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National scholarship funds Elon student's summer project at Caltech

Elon University senior Christian Seitz received a 2015 Amgen Scholarship to research the 3D structure of molecular bases within the human nose that allows humans to detect scent.

Elon University senior Christian Seitz

By Brittany Barker ‘19

An Elon University senior researched the three-dimensional structures of nasal molecules affecting the human sense of smell as part of a prestigious national scholarship program that supported his recent summer project at Caltech.

Senior chemistry major Christian Seitz received an Amgen Scholarship sponsored by the Amgen Foundation, which is coordinated in the United States through administrators at MIT. The scholarships “encourage aspiring scientists by giving them the chance to conduct hands-on research under leading academic scientists” at top academic institutions in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Working with Caltech mentors William A. Goddard III and Soo-Kyung Kim, Seitz took on part of a project that has been ongoing for 15 years. He is the second student from Elon to be accepted for the Amgen Scholarship program – and the first at Caltech – since the program first started in 2007.

“The fact that I went to what’s easily regarded as one of the top chemistry universities in the world is something that’s still very hard to believe,” Seitz said. “This program immersed me with some of the brightest minds around, stimulating my own intellectual curiosity and motivating me to do whatever it takes to become top chemist.”

According to the Amgen Scholars website, only 7 percent of more than 5,000 Amgen applicants were accepted in last year’s application cycle. The class of 2015 includes 213 participants in the United States representing 128 colleges and universities across 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“This research was important to me because it was interesting, scientifically and personally,” Seitz said. “This was the kind of thing that could eliminate side effects for drugs and make the world a better place.”

Originally from Dundas, Minnesota, and now living in North Carolina, Seitz also is a recipient of the Lumen Prize, Elon’s top award for undergraduate research and creative achievement.

Faculty mentors praised Seitz for using lessons learned at Elon while researching at Caltech. “His project built off of prior knowledge and experience that he gained while here, both in his coursework and in his research with me conducting computational chemistry studies,” said Associate Professor Joel Karty, Seitz’s Lumen Prize mentor.

Karty said he believes Seitz will be able to apply his work toward significant advancements in science and, perhaps, contribute to finding cures for rare diseases.

Seitz plans to apply for research fellowships following Commencement in May before pursuing graduate study in a medicinal chemistry-related field. He is the son of Paul and Joy Seitz of Huntersville, North Carolina.

“From the high-level research I did to the connections I made, this program propelled me on a one-way path to the stars,” Seitz said. “In short, this program is like a dream come true, only better.”


Eric Townsend,
10/30/2015 9:00 AM