Staff Spotlight – Samantha Marcellus, BS

Sam is a Clinical Trials and Data Management Research Assistant in the Division of Medical Genetics.

I work in the Division of Medical Genetics and facilitate research for a variety of investigators in the Division. I serve as a middle man between our staff, our patients, the industry sponsors of the trials, and HawkIRB. One day I could be writing a consent form and the next day I could be coordinating travel arrangements for our patients. Every day is a new adventure. We currently have 6 (soon to be 7) open clinical trials and 8 rare disease registries that I help coordinate. I started as a student clerk four and a half years ago entering data while I was pursuing and undergraduate degree at the University. Then I transitioned into a Research Assistant role shortly before graduation. I continued as a part-time Research Assistant while working on my MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. After graduation I was able to transition into a full time research role to continue working with our genetics patients.

My dream job would be working in Newborn Screening. I originally became interested in Public Health after learning about the Newborn Screening program while working as a student clerk in Medical Genetics. It’s amazing how much you can change the course of a child’s life while they are only a few days old. I got a small taste of working with Newborn Screening data while working on my Practicum (capstone) project to complete my MPH. I fell in love with how much data is available and the real and meaningful changes we can make using newborn screening data.

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska with my parents, Matt and Tina. As an only child I am very close with both of my parents. My father is a nuclear chemist and technical support specialist at the nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. I unfortunately did not inherit his love and skill in chemistry. My mom is a 4th grade teacher and is retiring in May! I am very excited that we will be able to see each other more after her retirement. Recently, my parents have developed a love for the sport of curling. If you need any curling fun facts, we are the place to go! The other member of my family is my 10 year old black lab mix, Colt. He is my study buddy, walking pal, and he has mastered puppy dog eyes to get his way. His interests include swimming, his purple squeaky stuffed animal, chasing my roommate’s dachshund Dobby, and destroying Kleenex boxes.

In my free time I like to read, play with my dog, and have board game weekends with my friends. Currently I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series because the books will always be better than the movies. My friends and I have reached a super nerdy board game status. One weekend we spent three straight days playing through the legacy version of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. We started having board game weekends 7 years ago and have no plans of stopping! It’s a great chance to catch up with each other and play something we enjoy. I also play on my church softball team during the summer. We are currently the “Grace B Team,” but I’ve proposed renaming our team “The Sharks.”

During undergrad, I had the opportunity to live in Paris, France for 9 weeks for a short-term mission trip with Cru (a student ministry). We lived in the suburb Ivry-sur-Seine and took the train into Paris to talk with students every week day. I learned so much about French culture, the views of students from a variety of countries and cultures, and developed lasting relationships with both my colleagues and French students. The French get two hours for lunch and spend the entire time talking with their friends and family. It was eye opening and enlightening to routinely take 2 hours of our day to check-in with the students and other team members. On the weekends we were able to travel to breathtaking locations such as the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the beaches of Normandy, and many more.

Locally, the bacon cheese fries from Wig and Pen are possibly the best appetizer in the world. While not healthy, they are a special treat when my friends from college into town. Heading over to Wig and Pen is always one of our first orders of business.

The US National Softball Team and the Gryffindor Quidditch squad are tied for my favorite sports team. I played fastpitch softball for almost ten years and have friends on the US and Canadian national teams. It’s exciting to see women I’ve played with, and against, for many years shining on the world stage. The Gryffindor Quidditch team is also at the top of their field. No one can catch the golden snitch quite like Harry Potter. I’d like to think that as a former catcher I’d excel at being a Keeper if I would have attended Hogwarts.

Favorite movie? Why pick a favorite movie when the book is always better? My favorite book is the Paper Towns by John Green. It tells the story of four teens who go on an adventure to find their friend Margo who disappeared but left behind clues for her best friend to follow her. Throughout the odyssey of trying to locate Margo all five teens learn things about them selves that they never expected. I related to Margo in that she was desperate to leave her home town. Only years after leaving my home town have I come to appreciate the times I had there. In the book one of the main characters realizes that “The town was paper, but the memories were not.” It was comforting to know that others have felt the same way and I can appreciate the memories while the town can fade away.

If I were granted three wishes I would wish for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, an end to global warming (the drastic shifts in weather are brutal!), and my own private library.

Fun Fact: One summer in undergrad I worked at Chick-Fil-A in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was once the Chick-Fil-A Cow at a high school graduation. I handed out coupons to families of the graduates and accidentally scared a few small children. The moral of the story is don’t go to the bathroom during the morning staff meeting or you will be volunteered to be the cow while you’re gone!

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