“I remember thinking ‘Wow! That’s really interesting,’” recalls Marcenac, now a second-year doctoral student. “During these 30-minute conversations with them, I just instantly knew. They asked me the right questions. They challenged me. I could see their passion. I don’t think picking up a paper and reading it could have given me nearly the same desire to work in the field.”
That desire has stayed with her. These days, the 27-year-old Marcenac is absorbed in research on mosquito biology and how malaria spreads. In particular, she is exploring the interplay between reproduction and immunity in Anopheles gambiae, the primary mosquito vector responsible for the transmission of malaria in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Highlights of her work to date include field research in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, which she describes as incredibly demanding but also exhilarating.
“It’s really critical to test in the field with natural populations of mosquitos—to see if our results are the same there as they are in the lab,” she explains.