Aimee Beck Research from the Heart: Answering the Call of Science

By Melissa Zavas, CSUCI Extended University

She went from feeling lost to feeling like her career has taken off! Aimee Beck was a stay at home mom for six years and always knew that she wanted to get back into science.

“I love being a mom, but when I was at home with my kids I kept feeling like I wasn’t quite done yet.”

Beck graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2004 from UC Riverside after two years as a biology major. She switched her focus to psychology and pursued counseling after her mother passed away from breast cancer in her first quarter of college. She tried psychology for a while, getting married and having two kids along the way, but she just kept feeling the call back to science.

After moving to Ventura in 2012, Beck found the MS Biotechnology program at CSU Channel Islands. However, it wasn’t going to be as simple as just applying. She was only conditionally accepted to the program and needed to strengthen her application and fulfill some prerequisites. She quickly realized that the field of biotechnology was a better fit for her than the field of psychology.

“As far as research goes, I’ve always been interested in the cardiovascular system and studying heart disease. A close friend of mine has a son with a rare heart condition and their story, in particular, has inspired and motivated me throughout this program,” stated Beck.

She took the prerequisites, wrote a good statement of purpose, retook the GRE and got a strong letter of recommendation before being formally accepted into the program. Beck’s glad that she persisted and admits it has been tough balancing a family, school and now working full-time to be in science. She obtained straight A’s in the program and experienced confirmation that science was indeed her calling.

Beck postponed her graduation in order to apply for the Stem Cell Internship program located at Stanford University. She has since been hired on in a full-time research position at Stanford following her graduation. Currently, she’s doing heart research in a lab that collaborates with her first assignment. She hopes to continue researching at Stanford and climb the ladder in the field of cardiovascular research.

Beck says that the faculty and staff at CSUCI encouraged and assisted her along the way. She became the lab assistant for the MS Biotechnology program supervised by Biology Support Technician Melissa McCoy. Through this graduate student assistant position, Beck was able to form a relationship with Professor of Biology Nitika  Parmar, Ph.D., because she did all the laboratory prepping for the program.

“Dr. Parmar told me I wouldn’t be eligible for the Stem Cell Internship in my first year, so I waited for the following year to apply. I almost regretted it because it extended my program, but now that I’m here I found my experience at Stanford invaluable,” said Beck.

Parmar, Chunnian Zhao, Ph.D., co-director of the MS Biotechnology program, and McCoy were great resources and offered support through excellent instruction, connections and letters of recommendation. Judi Le, the CIRM (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) Coordinator, also helped her access an interview at Stanford that was in the exact field she was interested in performing research.

Beck encourages others to ‘just apply.’

“I would recommend others to apply for the Stem Cell Program if they can because it opens up opportunities to perform cutting-edge research at institutions like Stanford, Scripps, Children’s Hospital of LA and many more. The research, opportunities and personal growth that I have gained at Stanford and through this program are something I wish everyone could be able to experience.”

Beck reflects on her experience at CSUCI with gratitude and encourages people regardless of age or background to study and jumpstart their career. It was the opportunity at CSUCI that landed her a fantastic job that she acknowledges wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. She also thinks the MS Biotechnology program caters well to people who work full-time and who don’t have financial resources.

Beck’s internship was funded by CIRM, and it opened the door to a job at Stanford, which other people can't access easily. This small program gave Beck the resources she needed, unlike the large university experience she had as an undergrad.

Moreover, Beck found that having women instructors were helpful because they were inspiring and relatable. “At CSUCI as long as you are willing to put in the work, they are always willing to help.”

Learn about the MS Biotechnology program.