Biochemistry/molecular biology majors headed off to Peace Corps assignments following graduation

MAY 3, 2024

Their paths are similar and have crossed numerous times throughout their Witt journeys. Now they will follow similar paths again, this time in the Peace Corps, following Wittenberg’s 2024 Commencement exercises, May 11.

Parker Hayes and Branden Nicholas, biochemistry and molecular biology majors, have been stellar students at Wittenberg. Hayes, from Cincinnati, Ohio, who is also pursuing a minor in data science, was named Alma Mater during in 2023, and Nicholas, from Oak Park, Michigan, who is pursuing a second major in psychology and a minor in neuroscience, was named Alma Lux at the same time. Both students will graduate with University Honors.

“They are remarkable individuals,” said Margaret A. Goodman, professor of biological and environmental science and faculty member in the biochemistry and molecular program (BMB) at Wittenberg. “They are both top students, both served as peer mentors in the introductory biology courses, and both were recognized as BMB Fellows, an award/position given to top seniors from the biochemistry and molecular biology program. These Fellows offer office hours to help students in the introductory science courses and serve as ambassadors for the program.”

“In addition to being stellar students in the classroom, both Parker and Branden conducted independent research projects with BMB faculty members and presented their results at national conferences. I have no doubt that both will continue to pass on their light in their future endeavors,” added Daniel Marous, associate professor of chemistry and director of the biochemistry/molecular biology program.

Nicholas, who will graduate cum laude, conducted research with Goodman last summer and recently presented his work at the national meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is also involved on campus, including with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the Pre-health Professionals Club, Concerned Black Students (CBS), and Beta Beta Beta, the biology honor society. Nicholas was also one of the recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award and the Champion Award for Community Impact during this year’s Honors Convocation.

Both students are excited to join the 63-year-old Peace Corps, a U.S. government program that trains and deploys volunteers to assist in nations and communities across the world. Hayes and Nicholas are looking forward to their assignments this summer.

“I applied because of the positive accounts of other Peace Corps return volunteers that I have known and spoken with,” Nicholas said. “It is an opportunity that allows for immense service, growth, and learning. I also applied as I knew I wanted to do something service oriented while still in the realm of health during a gap year before applying to medical school. The process involved the initial application, including a statement of purpose in response to prompts, a resume, letters of recommendation, and general information. After the initial applications were reviewed and if you met the criteria, you are then given an interview where you are asked a plethora of questions related to service, interest, health, etc.”

Nicholas made it through the rigorous process and will be assigned to Vanuatu for two years, where he will serve as a community health facilitator addressing high-priority chronic conditions. Vanuatu, located in South Pacific Ocean, is a French-speaking nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers. He leaves for his assignment on July 19.

“I am very excited for this new journey and the service I am able to give with this opportunity,” said Nicholas, who plans to pursue ophthalmology after medical school. “I am expecting to learn a lot about a culture, which I am interested in, including the languages spoken in Vanuatu (Bislama and French). I also am expecting to gain insight into the ways in which health education and community health care works in Vanuatu.“