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Caitlin Mullarkey Wins a Rhodes


Caitlin Mullarkey ’09

Caitlin Mullarkey ’09, an honors biology major from Wilmington, Del., has won a Rhodes Scholarship for 2009—one of 32 United States citizens named in November. She is the sixth Swarthmore student since 2000 to receive this honor, which provides $50,000 a year to study at Oxford University in England. Thirty Swarthmoreans have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships since the inception of the program.

Mullarkey is a McCabe Scholar and captain of the women's soccer team, which won the 2008 ECAC South Region Championship last fall. She also holds the school 5,000-meter steeplechase record in women’s track-and-field. Under the direction of her advisers, Professor of Biology Amy Cheng Vollmer and Professor Alex Theos of Georgetown University Medical School (where she spent summer 2008), Mullarkey has conducted research on a novel protein implicated in pigmentary glaucoma and glioblastomas—a form of malignant brain tumor.

At Oxford, she will be at the Dunn School of Pathology—famous for the development of penicillin—working toward a graduate degree in microbiology with a special emphasis on virology. She’s already been in contact with Dr. William James, who runs an HIV lab there, to discuss potential projects.

“Although my independent research has been focused in the sphere of cell biology, I started to become interested in virology and its implications to public health after taking Amy Vollmer’s microbiology class last spring,” Mullarky wrote in an e-mail shortly after receiving news of the Rhodes: “One of the most pressing issues in global medicine, as I see it, is a renewed focus on the molecular mechanism of HIV infection. Dr. James’ lab is asking some crucial questions regarding the infection of immune cells by the HIV virus. A better understanding of how the virus invades the immune system has outstanding implications for vaccine development.”

—Jeffrey Lott

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