Alumna Spotlight: Korie Grayson, Ph.D. ’20

Korie Grayson

June 29, 2020

Korie Grayson, Ph.D. ’20, is a recent graduate of the biomedical engineering doctoral program. After attending Norfolk State University as an undergraduate, she chose to pursue further study at Cornell due to its welcoming atmosphere, sense of diverse community, and collaborative nature.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I study the landscape of white blood cells that infiltrate primary prostate tumors in vivo, as well as elucidating a sensitization mechanism using current chemotherapy drugs used to treat metastatic prostate cancer to a nanoscale therapeutic that selectively kills cancer cells in 2D and 3D prostate cancer cell culture environments.

What are the larger implications of this research?

Overall, my research provides new insight into how we can tailor immunotherapy targets to mitigate tumor growth, tumor burden, and metastasis in prostate cancer patients, and how combination therapies used in a 2D and 3D setting could help overcome tumor resistance mechanisms leading to better clinical outcomes and precision/personalized medicine plans for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer patients.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

My experiences shadowing doctors, conducting research, and working at a biomedical device company inspired me to choose this field of study. Through these experiences, I saw the application of engineering principles to help solve medical problems, which made me eager to apply my skills and knowledge to help treat a disease that disproportionally effects African-American men.

What does it mean to you to be a Bouchet scholar?

To be a Bouchet scholar means to be recognized as a scholar who embraces all dimensions of diversity in people, education, and science. It is an incredible honor that I wear with pride and is an impactful way to highlight underrepresented minorities in STEM who disrupt the status quo.

How do you exemplify the five pillars of the Bouchet Society – character, leadership, advocacy, scholarship, and service?

Growing up as the second child of two enlisted parents in the U.S. Army has shaped me as a person. Values such as honesty, integrity, trust, discipline, responsibility, and cleanliness were ingrained in me along with saying “yes ma’am” and “no sir” to show signs of respect. I have been able to carry these virtues with me to help maintain my moral structure and nature. Working at a biomedical company that was regulated by the FDA, keeping student information confidential for trusting undergrads, and conducting research ethically are among the many experiences that speak to my character.

My father showed me how to be a leader. As the leader in the household and a leader at work, he always motivated and inspired me to do my best even when it came to the everyday chores in the house. He was precise, organized, and a visionary, but sensitive with great communication skills, besides yelling orders. His attributes have trickled down to me and can be seen in my guidance as a senior member in my lab, lab manager, and in past leadership positions throughout college. The Colman Leadership Program at Cornell helped me better identify attributes of leaders and how to work with a diverse group to accomplish a common goal. 

My mother taught me to not only be an advocate for myself but also for others. She treated me equally compared to my brother and always told me I can do anything he can. She always spoke up for herself and called out injustices when she encountered them. Because of her, I have become an advocate for minorities in STEM. My past roles as an LSAMP coordinator and an OADI mentor have allowed me to connect with and encourage underrepresented and first-generation students to pursue higher education. STEMNoire and Women Doing Science have allowed me to advocate for women scientists across an international platform. 

My brother challenged me academically. Bringing home good grades or the best report card was always a competition in our house. My commitment and competitive edge to my academic and scholarship performance has propelled me to such reputable institutions and honors similar to Dr. Bouchet. Being awarded a full-ride scholarship to my undergraduate institution and two fellowships for graduate school have shown me that hard work, dedication, and perseverance can lead to insurmountable support.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I enjoy fitness, meditation, travel, food, and my family and friends.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I chose Cornell because of the welcoming atmosphere and sense of diverse community and collaboration exuded by the university and its leaders. Cornell is a place that allows for ideas to be heard and spread as the motto “any person…any study” holds true.