Discovering Myself Through STEM

Dara Marquez VenegasToday’s guest blog post comes from Dara Marquez Venegas, a scientist for Lilly’s Discovery Automation Research and Technology division.

The first lesson I learned growing up was that I needed to take advantage of every opportunity I had to learn, improve and innovate. As a low-income, undocumented immigrant in the United States, it was difficult to find minority-women mentors, as well as the financial support to obtain higher education. Though I faced many challenges as a Latino student, I was also given the opportunity to better equip myself and realize my interests through the Young Innovators Quest (YiQ), organized by Health & Science Innovations.

YiQ is a summer camp designed to motivate Indiana high-school students to become innovators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Throughout the program students are exposed to different areas of study including genetics, chemistry, physics, engineering, bioinformatics and more. The program promotes STEM education and innovation, and students engage by participating in workshops, completing their own project proposals and developing creative research ideas.

Lilly, a sponsor of this YiQ summer program, organized a visit a few years ago for my own high-school group. That was the first time I was exposed to Lilly’s innovative work and core values. As a student participating in YiQ, I discovered two things about myself. First, I truly enjoyed being in an environment that promoted discovery through science. And second, despite my background, I was still capable of pursuing a higher education to build a career that suits my desire to problem-solve.

Dara Marquez Venegas - Lilly Heritage Hall

My mentors from YiQ later supported me in pursuing a biophysics research opportunity as a high-school senior. At a local college’s laboratory, I studied and learned about how cholesterol fulfills its supposed roles. From there, I continued my education and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Saint Mary’s College in 2015.

Throughout my undergraduate experience, I valued the lessons that YiQ exposed me to about innovation. Those lessons contributed to my undergraduate research, which highlighted forward-thinking ways to detect counterfeit or substandard pharmaceutical products. It was the value of thinking "outside the box" that drove me to pursue a degree in chemistry with a background in chemical engineering.

Most recently, I've joined Lilly, working as a scientist in the Automated Synthesis Laboratory. Now I have the opportunity to be innovative while improving productivity and enabling experimentation that would otherwise be impossible. Here's to more discoveries!


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