During 2020-21, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged and classes went to remote delivery, Utah State University scholar Parker Hicks worked long hours at Utah’s Ogden Medical Center. A certified nursing assistant, the Kaysville, Utah native started each workday clad from head to toe in full personal protective equipment.
“It was the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it taught me the emotional side of medicine,” the aspiring physician says. “I was with some patients in their darkest hours. I’d come home exhausted and immediately throw my work clothes in the laundry, but I never ever left a shift thinking I didn’t do something meaningful. I realized medicine was the field I wanted to pursue.”
Hicks, who graduated from Utah’s Davis High School in 2018, initially planned to major in business at Utah State, but a chemistry course changed his mind.
“I took Chem 1210 with Dr. Scott Ensign and Dr. Melissa Kofoed and both were fantastic teachers,” he says. “I fell in love with chemistry and changed my major to biochemistry.”
Back on USU’s Logan campus taking in-person classes, Hicks continues to use his nursing skills as a hospice volunteer while also serving as a teaching assistant in public speaking classes and a USU peer mentor. It’s a busy schedule, but Hicks thrives on the activity. A self-described fitness fan, he works out regularly and enjoys Cache Valley’s outdoors, playing volleyball or hiking with friends.
“I love fitness and credit it for 50 percent of my success,” says the 2018 graduate of Utah’s Davis High School.
Spanish is another interest. Hicks speaks the language fluently and is active in USU’s Spanish Healthcare Club. While at USU, Hicks participated in a humanitarian mission to Puerto Rico, where his team built a house within two weeks.
“It was a wonderful, collaborative experience,” he says. “I’m glad I can combine service with my interests in health and other cultures.”
This past summer, Hicks added research to his list of accomplishments. He completed an internship at a microbiology and genetics lab at the University of Utah, which is focused on factors leading to stroke.
“We investigated how blood platelets affect the outcomes of stroke patients,” he says. “We studied which genes affected how platelets clot.”
As part of the internship, Hicks honed his skills in western blot analysis to separate and identify proteins.
“Since a summer internship is short, my mentor thought developing a skill in a specific technique would be the best use of my time,” he says. “I hope I can find new research opportunities to use this skill.”
Hicks says having the opportunity to participate in a research project helped him better appreciate concepts he’s learned in the classroom.
“It was exciting to play even a small role in research that felt like the frontier of science,” he says. “I look forward to getting more involved in research at Utah State.”
Hicks is a grateful 2022 recipient of a USU College of Science Scholarship.
“Receiving this gift has allowed me to put more passion, time and energy into what actually matters to my future career and goals, rather than stressing about how I am going to fund all of it,” he says. “The scholarship has given me increased freedom to excel.”
Hicks is among College of Science Scholarship recipients highlighted as part of the College of Science’s participation in Utah State’s “A” Day of Giving Thursday, Oct. 6.
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