By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
Jasmine Grey has come a long way from the time she was an All-Iron Division soccer player for the Naugatuck Greyhounds, and her journey is far from over.
The next destination for Grey, who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Western Connecticut State University with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry in May, is Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., where she will pursue her doctorate in molecular biology.
Grey is passionate about pathogens and wants to study disease to find better ways to treat or cure them. At Johns Hopkins, she will be part of a team that will rotate in a lab focused on disease caused by microbes or cancer.
“With what is going on in the world today with the coronavirus, that is what I want to be working on: infectious disease,” Grey said. “But I’m also open to working on other things because the point of getting your PhD is not to find the cure but to find the mechanism within the disease that can help find the cure. I guess it goes back to being a good teammate like I was on the soccer field; being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”
This is far from tinkering to discover the next thingamabob or thingamajig. Grey will continue her journey of discovery in pursuit of changing the world.
The milestones — on the pitch and in the classroom — have been numerous and impressive along the way.
Last year, Grey earned one of the 10 Barry Goldwater Scholarship postgraduate awards given to college students in Connecticut. The other students were from Yale, UConn and Wesleyan.
She was awarded the Isabelle T. Farrington Scholarship in the 2018-19 school year, named most outstanding biology major at Western in 2018, and earned the Annapurna Kanungo Award this year.
As a defender for the women’s soccer team, Grey was a two-time first team All-Conference Little East player, Little East Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, named to the All-Conference All-Academic team in 2019, and was second team All-Conference Little East player in 2017.
Grey certainly left her mark on the women’s soccer program, which in turn helped to mold her into the achiever that she’s become.
“It was my soccer coach and two other professors that really pushed me to become the best that I can be,” Grey said. “They saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. They made me more committed, and my coach told me you have to do really well in class or you can’t play. They really inspired me to do the very best that I can.”
The result of Grey’s commitment not only astounded those around her, but she actually surprised herself.
“If you had told me in my freshman year that I would be going on to pursue a PhD at Johns Hopkins, I would have looked at you like, ‘I’m not too sure about that,’” Grey said.
Growing up in the borough, Grey said her father, Les, provided the academic inspiration.
“We would go home and compare report cards and it pushed us to want to do better. But once I got to college, I was challenged and achieved things that I could only dream of when I was in high school,” she said.
Along the way Grey delved into her field as a researcher as part of five student independent studies at Western.
In 2018, she participated in Western’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program with Dr. Hannah Reynolds working on a project to detect a wildlife fungal pathogen. The program ended up carrying over into Grey’s senior year.
“She definitely helped me to become a better researcher,” Grey said about Reynolds. “It really helped me with my motivation and my organizational skills. The feeling of contributing to something bigger than yourself was so rewarding.”
In 2019, she participated in a SURF research program at Cornell University and was eventually given major responsibilities because she showed her mentor, Dr. Sofie Delbare, and principal investigator, Dr. Mariana Wolfner, she was capable of performing experiments on her own.
“Dr. Reynolds, my adviser, suggested I apply and I was shocked I was accepted because Cornell is a very prestigious school,” Grey said. “It was a great introduction to what graduate school is going to be like.”
While the past four years have prepared Grey for her next steps at Johns Hopkins, there is some anxiety and excitement that comes with traveling a new path.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” Grey said. “It’s a new place, a new path and certainly a new journey. The first summer SURF project was shockingly difficult beyond belief. It really put it all into perspective of what you are getting into.”
“I would like to thank all of my coaches and teachers from Naugatuck for helping me to be the best person I could be,” she added. “Also, my professors at WCSU and my parents for guiding me to the success and achievements I’ve made so far.”