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Campus Querétaro Student Wins Research Fellowship and Fulbright Award


JONESBORO – A Campus Querétaro student who transferred to Arkansas State University to continue her research studies has two recent academic achievements that should help propel her toward her goals.

Jacqueline Romani Vargas Ulloa is a recipient of a Summer Research Fellowship awarded by the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP), one of the world’s leading societies in the field of natural products.

She also has been notified of her selection to receive a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, awarded by the Fulbright-García Robles Foundation, to the top Mexican candidates who want to pursue graduate studies in the United States.

Vargas is now a senior student at A-State, with a double major in biotechnology and chemistry. She eventually plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences to focus on development of novel therapeutics to target diseases in populations that have been traditionally underrepresented in research.

“Jacqueline has been an outstanding student during her tenure at Campus Querétaro and is an example of hard work and true passion for science,” stated Dr. María Montserrat Juárez Aubry, director of science and mathematics at Campus Querétaro. “We know that she will continue to have many accomplishments in Querétaro, Jonesboro and wherever her scientific path leads her.”

She originally came to Jonesboro as an exchange student from A-State’s Querétaro campus last August, and eventually decided to transfer.

"I am incredibly thankful for all that the faculty at A-State Querétaro has done for me,” Vargas said. “The university has been the best stepping stone for me to reach my dreams and new heights that I would’ve never imagined. I can’t even express with words how grateful I am."

As part of the ASP fellowship, Vargas is working in the laboratory of Dr. Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, professor of plant metabolic engineering in A-State’s Department of Biological Sciences. Medina-Bolivar leads a research lab at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, which focuses on plant biotechnology research with applications in human health.

 “Jacqueline has impressed me with her ability to rapidly learn advanced plant tissue culture and analytical techniques. She actively participates in research seminar meetings and asks very critical questions,” Medina-Bolivar noted. “When she presents to my research groups, she amazes me with the quality and depth of her knowledge. Her communication skills and motivation for research are impressive.”

The highly competitive ASP summer research fellowship supports students in lab-based research. The research fellows receive a total stipend of $5,000 for the summer and also participate in a series of weekly training and professional development workshops.

“Under Dr. Medina-Bolivar’s mentorship, I have learned to work with hairy root culture, use several purification techniques, and, most importantly, I have been able to participate in authentic and cutting-edge research,” Vargas also said. “My research project involves the establishment of a sustainable production platform for specialized metabolites using a hairy root culture of the plant annatto, also known as achiote, which is used in Latin American traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties.” 

She will present her research at the 2023 annual meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, which starts Saturday in Maryland.

“Not only do I want to become a biomedical researcher, but I also dream of being a professor who can create opportunities for students,” Vargas continued. “My previous experience teaching Spanish as a foreign language and tutoring science subjects in various settings has allowed me to engage with a broader community where I was privileged to inspire my peers, contribute to student success outcomes, and share aspects of my culture and diversity.”

In addition to his research work, Medina-Bolivar directs the graduate programs in environmental sciences and molecular biosciences at A-State, and also serves as executive director of the American Council for Medicinally Active Plants.

Jacqueline Romani Vargas Ulloa

Photo credit: Patryk Baran