Parker Lambert – Alumnus Spotlight
Hometown: Booneville, MS
Transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College
BS in Forensic Chemistry, minor in Legal Studies (2018)
When and why did you decide to study forensic chemistry?
I wanted to direct my interest in the sciences in such a way where I could help my community and society as a whole. Initially I had explored the possibility of achieving this through military service; however due to a hearing disability, the likelihood of going that route was slim. So I looked to public service instead and joined the pre-forensic chemistry program in Northwest Mississippi Community College then moved on to the University of Mississippi’s program.
What were some significant accomplishments or favorite memories from UM?
Just like many people who moved from a community college to a university, I was overwhelmed at first. Between working 2 to 3 part time jobs and taking 17 hrs worth of classes with labs; my grades began to fall behind fast and even landed me in academic probation. With Dr. Scott’s guidance, and a little general life advice, I managed to finish my forensic chemistry degree with a minor in legal studies with over a 3.0 GPA. My academic hardships were awarded in 2017/2018 by the local chapter of the American Chemical Society with the Outstanding Analytical Chemistry Student award, and an internship with the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory Scientific Services in Houston Texas. This lab was responsible for testing drugs being smuggled across 80% of the southern border.
Please describe your career pathway since graduation from UM.
When I first graduated in December of 2018 it was a struggle to find the job that I wanted. I was determined to find work in a federal crime lab, as that’s what I dedicated my education toward. Competition in that industry is fierce as a result of the media attention it gets from TV shows like NCIS and CSI. I decided to shift my focus to more corporate positions in order to gain more experience while I searched for the job I originally wanted. I began working in employer solutions toxicology, performing drug assays for employee drug tests and insurance claims nation-wide. It was around this time that the pandemic began to reach the United States and the country locked down. Work slowed down to a grinding halt and many people lost their jobs. As a result of my education experience and professional experience, I was able to easily transition to performing COVID-19 tests for various companies while the pandemic raged on. Once things began to return to normal, I transitioned back to my previous field of employer solutions toxicology.
Fast forwarding to today, I’m working as a Senior Associate Scientist for Catalent Pharmaceutical Solutions. I moved from the employer solutions field and into the pharmaceutical industry after wanting to expand my skill sets further. I help characterize drugs that are in early stages of FDA approval and attempting to get to commercialization by performing a wide variety of testing using mass spectrometry, compendial and electrophoretic techniques. These are all skills that I learned from my time at the UM, just put toward a different application. I’m grateful that I have such an impactful position at my current job where I can not only help improve lives but help improve the lives of those that potentially have no other help to rely on.
What is the value of studying forensic chemistry in today’s world?
The program is titled Forensic Chemistry; but as I’ve detailed above, you can apply the knowledge you obtain here in forensics, clinical work, pharmaceuticals and even R&D work. Don’t limit yourself to one location or even field. Be ready to adapt and above all else have confidence! The program you are going through will provide you with all the tools you need to succeed in life with all support to do it comfortably.