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Amber M

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Stanford University


Biology more broadly or Immunology (pregnancy, cancer, organ transplantation, etc.)


I grew up in San Diego with my mom. While I was raised in a single-parent household, I also received a lot of love and support from my grandparents and aunt. Like many kids, I had so many questions about everything. However, I wasn't surrounded by people who could answer them. Over time, I learned to stop asking as many questions. Fortunately, in high school, I was assigned a brilliant and engaging science teacher who taught me how to search for answers to my questions. There, I realized the importance of access to information and mentorship, as well as the power of knowing how to navigate those resources. I moved to the east coast to attend Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Immediately following graduation, I spent time doing traditional medicine research in Swaziland. I then returned to America to study cancer immunology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While at the NIH, I learned about a job opportunity to do research in Japan and applied. After being hired, I wrapped up my research projects and moved to Kumamoto, Japan to do HIV research. During my time in Japan, I became really excited about reproductive immunology. Now, I am interested in understanding how maternal infection during pregnancy alters the course of pregnancy. During graduate school, I have spent a significant amount of my time mentoring, teaching science to kids, and volunteering with STEM programs to encourage youth from underserved communities to pursue science.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Coronavirus and Pregnancy:

There is a lot of evidence that shows viral infections during pregnancy increase the risk of pregnancy complications. During the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, we saw increased morbidity, mortality and pregnancy complications like miscarriage and preterm birth. During this pandemic, as physicians, epidemiologists and scientists gather data on those infected, what can we glean from pregnant women who are infected by SARS-CoV-2? Students can learn more about topics related to immunology, virology, epidemiology, pregnancy and more.

Coronavirus and Underlying Medical Conditions:

People who have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 have underlying medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, obesity and more. Why might people with one or more of these health complications be more susceptible to severe illness? Students can learn more about topics related to organ disease, metabolic disease, virology, immunology and more.

Exploring the connections between cancer, organ transplantation and pregnancy:

For years, scientists have been trying to solve problems related to organ transplantation and cancer. When a patient receives a much-needed organ from a donor, the immune system can recognize the organ as foreign and attack it. However, when a patient develops cancerous cells, the immune system can fail to recognize that the cells don't belong, allowing the cancer to spread. Yet, during pregnancy, a mother is able to carry a fetus for 9 months even though half of its genetic material is not shared by the mother. Can cancer and pregnancy help us solve some of the challenges related to organ transplantation? Students can learn about transplantation immunology, tumor immunology and reproductive immunology. From any of these projects, students can acquire skills such as critical reading and thinking, interdisciplinary research, distinguishing fact from opinion, problem solving, organization, project management, self-management, oral and/or written communication, science communication and more. End products will depend on what resources are available to the student, but can include a graphical abstract, teaching presentation, stop motion video or research proposal.

Final Notes

Students do not need any prior knowledge or experience in immunology. I only request enthusiasm and curiosity! The following project examples can easily be adapted to the interests of the student.

Coding skills


Teaching experience

Stanford Splash: Created course material for and taught “The Immunology behind Pregnancy” and “Organ Transplantation: The Past, Present, and Future” to middle and high school students from the Bay Area. Stanford Summer Research Program: Created and taught a curriculum to a diverse undergraduate cohort that supports professional development and preparation for graduate school application process and beyond. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Research Program: Created course curricula for the Immunology and Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institutes, monitored student progress and helped students finalize their research poster and oral presentations. Stanford Biosciences ADVANCE Summer Institute: Designed and co-taught grant writing to a diverse cohort of graduate students. Redesigned and co-taught graduate students how to effectively read academic papers, extract pertinent knowledge, and present it to a broad audience.


Work experience

National Cancer Institute (NCI/NIH) (2009 - 2011)
Cancer Research Training Fellow
Kumamoto University School of Medicine (2011 - 2013)
HIV Research Specialist


Bryn Mawr College
BA Bachelor of Arts (2009)
Chemistry and Anthropology
Stanford University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2021)

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