He spends hours bending over a high-powered electron microscope, absorbed in a never-ending search for the elusive protein molecules that trigger a disease that kills twice as many people as AIDS every year. Malaria.

Ask Colonel Sam Martin '72 to describe his role as a top malaria investigator at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and this soft-spoken 50-year-old medical doctor will startle you by explaining that it's a "privilege."

"I am very fortunate," says the easygoing and low-key Martin, "because here at Walter Reed, I'm allowed to explore the mysteries of biology every day.

"Year after year, I am able to work on such questions as: How does the malaria parasite in the red blood cell get information across the cell membrane that tells it 'I've been picked up by a mosquito--I'm not inside the circulation of a human being anymore'?"

"For a researcher, that's a fascinating kind of question. Is there a protein in the saliva of the mosquito that 'tells' the malaria parasite that it has been transferred to the mosquito, after it bites a human?"

He pauses for a moment to consider the question, then breaks into a grin of pure delight. "To be allowed to work on that kind of problem is a very great privilege.

"As a student in Cameroon and then Nigeria, I never imagined that I might one day end up doing research in the United States. Nor did I expect to become an officer in the U.S. Army.

"It's very interesting how life works out, is it not?"

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