“I did want to do something that sort of helped people understand how the world works and help support people’s health and help people understand their health,” said Amos, who wants to focus on cancer and microbiology. Carolina, she said, “is honestly just a great school for that.”
As a child, Amos didn’t know much about her dad’s work. But the way he died sparked her interest in health and medicine.
In 2013, the family went to Europe because the American College of Surgeons had given Dr. Keith Amos an award to study how breast cancer is treated in other countries. In Edinburgh, Scotland, he suffered an aortic dissection — a tearing in the layers of the aortic wall that shares common symptoms with and “mimics how heart attacks work,” Amos said.
“The methods that they were using to help him basically made it worse because when you have a heart attack, the way that you treat it is literally the complete opposite from an aortic dissection,” she said. “He was basically internally bleeding.”
His death happened so quickly that it took the family a while to figure out what happened and come to terms with it.
“It was a lot of being upset with people because, like, why wouldn’t you know how to treat something that’s completely different from a heart attack?” she remembered thinking. “That sort of is what initially got me interested in biology and health in general.”
Discovering her father’s work
Currently living in her native Houston, Amos moved often during her youth. She attended high school at a boarding school in Ohio, where she worked in an on-campus cancer immunology lab. She conducted a project on how nicotine affects cancer growth in non-lung parts of the body and did more research at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on ways to detect cancer more swiftly.
She felt like she was beginning to find her niche. Then she made a serendipitous discovery when she reviewed an article for her own work and spotted “K.D. Amos” as the author.
“That sort of unlocked something for me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so interesting.’ I had no idea that my dad had done this before. That’s when I had really decided that the place that I wanted to be was cancer research.”
This summer, Amos got a jump start on college through the Chancellor’s Science Scholars’ five-week Summer EXCELerator program. Students take classes, go on lab tours, receive professional development and take part in cohort-building activities.