By Temperance Rowell
Kelsey Gray is a graduate student in the curriculum of Genetics and Molecular Biology at UNC Chapel Hill where she works in the laboratory of Greg Matera. There she studies the disease spinal muscular atrophy, which is similar to the well-known disease ALS, but mainly affects children rather than adults. Even though this is a human disease, Kelsey uses fruit flies to help her understand how spinal muscular atrophy develops.
Kelsey’s love of science began with her parents. Her father is a freshwater biologist and her mother is a nurse. Together, Kelsey was exposed to the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems from her dad and patient care from her mother. “I started going out on the lakes with my dad as young as two years old. Just seeing the lake, plants, and bugs was really interesting and jumpstarted my interest in science.”
This interest in science continued throughout her life and into her time at UNC, where she participated in NC DNA Day before joining CONNECT. Through her involvement with CONNECT she could form a continuous relationship with her students. “My favorite part of research, and science in general, is having the opportunity to share it with others… I like to use these interactions about science to motivate others to pursue topics they find interesting.”
After Kelsey earns her PhD, she ultimately wants to pursue a career where she teaches undergraduates. She wants to incorporate undergraduate research involving public health in those courses and to engage in biology education research, where she would determine how these undergraduate research experiences affect her students.
Outside of the lab, Kelsey enjoys being active and participates in running, yoga, and hiking. She also enjoys cooking and baking, though she was picky with food as a child and would need her mother to peel grapes before she would eat them. Luckily, she has since learned to eat grapes as they are.