Wartburg College senior Rocio Amaro Marquez is one of two students to receive an R.J. McElroy Graduate Fellowship.


Amaro Marquez, who is majoring in biochemistry, will receive up to $36,000 paid over three years as a fellowship recipient. She is pursuing a doctorate in molecular, cellular, developmental biology and genetics at the University of Minnesota. Originally from Spain, she studied at United World College Dilijan in Armenia before attending Wartburg.

“As a student scholar and developing researcher, Rocio is focused, persistent and always curious,” Debora Johnson-Ross, Wartburg’s vice president for academic affairs, wrote in her nomination letter. “She takes great ownership of her education, adding interconnected minors in chemistry, biology and leadership to strategically enhance her biochemistry major in preparation for a challenging Ph.D. program.”

The fellowship, established by the McElroy Trustees in 1983, is designed to “encourage persons of accomplishment, intelligence, integrity and leadership ability to pursue challenging academic careers.”

After earning her doctorate, Amaro Marquez wants to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at the American Cancer Society and pursue a career in pediatric cancer research.

In addition to her studies, Amaro Marquez also has been active in the college’s student-run Service Trips organization, first as a participant, then as a trip leader and most recently as the organization’s student director. The service opportunities have taken her to Denver, Colo.; Kansas City; Lake of the Ozarks; and Yellowstone National Park, where she has worked to combat homelessness, provided educational support for school-aged children and done environmental work.

Amaro Marquez also is a student ambassador and member of the Beta Beta Beta honor society.

“I think I have always wanted to go into cancer research, so it was easy for me to find my path. Thankfully, I have had a lot of opportunities to be involved in labs and get experience in research,” she said. “I started getting involved my sophomore year of high school in part because my teacher in Spain was a biochemist. At my UWC school, I developed my own scientific projects, and even though they weren’t necessarily cancer-related, I knew then I wanted to go into cancer research.”

Most recently, Amaro Marquez has worked on ovarian cancer research with Shawn Ellerbroek, Wartburg’s Ralph E. Otto Endowed Professor in Chemistry. In 2021, she was a participant in the National Science Foundation’s summer research experience at Johns Hopkins University, which included an introduction to the field of bioinformatics.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and hopeful that it can open the door for other fellowships in the future,” Amaro Marquez said. “I’m also thankful for the financial support of the fellowship so I can focus on my research and my education.”

Danielle Johnsen from the University of Dubuque also was awarded the fellowship.






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