking, but getting support from your mentor and PI is the best way to resolve that. Ask them about concepts you
don’t understand and how they have presented their research.

5. What are your future career goals?

My current future goal is to become a Physician-Scientist by getting my MD/PhD. I hope one day to see the real-time application of my research.