Alumna Spotlight: Lara Park

By Adrienne Roberts

After growing up in sunny Southern California, moving to Boston for my Master’s degree seemed a daunting task, due both to the rigorous coursework I would no doubt encounter and the cool weather I had heard so much about. Now that we’re in November, I can confirm with 95% confidence that the classes are challenging and the weather is cold (this just in: water is wet)! With the change of the seasons also comes a period of introspection and my interview with Lara Park for this month’s Alumni Spotlight has helped me gain some new perspective on this whole “post-graduate thing.” Her love of science and education were easily evident in our conversation and her bright and cheerful demeanor were a welcome respite from the gloomy weather out on the Jaharis patio.

Lara started on her MS in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition (BMN) in fall of 2007 and immediately began work on her PhD (also in BMN). Over the course of work on these two degrees, Lara developed and explored her interest in epigenetics and contributed to several studies in the field. She is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Tufts Dental School and is a member of Dr. Jonathan Garlick’s lab. They are investigating the possibility of using stems cells to repair diseased tissue – in this case, specifically diabetic foot ulcers. I asked her why her post-doc work shifted away from nutrition and she said that this is a great opportunity to apply what she has learned about epigenetics and to develop and learn new skills in the field. However, she likes that the research centers on a group of people for whom good nutrition is important.

I asked her where she sees herself in a year or two, and Lara said her experience at Tufts has shown her that she could definitely see herself teaching. She and Dr. Garlick developed a seminar course at the undergraduate campus called Science and the Human Experience. The course is geared toward an especially curious group of people – freshmen – who have not yet decided what direction they want to go but love to explore. The course views science through the lens of culture and society, taking it out of the lab and textbook in order to excite the next wave of scientists. For now, Lara has not decided on a set path and will use her postdoc work to better explore her interests: “It’s kind of like a stepping stone, I’m using it to kind of reevaluate what I love about science and where I want it to take me.”

Adrienne is a first-year FPAN student who enjoys discovering new, efficient ways to keep her thin California blood warm, if only for a little while. Previous experiments have shown that shabu and pho are just two ways to accomplish this.

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