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CRS Scientist Spotlight on Grace Foley

I came to Northwestern to pursue my PhD specifically because of the CRS and its members.  No other institution has the concentration of high quality research labs focused solely on reproductive biology, or the reputation for being at the forefront of this field. ”

Grace Foley

Grace Foley is a graduate student in Dr. Julie Kim's lab. Her research focuses on iidentifying genetic or epigenetic variants that contribute to racial disparities in endometrial cancer patients, and finding a way to ameliorate divergence in clinical outcomes. Learn more about her work and her time at CRS below.

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Name: Grace Foley

Position: PhD Graduate Student

Thesis mentor: Dr. Julie Kim  

Thesis title: Understanding Racial Disparity in Endometrial Cancer through Tumor Genomics 

What brought you to join the CRS community and what is your current position? 

After college, I joined the lab of Dr. Ken Korach as a post-baccalaureate research fellow; this was my first exposure to reproductive biology and I found that I really enjoyed learning about how the uterus functions on a cellular level.  This area of research also connects to my personal interest in gender equality, so I feel very passionate about the work I get to do.  I came to Northwestern to pursue my PhD specifically because of the CRS and its members.  No other institution has the concentration of high quality research labs focused solely on reproductive biology, or the reputation for being at the forefront of this field.  I am now a third year PhD candidate in Dr. Julie Kim’s lab.   

Could you describe your research? 

Significant racial disparities are present in patients that suffer from endometrial cancer.  This includes differences in survival, response to treatment, and frequency of aggressive subtypes.  These differences persist even in equal healthcare settings, indicating there may be underlying biological variation between racial groups.  I am interested in identifying genetic or epigenetic variants that contribute to these disparities and finding a way to ameliorate divergence in clinical outcomes.   

What aspect(s) of CRS do you find most valuable?  

I really appreciate the effort that goes into educating CRS members on nontraditional career paths.  I also love the CRS community and feel very lucky to be friends with so many people that share my passion for this work.   

What has been the most valuable aspect to your training as a reproductive scientist? 

Anything that has forced me to come up with my own scientific question and an experimental design for how to answer that question.  Things like grant writing classes, my qualifying exam, and workshops.  If you can do that, I think it means you really understand the underlying science and can contribute interesting data to the field.   

What is one piece of advice you would give to young scientists starting in their journey in science? 

I think it is really hard to be honest about what you don’t know, especially when so much of science depends on previous research.  However, I really believe that being open about what you don’t know, and prioritizing learning over knowing, leads to better science.  So, ask a bunch of questions and don’t worry about being annoying.   

What do you think will be the next big contribution in the reproductive biology field?  

I am hoping to see advancements in non-hormonal contraception and endometriosis therapeutics.  I have noticed an increasing number of attention being paid to these so called “women’s issues” and I hope that can be converted into actual progress.   

What hobbies do you have outside of the lab?   

Outside of the lab, I like to make pottery, oil paint, and run by the lake.  I also like hanging with the awesome CRS community at happy hours.