Haley Victoria Parker

Haley Victoria Parker.

Haley Victoria Parker, a trainee in the doctoral program in biochemistry, would like to embark on an industry career in drug design after graduation.

Passion for Science Sparked in High School

Haley Victoria Parker, a trainee in the doctoral program in biochemistry, fell in love with science early in high school.

The lifelong Western New Yorker, who grew up in the Town of Tonawanda, says she had an incredible science teacher for her freshman and sophomore years who made the topics extremely engaging and fun to learn.

“I remember taking my first basic biochemistry notes in a class freshman year (I still have that notebook) and from there I knew that I wanted a future in science,” she says.

It has always been important to Parker to be close to family and friends during her undergraduate and graduate studies so she focused on WNY schools.

She graduated from Niagara University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry.

“It took until my junior year of undergrad to narrow down that I wanted to pursue a doctoral degree,” she says. “I had an amazing and unique undergrad research experience at NU that helped me find a passion for the process of performing research.”

Choices in PPBS Umbrella Program Appeal

The ability to enter the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) umbrella program and have the opportunity to do different lab rotations was a main factor in her choosing the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for her graduate work.

“There were a variety of fields that I was interested in, and I didn't know exactly what topic I wanted to study at first, so it was really helpful to have such a large list of possible rotations to choose from,” she says. “Having access to the brand-new Jacobs School building was really attractive to me as well because I could be part of the growth happening on the medical campus of my hometown.”

Parker is mentored by Christine E. Schaner Tooley, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry, whose lab focuses on a protein, called NRMT1, that functions by placing a small modification onto its target protein to help it become fully functional.

“My project specifically focuses on NRMT1’s ability to interact with two additional, related proteins, and how these physical interactions help regulate NRMT1’s function,” Parker says. “As dysregulation of NRMT1 is often associated with various human cancers, my research aims to gain a better understanding of how NRMT1 function is regulated, and how dysregulation can lead to the development of disease.”

Mentor Provides Inspiration Beyond Lab

Parker says Schaner Tooley has been an “amazing” mentor from the start of her time at the Jacobs School, serving as an inspiration both inside and outside of the lab setting.

“She always takes the time to teach her students new techniques herself and explain important concepts thoroughly, while also always being very supportive in helping us to develop the skills to come up with our own research questions and experiments,” she says.

“Additionally, as a female faculty member and a mother, Dr. Schaner Tooley has experience overcoming gender-specific obstacles that I expect I may encounter as well,” Parker adds. “She has shown me that it is possible to have a successful scientific career while also raising a family, and that has been really inspiring to me.”

“She is an amazing role model, and I’m extremely grateful to be able to work in such a positive and supportive lab environment!”

Interested in Pursuing Career in Drug Design

Parker says she is interested in pursuing a career in industry, particularly in the area of drug design.

“This would be an ideal way to combine two of my primary research interests — protein structure and function. I feel that my time at the Jacobs School will absolutely leave me as a well-prepared and independent researcher,” she says.

“While here, I’ve learned a variety of applicable techniques, collaborated with scientists from a range of disciplines, and developed my ability to think critically about research questions,” Parker adds. “All of these experiences make me feel confident that I will be equipped to start a successful career in science.”

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