High school dropout to doctorate; scientist says 'you can do anything'

A local woman who dropped out of high school and suffered from a rough childhood has overcome the odds by becoming an award-winning scientist.

Inside a Medical College of Wisconsin lab, you don't need a microscope to find the focus on Amanda Marks.

"What really drives me is that I love what I’m doing," said Marks.

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Marks researches kidney disease.

"I do have a soft spot for the kidney," said Marks. "The kidney is amazing; it is underrated. "

Amanda Marks

Marks' journey to this lab is just as complex as the organ she studies.

"I grew up in an unstable home environment that was fraught with mental illness and other forms of addiction," said Marks.

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Marks dropped out of high school at 16 years old, and at 25 years old she became a single mother and decided to return to school. Marks is preparing to receive her doctorate on Saturday, Jan. 28.

"High school dropout to Ph.D.," Marks said.

For Marks, this achievement is something she never thought would happen.

Amanda Marks

"Ten years ago, I didn’t believe this world existed. Five years ago, I didn’t believe this world existed – let alone I can be a part of it," said Marks.

Marks thanks mentors like Alison Kriegel for giving her an opportunity to succeed in science.

"I think one of the most important qualities of scientists is resilience," said Kriegel. "It’s really important to appreciate that sometimes people’s lives don’t move in a straight line."

Amanda Marks

Marks won two awards for her research on kidney disease in the summer of 2022, but her impact is far from over.

"If you’re committed and you're passionate and you believe in what you’re doing, I really believe you can do anything," Marks said.

Marks hopes to defend her thesis this spring.