My Story Started at GRCC: Corbin Jensen is working to cure childhood cancer at St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Corbin Jensen’s life-changing moment came in a GRCC classroom: a cell biology course taught by Todd Tiano, a professor in the Biological Sciences Department.

Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

“I was able to do DNA extraction and other really cool science experiments for the first time in my life,” Jensen said. “Being able to visualize what had previously been an abstract concept, like DNA, changed the way I viewed science.

“I have done countless DNA extractions and gel-electrophoresis experiments since then, and I still think it is fascinating and cool. The exposure to hands-on science is one of my favorite things about my time at GRCC.”

That moment changed more lives than just Jensen’s. The interest in biology sparked in that class led him to study it further after he left GRCC in 2014. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Michigan State University and a doctorate in cancer biology from the University of Arizona, where he received the Jim Cockrum Innovation Award.

He is now doing a research fellowship studying childhood cancers at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Jensen, who was born in Romania, credits his “underdog mentality” and the support he received at GRCC with setting him on his career path. Tiano and professor Greg Forbes encouraged him to apply for the Meijer internship program at the Van Andel Institute, and Jensen did research under the mentorship of Physical Sciences professors Jennifer Batten and Tom Neils.

“Without the help of GRCC faculty, I would not have pursued my internship at the VAI,” Jensen said. “Not only did they expose me to opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, but they were also invaluable resources after I graduated.”

Preparation can lead GRCC students to exciting opportunities, he said.

“GRCC is what you make it,” he said. “If you seek the stars, it can be a launchpad as you reach for the moon, or it can be a building with four walls and a chalkboard – the choice is up to you.”

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