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Scientists are in demand. This woman is helping to train them in her Newport lab

(from left) Mt. St. Joe student Aaron Palmisano is one of many students Wood Hudson CEO Julia Carter, PhD and her staff have trained to become scientists.
Ann Thompson
From left: Mt. St. Joe student Aaron Palmisano is one of many students Wood Hudson CEO Julia Carter, Ph.D., and her staff are training or have trained to become scientists.

By 2025 BE NKY, formerly Tri-ED, projects jobs in the life sciences industry in Northern Kentucky will grow by 30%, as WVXU reported last year.

Thermo Fischer Scientific has already announced a $59 million expansion which will create 200 full-time jobs at its Highland Heights lab, and in Newport, Ethos Labs is making a $2.2 million investment.

Sometimes it can be hard to find people to fill those science openings, but the president and CEO of Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory in Newport is doing her part to train future scientists with hopes of keeping them in the area.

Wood Hudson is in its 42nd year and it’s easy to see why CEO Julia Carter, Ph.D., has such a passion for cancer research.

"My mother was a Wood. My father was a Hudson. And they both came from families of nine and between the in-laws and the siblings, 18 of them had cancer. So, I grew up with, 'Who has cancer this year?' "

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Carter and her husband were determined to make a difference. For years they have trained undergraduates how to do basic scientific techniques that are required to work in a cancer lab. Carter recently added molecular biologist Erik Bey to her staff to teach different aspects of biology.

"The first things the students do when they come from their universities without the experience of working in a BSL hood is understand how the hood works to protect you and how to work to protect the cells and then culture your cells, grow them, freeze them in order to store them and get them back out, and then do experiments with them," Bey explains.

Wood Hudson Senior Research Scientist Erik Bey and NKU senior Mia Tran.
Ann Thompson
Wood Hudson Senior Research Scientist Erik Bey and NKU senior Mia Tran.

Bey was working with Northern Kentucky University senior Mia Tran from Vietnam. "I want to extend my career in cancer research, so this is a very good opportunity for me to gain experience as being a cancer researcher," Tran says.

On this day she was learning the biology of breast cancer and experimenting with what effect changing the expression of certain genes could have on tumors. Down the hall, Mt. St. Joseph student Aaron Palmisano was working with skin cancer slides. He says what he's learning could be applied to many scientific fields.

"I'm looking towards a career in somewhat of environmental science," he says. "So that could be anything really. I'm keeping my options open. I'm specifically a chemistry major with a sustainability studies minor, so this is a great experience for me in the lab with chemistry and just sort of putting everything together that I've learned in the classroom into the real world."

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Tran and Palmisano are among hundreds who have been trained by Carter and her staff. She proudly says, "We have 150 former students who are now professional scientists, with Ph.D.s or practicing physicians or dentists and countless nurses."

Upstairs in the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory is a large room with floor-to-ceiling metal shelves. They're filled with boxes containing 2 million tissue samples.

Carter explains the cancer tissue comes from St. Elizabeth after the hospital no longer needs to hold it on site. It's these samples that Wood Hudson and the student scientists it's training study for their cancer research.

Last week staff were busy cataloging another 93,000.

For years, Wood Hudson has worked with Eli Lilly to discover new cancer drugs. One even went into clinical trials. Scientists at the Newport lab have also worked with the EPA on the hazards associated with chlorination.

But Carter's proudest achievement always comes back to her students. "I think the biggest thing that we have done, it's been the students," she says. "The students are our biggest achievement. It's like throwing a pebble in the water and the ripples have gone out across the country."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.