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Staff Q&A: Kayla Palmer, MS, Basic Science Administration

Kayla Palmer

Kayla Palmer, MS, research administrator in the Basic Science Administration, supports investigators in the Departments of Microbiology-Immunology, Neuroscience, and Cell and Developmental Biology.

Read a Q&A with Palmer below.


Where are you originally from?

I grew up in the city of Bloomington-Normal, Ill., about 2.5 hours south of Chicago.

What is your educational background?

After graduating high school, I attended DePaul University in Lincoln Park where I received my Bachelor of Science in biological sciences in 2017. I then relocated to Baltimore, Mary. to pursue a Master of Science in biotechnology with concentrations in regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies at Johns Hopkins University.

Please tell us about your professional background.

Prior to joining the staff and faculty here at Feinberg, I coupled my graduate studies and research with my work at the American Physiological Society (APS). While at APS, my primary focus was working with early stage investigators, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates to promote opportunities and exploration through physiological research, with a specific focus on reaching underrepresented racial and ethnic groups not typically recognized in science, technology, engineering and medical fields.

While I completed my graduate program at Johns Hopkins, I worked with a philanthropic and science-minded group called eNABLE alliance, combining the need for prosthetic appendages like mechanical forearms and hands with functioning fingers to individuals across the globe with congenital deformities and veterans who lost their limbs in battle.

In total, I was able to assist with grant writing, administering and coordinating projects, awards and programs for close to 800 students, researchers and educators.

Why do you enjoy working at Northwestern?

I enjoy working at Northwestern for a variety of different reasons and in my short time at Feinberg, there is always another new thing to add to list. My work environment and day-to-day operations really allows me to explore all aspects of research projects, from inception to close, which makes me appreciate the process and the innovation it takes to be a scientist even more. I also appreciate the many opportunities to learn more about other departments, participate in forums throughout the university and sit in on discussions about the research being conducted throughout the organization.

How do you help scientists at the medical school?

My primary responsibilities as a research administration is to support my eight principal Investigators and their lab members in the proposal development, submission, management and closeout of their projects. Each phase of support requires a different set of skills, including assisting with communication with grant officials, managing finances and assisting with program requirements so that research continues to perform well and with few hassles.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Working remotely since my hiring has limited my exploration into the job, but working with and learning more about each project my PIs are working on is extremely fascinating. I enjoy reading about the work that is being proposed during development, as well as seeing how external factors can cause fluctuation in the research being conducted, like how COVID has effect some of the research two or three years in versus the research that only just begun in the last 6 or so months.

What exciting projects are you working on?

Drs. Chisholm, Rasmussen-Torvik and McNally in the Center of Genetic Medicine are working on a project that involves clinical trials related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the recruitment has been slightly delayed, the project is beginning to pick up momentum and I can’t wait to see what results come of the project as a hole.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m not completing my duties as a research administrator, I am finding a new course to take on Coursera or working on business proposals for dream ventures to pursue with my two sisters. For fun, I love to cook and often challenge myself to finding new and inventive ways to create tasteful meals from the remnants in the pantry or refrigerator right before “grocery shopping day”, though I’ve most recently taken a liking to baking after binge watching The Great British Bake Off and attempting some of Paul Hollywood’s most famous recipes. I am also a card and board game connoisseur of sorts; I’m always challenging someone to play against me in one the games within my 32-game collection.

Anything else we should know about you? I’m a volunteer-aholic! Though the pandemic has proven many limitations to the places and people I can serve, you can find me participating in 2-3 service projects every month. Whether that is helping my church’s food pantry organize the grocery baskets for our community, being a “day buddy” at a nursing home, or being a virtual math tutor, I find that the serving is the warmest gift you can give someone.