Walter Friday has spent his life devoted to the nutritional needs of others.
First, he worked with Domino’s Pizza in the Chapel Hill area, and now as a research laboratory technician on the research team of Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, director of the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). Zeisel is known worldwide for his research on the nutrient choline and nutrition.
Friday’s supervisor Research Assistant Professor Mihai G. Mehedint, MD, has high praises for him. “Activating as a research technician in a competitive research environment where complex translational studies are being conducted on animal models, human and in vitro studies, Walter dedicated his full potential to enhance the knowledge accumulated at Rowan-Cabarrus and acquired new research skills fast.”
His skills are being applied to one of the team’s major lines of research involving fetal brain development and maternal nutrient deficiencies. A Kannapolis native, Friday moved back to the area to get married. He started at Rowan-Cabarrus in 2008 graduating in 2010 with a two-year degree in applied science.
“I went in the program more for the promise that the research campus had and found myself really enjoying it,” he said.
With a degree in economics from UNC Chapel Hill, Friday didn’t have any science background to fall back on. He found he did well in science classes like biology, chemistry, basic laboratory techniques, microbiology, cell culture, immunological techniques, recombinant DNA techniques and bioprocessing.
His first internship was with NC State University’s (NCSU) NC MarketReady on a grant working with tomato growers to analyze and refine the cleanliness of their processing plants. Friday went to the plants collected samples and completed the microbiology studies. He then worked part-time in the lab of postharvest physiologist Penelope Perkins-Veazie, PhD with NCSU. When a position became available in Zeisel’s lab, he was recommended for it.
Friday’s responsibilities involve PCR, genotyping, managing the lab’s mouse colony, collecting tissue samples, cell culture, histology, immunohistochemistry, staining and imaging. “One of the things I like about this job is that the days are always different,” he commented. “I come in everyday, and there’s something different to do.”
Now 48, he admits that his new career still surprises him: “It is a pretty cool thing to be doing and really kind of surprises me a lot from time to time.” Smiling, he added, “As Monty Python would say, and ‘now for something completely different.’”