Student wins award for stem cell research

- Nicole Endres

In a family of science people, third-year University of Minnesota medical student Sarah Parker hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

While her mother is an elementary school teacher, her father is an internal medicine physician. Two of her three older siblings are medical doctors. The other has a doctorate in physics. One grandfather was a physician, too.

“I always had medicine in my mind, just because I think I was constantly exposed to it,” says Parker, who hopes to follow a different branch of science than her family members: a career in blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) with a research focus on stem cell therapies.

After her first year of medical school, Parker got a job in the lab of Masonic Cancer Center member and BMT physician Bruce Blazar, M.D., making induced pluripotent stem cells from T cells. She liked the work and won a fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute during her second year, allowing her to take a year off from medical school to focus on research.

In May Parker received a 2014 Hematology Opportunities for the Next Generation of Research Scientists Award from the American Society of Hematology to continue her work there, which now involves making T cells from embryonic stem cells in culture.

“People are very interested in having a continually renewable cell source that you could make a lot [of T cells] from,” she says — herself included.

Published on March 24, 2015