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Latino Daily News

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Hispanic Standout: Samantha Marquez: Researcher, Scientist, Entrepreneur, and High School Freshman

Hispanic Standout: Samantha Marquez: Researcher, Scientist, Entrepreneur, and High School Freshman

Photo: Samantha M. Marquez (photo courtesy of her father, Dr. Manuel Marquez)

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Like most high school freshmen in America, Samantha Marquez wakes up early and heads off to school for the day. She has to travel a little further than most since her school is a bit far from her Virginia home, but what makes her a Hispanic Standout is what she does outside of school.

Only in her first year at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Ms. Marquez already has her name on six patents (international included), and continues her research at various universities. After regular school hours, she heads over to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to assist with research from 5 to 9 p.m., but perhaps even more impressive is the fact that she spends her long weekends researching at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Though a lot of research and hard work has gotten Samantha where she is today, one cannot ignore the in-home role models she has had throughout her life. Her mother, Dr. Carolina Marun, is a chemical engineer, and her father, Dr. Manuel Marquez, is a chemist and researcher for YNANO LLC, works at Arizona State University and as an adjunct professor at VCU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.  In fact, it was Samantha’s father who got his colleagues interested in one of his daughter’s ideas.

When Samantha was in 7th grade, she was doing research for a science project and came across a paper about using “an artificial spherical crystal, trying to reproduce particles that can change”. I thought, ‘Why not use living cells?’”

“I pestered my father to ask his colleagues about it,” she laughs. Eventually, Dr. Marquez did just that, and Samantha’s idea piqued their interest enough that, from there, research took off, and “celloidosomes” were born. Just this month, merely two years after her ideas were patented, scientists from the University of Tokyo-Japan have confirmed Samantha’s discoveries. With Sam’s idea, celloidosomes are now changing the way to create two-dimensional tissue, which will eventually be used to treat burn victims, reconstruct bone, and even patch up damaged organs.

Having done so much in such a short amount of time, one has to wonder if she’s had time to explore subjects outside math and science, but she is quite well rounded.

In middle school she was a member the art club, and was president of the National Junior Art Honor Society. Today she finds political science and world history interesting, and even shared her opinion on one of the country’s hot button issues.

“I think its time the U.S. change how we see Hispanics,” she told HS News. “I am interested in what people like Loretta Sanchez and Sonya Sotomayor have done and are doing.”

Samantha mentioned that her family is very proud of its many cultural backgrounds, saying, “They’re from Portugal, Venezuela, Spain, and other places. My family is like the United Nations.”

And she has some advice for other young people, maybe not those exactly like her, but for anyone with a goal.

“You don’t need to be obsessed with finding the right answer. Just never stop asking questions, never quit. Always try your best, and be sure to choose your role models wisely.”

As Samantha continues through high school, and heads to college in a few years, HS News cannot wait to see what this Hispanic Standout does next. With her eye on Harvard and Oxford, it could be anything.