Student Spotlight: Amy Becker
From presenting research to policy makers via the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Science Translators Showcase held at the California State Capitol, to being named a UC Davis 2020 Bradshaw Scholar, Amy Becker has been quite busy this year. We caught up with the Ph.D. candidate and Boone Lab researcher for a first-hand view of her experiences and her vision for the future.
What initially drew you to the field of biomedical engineering?
My awesome high school teacher inspired my passion for physics, and I was drawn to a career in medical research after losing my mother to breast & ovarian cancer. I got involved in research as a freshman in college and took advantage of every opportunity to learn & grow in new environments. I completed research internships at Colorado State University and Massachusetts General Hospital, and I was given the chance to travel to Peru to meet collaborators during my senior project. I learned along the way that I love travelling and meeting new people, and I incorporated that into my career goals. I completed my degree in Imaging Science at RIT and my next move was to pursue research in the Netherlands on a Fulbright Scholarship, however I was not awarded the fellowship and could not pursue that route. Luckily, I was accepted into the PhD program at UC Davis and made the decision to move to California to pursue research in Biomedical Engineering and then to join the lab of Dr. John Boone to work on breast cancer imaging.
How was your experience at the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Science Translators Showcase?
This event was fantastic! I am interested in science policy as a career path, and I started thinking about how our research could be useful for government policy. In the past decade, there have been several California state policies to improve the effectiveness of breast cancer screening and medical imaging technology. The breast density law (SB 1538) requires doctors to inform women about their individual breast density, potential risks, and further screening that could be pursued. The CT dose reporting law (SB 1237) requires radiation dose metrics to be reported for each individual scan. Providing individualized screening plans and radiation dose assessment aligns with the goals of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM). Our breast imaging research at UC Davis increases the accuracy of these personalized metrics, which will strengthen trust between doctors, scientists, and the community, therefore improving compliance and effectiveness of breast cancer screening. During the showcase, I conveyed this message in person to policy leaders at the California State Capitol and it was exciting.
As a 2020 Bradshaw Scholar, how do you see the research you've been doing with Dr. Boone contributing to your success in this role?
I was partnered with a local nonprofit healthcare center (CommuniCare) to support the Garden & Outdoor Classroom project to reduce barriers to healthy eating as part of the Food is Medicine initiative. I became more aware of the inequity in healthcare access & research outcomes, as well as my own privileged role in society. I connected CommuniCare with the UC Center for Healthcare Policy & Research and I used my research background to conduct a systematic literature review on mental health and community gardens. This experience was a refreshing change of perspective and inspired me to think more creatively about bringing a team together to advance our research projects in breast cancer imaging.
What's next? Are there any other things you are working on or hoping to do in the near future?
My near future goals are to publish manuscripts on my research and write my PhD thesis. Upon graduation, I have several career paths in mind. I plan to apply for the Science & Technology Policy Fellowship offered by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST). This program places PhD scientists and engineers for a year of public service and government leadership training in the California State Legislature. I am exploring options in SF and the Bay Area for industry positions such as the Medical Science Liaison, who develop relationships with leaders in science & medicine to help companies reach their goals. I am also open to postdoctoral research positions because I enjoy the university research environment and especially mentoring.