Graduate’s career focuses on cancer research

Growing up with a father as a science teacher and a mom a physical therapist, Laura (Driver) Peek was exposed to the sciences at an early age.

“It was ingrained in me during my childhood,” said Peek, a 2002 Baker graduate who majored in chemistry before receiving her Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry. “We couldn’t go on a family vacation without my dad pointing out rock structures.”

Peek comes from a long line of family members who attended Baker. Her father, Roger, is a 1975 graduate and taught at Williamsburg schools for 32 years. Both of her brothers, Lee, ’03, and Scott, ’07, and a great uncle, Richard Driver, ’61, are Baker graduates.

In addition to being encouraged by her parents, Peek’s curiosity was piqued by a high school teacher her junior year at Williamsburg.

“Our teacher taught the class like a college course and expected a lot out of the students,” Peek said. “From then on I knew I wanted to do something related to chemistry, developing drugs to cure diseases. Science is my passion and I love it.”

Peek follows that passion every day. She works in research and development at a growing company of Oncimmune USA LLC in De Soto.

“I enjoy the excitement of planning the studies, not knowing what the end result will be and being involved in the process of trying to solve a problem while working to overcome challenges along the way,” she said.

Peek’s research focuses on developing blood tests for early detection of tumor-forming cancers, including lung, breast and ovarian cancers.

“It is a very motivating cause to work for,” said Peek, who lives with her husband, Zach, and two sons, Charlie and Henry, in Basehor.

Her time studying the sciences at Mulvane Hall prepared her to follow her passion.

“The liberal arts background and the well-rounded education and emphasis on critical thinking has helped me in many aspects of my career and life in general,” she said. “The coursework prepared me sufficiently and certainly gave me the background needed for grad school. I stepped right in and had no trouble transitioning.”

Peek credits a lot of her success to former Baker professor Gary Giachino.

“He was inspirational and kept me on the path of chemistry even when it was challenging,” she said. “He had such high expectations for students and wanted them to work hard and do well.”

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