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Samuel Annan
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Caldwell University Natural Sciences student Samuel Annan has spent his summer learning about the process of drug discovery while interning with the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research’s competitive summer internship program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Working with professionals at the pharmaceutical company’s research headquarters on a form of cancer therapy called radio-ligand therapy, Annan was excited to engage in research and use an ion-mobility spectrometry instrument. However,  it is  “the people,” who make the work most fulfilling, said Annan. “I could directly schedule a meeting with any scientist to learn about their lab, skills and motivation.”

The Novartis program provides research training opportunities for top-tier students who have had little exposure to industry research. The students gain research experience and prepare for careers in biomedical research and for application to prestigious graduate and professional programs. Annan’s peers come from schools like Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth and Brown.  He said the interns and their contributions are greatly valued. 

Annan will graduate from Caldwell in December with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. He credited Professor Xiaolei Gao, Ph.D., and the other School of Natural Sciences professors with opening doors for him to research and with motivating and guiding him including encouraging him to take part in competitions.   

In the 2022-23 academic year he won a number of awards including the first place prizes at the New Jersey Academy of Science’s annual meeting, the nanochemistry category at the William Paterson Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey Undergraduate Symposium.  The presentations have given Annan confidence to aim higher.  He plans to learn about the immune system and its ability to help patients fight diseases like cancer, AIDS and tuberculosis and to study neuroscience and how to address diseases related to brain function.  

A native of Ghana from a family of seven children, Annan is the first in his family to earn a university degree.  His father attended middle school and had to leave to become a fisherman to support his family following his own father’s death.  His mother had some high school education but had to drop out to work in retail due to financial difficulties.  “Despite all these hurdles, my parents invested all they could in our education because they believed it could set us free from the world they were in,” said Annan.  By getting into a U.S. college, he became the ray of hope for his family. “This has motivated me to put in my maximum effort in everything I do so I would be able to make a difference in my family.”

As a child Annan wanted to play soccer professionally to help support his family, but he realized that would not happen.  Then he wanted to pursue a vocation as a pastor. One day when he was bringing the gospel to patients in a hospital, he saw people lying on the floor waiting for treatment and was first inspired to become a doctor. “It was a very sad sight as some of these patients were very sick and could die at any point,”  said Annan. He was reminded of his grandmother who faced a similar situation after contracting tuberculosis and died because she could not get proper medical attention. “I was happy to be able to spread the gospel to these people. However, I wanted to do more than that—I wanted to help them fight their disease and bring back happiness in their life. With that, I decided to pursue a career in medicine to equip myself with the knowledge and skills to make this possible.”

Annan’s ultimate dream is to become “one of the best cardiothoracic surgeons in the world” so he can provide excellent care to his patients, teach at a medical school, motivate the next generation of doctors and provide free health care to the poor in his country.   Caldwell has given him the first steps to achieving those goals. “By providing me with a Presidential Scholarship, Caldwell made it possible for me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the U.S.”    His Natural Sciences professors have supported him every step of the way.  “They introduced me to the world of research and frequently encouraged me to challenge myself and exceed my limits. The skills developed from the classes, labs and research are one of the key things that made all my achievements possible.”