Margaret Chu-Moyer’s letter to her 16-year-old self

Dr. Margaret Chu-Moyer’s early interest in the ingredients in shampoo foreshadowed her path to become an organic chemist. She has led research to discover drugs (therapeutic compounds) for diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and frailty. She currently works at Amgen and is a Mass High Tech 2011 Woman to Watch.


To: Margaret Chu (16 years old)

From: Margaret Chu-Moyer (46 years old)

How strange is this? I know your analytical mind will never believe that I am writing to you from the future. You will also not believe that you are coming into a wonderful 30 (and hopefully more) years of life because all you can think about are the difficult teenage years…but, yes, you will someday have a family, something that you have wanted since you got your first babysitting job…you will also have a career that brings something new and exciting everyday and it will be in chemistry, a subject area that you are yet to discover though you’ve wondered many a time what all those “ingredients” were on the shampoo bottle in the shower…and most amazingly, you will actually look forward to seeing your brothers and the family vacations you will be having together even though they are always teasing you now.

“Your first science class in 6th grade was disastrous to you because you really couldn’t understand inclined planes, but now you study science.”

Where to start? The most important thing I can tell you now is to be proud of who you are. You are unique and it is more than OK, it is great. It is you. I know it doesn’t seem like good advice because you want to be like all the other girls in Southern California. So, you are on the short side – that didn’t stop you from joining the basketball team these past few years, and you will always be able to enjoy basketball even if you won’t be playing for the WNBA. You are smart – that is a gift. Use it to the full extent. Being called a “brain-o” hurts right now, but isn’t the end of the world and in fact, you will be able to use your brain so many ways in college and beyond, which is just a few years away. You are Asian – embrace your heritage! You are very lucky to know another culture and speak another language. Appreciating your own unique qualities will help you see the specialness in others who are not like you. Diversity is beautiful.

There are so many things in the world to discover. Find something you love to do, no matter what it is, and your job will never be work, but play. You will have fun solving problems and finding organic molecules that will potentially become human therapeutics. Some of those ingredients in the shampoo bottle are organic compounds; the same type of compounds that can be also life-saving medicines; the same type of compounds you will learn how to synthesize in college and graduate school and in the biopharma industry. The best thing about this though are the people that you will work with. There is nothing so fun as to work together and succeed on a difficult problem. Your friends and colleagues are the key fun factor.

Wouldn’t it be great if life were easier? You may think so now, but you will realize that the difficult things, the mistakes and some of the regrets will be the things that shape you more than the successes. Make sure you keep trying and keep learning! Yes, you did not (really did not) like piano competition, but it did help you to battle over nerves and keep your composure. Your first science class in 6th grade was disastrous to you because you really couldn’t understand inclined planes, but now you study science. You couldn’t dance to a beat to save your life and you still really can’t, but at least have fun trying. Keep up the inquisitiveness, ask questions, continue to learn in all aspects of life.

Listen to your parents and love your family, especially your brothers. You have a close family and yes, do you and they all have some idiosyncrasies and are there embarrassing moments? Of course, that is what makes it so fun. You will look back again and again and reminisce about family traditions, great meals that were made by your mom and silly things that you used to fight about with your brothers. Make sure that you continue to cherish the time that you have together. You don’t know it yet, but one of your most favorite things to do will be to go on all kinds of vacations with your family and also with your whole extended family. Your parents are really wise – listen to what they have to say. They only want the best for you. Even though you think you will never say what they have said to your own kids, think again!

And, finally, keep close to not only your family, but also your friends. You have made some good friends and will continue to do so. You will have friends you have known for more than 1¾ score (keep learning – figure that one out J). Be a good friend to them – keep in touch.

With much love, your older self,



Margaret Chu-Moyer is Executive Director Research, Amgen, Inc. and Site Head, Amgen Massachusetts. Margaret joined Amgen’s Chemistry Research and Development group in 2009 as head of medicinal chemistry for the Cambridge site.

Prior to joining Amgen, Margaret served in a number of positions of increasing responsibility at Pfizer Global Research and Development in Groton, CT. Over the course of her 16-year tenure in the Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Endocrine Diseases therapeutic area, she was responsible for leading medicinal chemistry drug discovery research in diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and frailty, resulting in over a dozen development candidates. She also led the CVMED Hit-to-Lead/Lead Generation Group. Margaret currently serves on the Broad/Harvard-Chemical Methodology & Library Development External Advisory Board and was just recently recognized as one of Mass High Tech’s 2011 Women to Watch.

Margaret received her BS in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and obtained her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Yale University where her research focused on natural products total synthesis.

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