CHIAKI KAWAJIRI, SPECIAL TO THE BALTIMORE SUN
May 17, 2012
Tsehai Grell could only smile when she heard that Shirley Ann Jackson, the first black woman to earn a doctorate from MIT, would deliver Morgan State's commencement address in 2012.
Grell is about to graduate from Morgan with a 4.0 average as a chemistry major, and she's about to head to, yes, MIT to pursue her own Ph.D.
"It's very neat," she said of Saturday's serendipitous conclusion to her Morgan tenure.
Grell came to Baltimore from the Commonwealth of Dominica, a mountainous island in the Eastern Caribbean known for its multitude of rare animal species. "We say that if Christopher Columbus were to come back, Dominica would be the only island he would recognize," she said.
She discovered her love of science under a chemistry teacher who had a gift for demonstrating real-world applications. How could a coconut husk, for example, produce soap?
"You realize we would not be alive without science," she said. "Science is all around us."
Most of the island's gifted science students were expected to go into medicine, but Grell had an inkling that she might be happier doing research in a lab. She had family and friends in the United States, a few of whom studied at Morgan and praised the intimacy and rigor of its science programs. So she came to Baltimore to sort out her future.
Only a few weeks after Grell arrived at Morgan in the winter of 2010, the city experienced a historic pair of snowstorms, quite a shock for someone who had never seen snow.
"At first, I said, 'Ooh, it's so pretty, all big, fat,'" she recalled. "But then I fell asleep, and when I woke up the next morning, it was still snowing. I said, 'Guys, is this supposed to be happening?'"
She eventually dug out and discovered that the lab, where she worked on the crystallization of small particles with professor Kadir Aslan, was indeed the place for her. A summer at MIT only reinforced those thoughts.
"I definitely found what I was hoping to find," she said of her time at Morgan.
-- Childs Walker