Meet the Scientist: Margaret Chu-Moyer’s Unexpected Path to Biotech

Apr 12, 2016 9:20 AM ET

This profile is a part of the Amgen Foundation’s “Meet the Scientists” series, where we invite students and teachers to learn more about a scientist at Amgen and the work they do to create lifesaving medicines. Join the conversation by sharing your own experiences with @AmgenFoundation and @Amgen.

When speaking with Margaret Chu-Moyer, Executive Director, Research and Head of Medicinal Chemistry, you would never guess that her passion for science was sparked by the labels on shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes when she was in her teens. Margaret used to study the labels, wondering what was in each bottle and why each ingredient mattered.

“In college, I took organic chemistry and started hearing more about organic compounds like those in the shampoo and toothpaste that I used to study so intently,” said Margaret. “I learned that I could use these same fascinating compounds to make medicines, and that is when I decided to start exploring a career in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Today, Margaret leads a team of 100 scientists at Amgen focused on a variety of research projects devoted to creating lifesaving medicines, including projects focused on cancer, heart disease and more.

Margaret’s teams are involved in the early stages of drug discovery, and typically, once chemistry is involved, it takes about three to five years for a treatment to reach patient trials. “When you reach this stage in the drug development process, it feels amazing,” said Margaret. “And seeing the molecule you helped develop start to shrink a tumor – wow! That is what this career is about.”

“It’s exciting to work on a number of different projects,” said Margaret. “Specifically, working on Alzheimer’s research has been very motivating because of the impact it can have on patients and their families. Plus, I’ve had a personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease since my father-in-law was diagnosed with it.”

For the next generation of scientists, Margaret has a few tips to help students get started on their scientific journey:

  • Be curious and ask questions. Science is everywhere and all around the world. So be curious and don’t be afraid to ask the ‘why’ questions.
  • Get hands-on experience. Take advantage of classroom labs at your school. Apply for summer research programs and spend your summer break working with professional scientists. Or, try your own experiments at home. Try experimenting with cooking, for example, and test your hypothesis on how to create the best recipe.
  • If you know somebody who is a scientist, talk to them. They would love to tell you about their career and answer any of your questions. As you talk to professionals, you will learn that science is about much more than the things you learn in school.

To learn how the Amgen Foundation brings biotechnology to students, visit the Amgen Foundation website. Follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.