Research spotlight: Cesar Marquez

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Research spotlight: Cesar Marquez

Image courtesy of Bailey Johnson/DEAD CHEMIST SOCIETY. Members of the Dead Chemist Society working in the lab. 

Image courtesy of Bailey Johnson/DEAD CHEMIST SOCIETY. Members of the Dead Chemist Society working in the lab. 

Image courtesy of Bailey Johnson/DEAD CHEMIST SOCIETY. Members of the Dead Chemist Society working in the lab. 

Image courtesy of Bailey Johnson/DEAD CHEMIST SOCIETY. Members of the Dead Chemist Society working in the lab. 

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Brian Owens

Not many people have been tasked with choosing a career between musical composition and biomolecular chemistry. Not many people believe in the principles of dream chemistry to change the future of science. Not many people have gone from running a bioanalytical company in Spain to teaching Organic Chemistry and running a undergraduate research initiative. After all, not many people are Dr. Cesar Marquez. 

In Marquez’s research lab, the projects are based on the principles of supramolecular chemistry and the synthesis of molecular containers and nanoparticles. The objective is to then use these principles to achieve “dream chemistry.” To achieve this, you simply need to ask, “Do you think there is a problem? Do you believe you can fix a problem better than it is currently being fixed? Are people suffering from this problem currently while you have the tools to fix the problem? What are you waiting for, why are people still suffering?”  

Because of this model and the ability to synthesize practically anything using organic chemistry, there is a project suitable for anyone interested. There is one that uses biosensors for e-Medicine, another concerning Global Warming, they even have one with the goal of diagnosing Alzheimer’s without biopsies.  

However, Marquez says the projects that receive the most attention are related to cancer, because it’s well known, and cyborgs (biotic/abiotic interface), because we have all the movies and people understand that it’s the future. 

“The DCS is my research team and it is a funny name, ‘the Dead Chemist Society’ just to make it fun,” said Marquez. “You cannot call it the undergraduate research initiative or research experience, it’s too boring. Most of the students want to be lawyers, doctors, professor, you know why? Because it’s what they have encountered in their life, but science is enormous. So, these projects are also intended to show you that even if you want to change the world and you want to help people, you can do it from multiple angles.”  

Students have joined DCS to acquire real-world experience that they can use once graduatig from college. 

“I joined Dr. Marquez to gain an immeasurable amount of laboratory experience,” said senior Anali Martinez, Biomedical Science major and lead researcher on Marquez’s Core Cancer Project. “I am constantly astounded by the things I see us achieving.” 

Joining this program allows students to actively participate in their dream career fields, creating new tools that future colleagues may use. 

“You can say ‘I’m concerned about cancer, so I want to be a doctor and help the people who have cancer,’” said Marquez. “My suggestion would be ok, if you’re a doctor, you will help a person with the tools that have been prepared for you. But, why not be the person who prepares those tools? You are not helping a person, you are helping millions. 

“Cancer is a fight because it’s a fight between your body and the cancer and involves suffering. So, it (Core Cancer Project) is a project saying, ‘Can we create a cancer drug that it doesn’t have side effects?’ We are using nano particles for that. We are targeting cancer and how drugs are delivered. 

Though the DCS is meant to be a fun experience, it also teaches Islanders the responsbility that comes with innovations. 

“One of the things I want to teach to students is that science is engaging, it’s encouraging,” said Marquez, “but it comes with a lot of responsibility. Society is investing in you … and everyone has the expectation that you are going to lead us to … the medicine of the future. That’s a lot of responsibility, so you want to be properly prepared.” 

Marquez saw a need at TAMU-CC, so he decided to start this program. He was pleasantly surprised at the student’s desire to participate in the program.  

“When I started at TAMU-CC,” said Marquez, “I noticed that there was a group of students who were not properly considered, the Biomedical Sciences group, and that is my interest. I noticed that most of the students in Biomedical Sciences were leaving TAMU-CC and in my impression, as far as I have seen, they are very smart students.  

“The positive response from the students is what has surprised me the most. It turns out that Corpus Christi students really have the scientific curiosity that is required to succeed, and to have students dropping by everyday thinking about joining us is rewarding and surprising, and it also tells me that it’s not a lack of will. It’s just that we are still not in condition to offer what those students are looking for.” 

What many of them are looking for is simply a way to apply the large amount of knowledge they have learned and continue to learn here at the university.  

“It (the research) also acts as an outlet,” said Marquez. “We learn so many things during our college career but there are very few chances to apply the knowledge.”  

Marquez knows that this university can only do so much. Due to this, he wants to give students a sense of security in terms of their future. Having already reached out to neuroscientist and professor at TAMU-CC, Dr. Riccardo Mozzachiodi, the two want to figure out how to connect the DCS to other universities and programs including the Department of Neuroscience at University of Texas and The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas in San Antonio.  

Marquez’s intention is to develop a strong chemistry group working on applying chemistry to biomedicine so that there will be a network of research centers that students can go to during the summer to study under professionals who will mentor them in their desired field, while allowing them to truly see what it takes to be in that profession. 

“If you are a good student,” said Marquez, “you will participate and enter into an undergraduate research experience. You will have the opportunity of going to different research centers or staying in ours, and their groups will do the same. … That is with the intention that they will accept you into their colleges and programs. … We will create a network where our students will be protected.” 

The DCS is making waves to change the world. If you would like to join in, contact Marquez through his university email or visit him in his office in the Center for Sciences, room 206, for more information.