By Gabriela Carrascal
Claudia Marques brings compassion to the field of biological research. While she wanted a career that would allow her to improve the lives of people and animals, she says she did not want to see them suffering.
"I don't think I could cope with that day-to-day," she says. "But I would like to improve their lives and their health, and research is a good way of doing that."
Originally from Portugal, Marques came to Binghamton University in 2004 to work with Associate Professor David Davies, a well-known microbiologist. Marques says she stayed because she liked the research environment. She is now an associate professor in the Biological Sciences Department.
Marques studies biofilms, the layer of bacteria that adheres to surfaces. Part of her research involves a dormant part of the bacterial population that has been shown to be responsible for the resilience of infections. Marques' work entails trying to wake up that group of bacteria. She also studies the interactions between different species of bacteria during an infection process.
"Normally, people think that bacteria live isolated, but they don't," Marques says. "They live in a social environment like humans do."
Bacteria's versatility and resilience are part of why Marques decided to study microbiology.
"Bacteria and viruses, and any microbe, can adapt to the environment and change. They can be present one moment and the next moment they can be absent and no one knows where they went," Marques says. "Once a lot of antibiotics were developed in the 1980s, many people thought they would have bacterial infections under control. But bacteria evolve and develop resistance, or become dormant and don't react to antibiotics. That actually leads to other infections now that are much worse than they were before."
Marques says she hopes to leave her mark on her field by discovering the waking mechanism for the bacteria she studies and by improving our understanding of how bacteria interact during an infection.
Though she enjoys research, she also enjoys being in the classroom. While completing her doctorate at the University of the West of England in Bristol, Marques chose to teach classes even though it was not compulsory. At Harpur College, Marques teaches a microbiology course each semester and, like many professors, she finds that she learns from her students.
"By interacting with students, you learn things every day. You don't just teach them," Marques says. "I always ask my students after an exam 'Was it hard or was it easy?' I want an honest opinion so I can improve the way I teach."
Through both research and teaching, Marques has found ways to help others.
"I think it's really great when you can pass knowledge to someone," Marques says. "You can see sometimes how a student lights up when they finally figure out something, like when you first figure it out and think, 'Oh, that's how that works.' It's great to feel that you're making a difference, and that you are making a difference in the end."
Last Updated: 12/18/13