Betsy Parkinson ′10
Hometown: Greenville, Miss.
Interesting fact: Enjoys rock climbing
What first sparked your fascination with science?
I have always liked science. When I was in elementary school, I would take out my father’s old microscope from the closet and look at anything and everything underneath it. Leaves, strands of hair, drops of water, everything was new when looked at up close.
My Chemistry II class in high school gave me inspiration to major in chemistry in college. I discovered then how there are so many things that we cannot see that affect our lives in significant ways. When we studied the synthesis of aspirin, for example, I knew that I wanted to study chemistry further. I think it is amazing that there are ways of finding out how medications work molecularly and how one tiny change can completely alter the effect it can have.
How have you applied your interest in chemistry while at Rhodes?
I started working as Peer Tutor in the Department of Chemistry my sophomore year. I worked with General Chemistry last year and I’ve been tutoring Organic Chemistry this year. I love it, especially Organic; getting to explain the mechanism is so much fun. I’m currently president of Rhodes’ chapter of the American Chemical Society, an organization mainly for chemistry majors on campus. Last year I helped with student outreach with the group by setting up events with elementary schools where we would give on-site demonstrations and judge science fairs. This year I’m organizing fun chemistry-related events on campus, such as liquid nitrogen ice cream parties, or s’mores nights with fun colored fire.
Are you involved in any activities in the Memphis community?
I volunteer as a tutor at Springdale Elementary School and Cypress Middle School. These programs mostly consist of general tutoring, but I also do some more scientifically oriented outreach. I also participate in the Rhodes St. Jude Summer Plus Program, where students spend two summers and the school year in between working at the research hospital. I’ve been working in a molecular pharmacology lab there helping develop chemotherapy agents, specifically ones we can administer to reduce the unfortunate side effects.
How have Rhodes faculty helped you pursue your interests at Rhodes?
I’ve been inspired by many of my professors at Rhodes. One of them, Professor Loretta Jackson-Hayes, was my wonderful lab professor during my first semester of freshman year. She made me feel so comfortable in the lab and really made chemistry a good experience (probably a lot of the reason that I decided to try out research). I ended up taking second semester General Chemistry with her and more recently her Pharmacology course. She is now my research advisor for my work at St. Jude. She is always willing to talk, whether it is about an interesting drug mechanism to what research conference I should apply for to advice about life in general. She is a really inspiring woman.
What does your future look like?
Ideally I’d like to continue working with the people at St. Jude. I love their mission and children are one of my many passions, so it would be great to continue working with them, but I’m not sure at this point. I do know, however, that I’d like to complete honors research at St. Jude during my senior year. After that, I want to go on to graduate school and hopefully after that become a university professor, allowing me to do research and teach at the same time. Specifically, I’d really like to continue doing drug research.