Dr. Korie Grayson on Attending an HBCU

Dr. Korie Grayson on Attending an HBCU -

I know a lot of people are like, “I knew I was a scientist when I was ten years old!” but I had no idea. I was like, what is a scientist? Scientists were not in my family; in fact, you were either a factory worker or you went into the military, or you just did something else. So school wasn’t necessarily always an option, specifically for my parents and my grandparents. 

I was able to see that hard work that my parents put in, and they wanted something for me and my siblings which they hadn’t done, which is go to college. I’m the second oldest of five, but I’m closest to my oldest brother. He’s kind of like my pusher but also my competition because I know I’m the favorite, even though he says he is. But we know that I am! My brother basically has a PhD in the military and also has a Masters in Business. So needless to say, when our parents told us to go to college, we took it seriously and great results came out of that. 

I went to two different high schools but graduated from Maury High School in Norfolk, VA. I was more interested in playing basketball and doing photography than anything else. But I took this AP Chemistry class and we were a proud squad. We made sure that we studied together, got everything done, and that sparked my interest in chemistry and science in general. It was great because I had a guidance counselor who really pushed me. Senior year, all I wanted to do was play basketball. I didn’t really want to take all of these AP courses but my counselor suggested otherwise. I took three AP classes my senior year and my counselor made me apply to 14 different schools. I received almost $400,000 in scholarships to attend a university. That was really good for me and my mom. We didn’t necessarily know how we were going to pay for college but working hard, getting my grades in, and even taking classes that I couldn’t stand, like AP Literature, got me to where I could get a full ride into a university.

I had a dream school, but I ended up choosing the school down the street, Norfolk State University, a historically Black university in Norfolk, VA. I graduated summa cum laude a week before my brother so I rub that in his face everytime I can and tell him I am the first one to graduate from the family!

I got a full ride scholarship to Norfolk State and majored in Chemistry. That’s where I met my first Black PhD holder. In fact, two! One was the program director and the other one was my General Chem professor, who would literally almost make us cry after tests, but she was a great mentor in my life. And so that yielded into 11 of us graduating with chemistry degrees as one class. That’s kind of unheard of when you’re in a place where you can see so many people that look like you, specifically Black students that are also interested in chemistry. These were study partners, these were my tutors, these were my friends.

Dr. Korie Grayson on Attending an HBCU -
Norfolk State University, Class of 2012

One of my friends from the program now has her doctorate in Material Science & Engineering. Another friend is in med school trying to be a pediatrician. So many great things have come from this program and programs like these, where you actually are being surrounded, have the support from people to get you to that next step, and have these opportunities brought to you.


Dr. Korie is passionate about increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM by illustrating that representation matters. Organizations Dr. Korie is involved with include:

  • BlackInCancer, an organization that aims to strengthen networks and highlight Black excellence in cancer research and medicine
  • STEMNoire, a holistic wellness and research retreat for Black women in STEM
  • STEM Success Summit, a free virtual conference designed to equip and empower over 2000 young adults, who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, to launch and build a successful STEM career with purpose
  • Women Doing Science, an international movement to increase the visibility of women in science

Want to hear even more from Dr. Korie? Click here to see her share more about her background and STEM journey during SWE’s #Redefine event in December 2021, and follow Dr. Korie on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn


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