Alma Marquez, a senior in chemical engineering from Des Moines, Iowa, was part of a science-related scholarship program starting in eighth grade, called Science Bound, that led her to Iowa State. As a student here, she’s given her time to rigorous engineering courses, internships, peer mentor groups and various volunteer opportunities.
When she decided to study engineering, Marquez said she didn’t know exactly what she was getting into. “I never imagined I would take this much math or chemistry in my life,” she said, adding that those were her favorite subjects before she began college.
“Even though it’s very difficult, I would say that chemical engineering is the most well-rounded because we take a little bit of everything.”
Marquez enjoyed chemistry in high school and did research with Dr. Mark Vitha at Drake University before her senior year. That—and the fact that she could work hands-on and in teams—helped her decide on chemical engineering.
She also likes to keep a hand in various campus clubs, including the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers & Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (SHPE/MAES). Marquez has also worked with the LEAD Learning Community, which works with multicultural first-year engineering and transfer students.
Working as a peer mentor for two years and then as a peer mentor coordinator for the program, Marquez said she loved working with the students and getting to know them. “I really enjoyed seeing their growth when helping them get acclimated to the campus and resources and just talking to them one-on-one,” she said.
Marquez said working with those programs has been very rewarding for her. She has even taken on the difficult task of becoming a part of a team of young women establishing a sorority on campus—part of the first Latina sorority in the nation. It’s been in the works for a couple years, and she now knows just how much work goes into developing a local chapter, the first in the state of Iowa.
“We had to get a group of girls who are committed and have that shared mission and vision to bring something like that here,” said Marquez.
“It’s been a little discouraging at times, but it’s actually happening now. We’re excited and so proud for that accomplishment. Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated is now on the Iowa State campus.”
Although being a member in so many organizations can be time-consuming, it has been worth it for Marquez. She obtained her first internship at Ashland Chemical Company at the SWE National Conference her freshman year, where she worked for two summers.
After that, she did a co-op with Cargill as a project management engineer at a corn-milling plant. There she was able to gain more experience and coordinate different projects from start to finish, skills she’d like to continue implementing in the future.
Marquez’s dream job includes hands-on engineering work that enables her to reach out and help people. Her ideal job would let her travel internationally—something she recently decided when studying abroad in Spain.
“I would like to continue helping my community, work with customers worldwide, and be able to use my bilingual skills,” she said. “My goal is to give back to women, because they are the most underrepresented in this field. I aspire to inspire and help multicultural and underrepresented students in general.”