Howard University and Amgen Create Academia-Biotech Educational Fellowship

ChemE Amgen Interns Pilar O'Neal and Eunice Ngata

From the Howard Newsroom:

WASHINGTON – Howard University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Amgen, one of the world’s leading independent biotechnology companies, have designed an innovative academic-industry partnership meant to greatly expand opportunities for underrepresented minorities in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The partnership takes the form of a fellowship for master’s-level graduate students and includes training in Amgen’s laboratories.

The Department of Chemical Engineering, in the Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture, offers a graduate program in chemical engineering. The master’s program has been a reliable portal for industry jobs in chemical engineering and for students who seek doctoral degrees. However, there has been less breakthrough into the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

“The new fellowship initiative with Amgen will inspire Howard students to consider a career with a leading biotechnology company such as Amgen,” said John M. M. Anderson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “We also expect the program to create opportunities for discovery at the intersection of research capabilities between Amgen and Howard University.”

According to Preethi Chandran, the director of graduate studies in chemical engineering,  resolving the disparity in participation in these industries is critical to resolving downstream disparities in treatment designs and outcomes.

“The idea is to seamlessly integrate a co-mentored pathway for these industries with joint research projects and on-site immersive experiences,” she said. “With a great partnering team from Amgen, we designed the Amgen Fellowship to leverage the strengths of academia and industry in mentoring careers.”

Howard University is no stranger to Amgen. Several Amgen leaders have worked closely with this educational institution, and some sit on the boards of their various colleges.

“The Amgen partnership leverages our department’s expertise in producing Master of Science degree-holders from communities underrepresented in STEM and Amgen’s proven track record of involving Black and African-American graduate students in state-of-the-art research with targeted industrial applications,” said Patrick Ymele-Leki, interim chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Howard University.

“This program exemplifies our commitment to improving diversity and inclusion throughout Amgen and our R&D organization,” said Alan Russell, vice president of research at Amgen. “We hope the Amgen Educational Fellowship will serve as a flagship to expand to other departments at Howard University and other HBCUs.”

Graduate students Eunice Ngata and Pilar O’Neal have been selected as inaugural fellows for the program, which started this summer. Ngata will engage in a research collaboration with mentorship from John Kawooya, director of research, biologics, at Amgen’s campus in Thousand Oaks, California. Ngata’s Howard-based mentor will be Solmaz Tabtabaei, an assistant professor in chemical engineering. The research project will focus on high-dose and slow release of protease inhibitors in cell culture.

O’Neal will engage in a project with Bram Estes, senior scientist, Biologics, at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, on enhancing protein secretion with DNA/protein complex delivery into cells. Chandran will serve as the Howard-based co-mentor. A second cohort of two fellows is slated to begin in Summer 2022 with training at Amgen’s South San Francisco laboratories, and one of the projects will include a collaboration between Melissa Thomas of Amgen and Ymele-Leki on drug transport through biofilms.

For additional questions on the Amgen Educational Fellowship program, please contact Preethi Chandran, via

(Pictured at top: Pilar O'Neal [L] and Eunice Ngata [R])


Research, Chemical Engineering and College of Engineering and Architecture