Head of the class

County’s first Wells Scholar aspires to be brain scientist

Senior Corina Greiner is first in her class, an athlete, homecoming queen, Spanish Honor Society co-president, a university medical researcher, a volunteer, a Tenshi Goju Kai Karate Sensei and a 4-H member.

Now, she also is a Wells Scholar — the first from Brown County High School.

About 800 students worldwide had applied to be Wells Scholars at Indiana University. The award is named for IU’s 11th president, Herman B Wells.

Greiner is one of 25 students who will receive a full tuition and fees and a living stipend for four years. Wells Scholars may also choose to spend one year studying abroad. Greiner said she plans to study biology and Spanish and wants to minor in neuroscience and psychology.

“I plan on being busy,” she said.

Her research interests are the relationship between neurocognitive functioning and chronic brain illnesses, like brain tumors, and the development of pediatric medical treatments for those illnesses.

She plans to attend graduate school so that she can be a pediatric neurologist — her dream since she was 12 years old.

That year, her 5-year-old sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Greiner was old enough to know her sister had a serious illness, but not quite old enough to understand the consequences.

“Just going through the procedures, it was pretty traumatic, but I also became very curious as to what was happening to her,” she said.

“As a result, I became interested in how research is completed and then how that research is also accepted by the scientific community.”

“We were very open with the kids about the challenges and what was going on,” said her father, Clark.

“From that adversity came an interest that she has been able to turn into something more meaningful for her that could potentially lead to a career in the medical field.”

Her sister, Selena, is now a healthy sixth-grader.

“Because of her successful outcome, I really just can’t help but want to make that happen for other families,” Corina said.

Her ultimate dream is to work in the same office as the neurosurgeon who operated on her sister, Dr. Daniel Yoshor, at Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

That goal was partially accomplished when she toured his lab last summer and was able to meet his graduate students.

“I was like, ‘How can I be you in 10 years? Tell me how I can be you,’” she said.

“One of the graduate students said, ‘Corina, I really like you. Do you want to go upstairs and hold a human brain?’ and I was like, ‘Yes I would love to!’”

“It’s a lot tougher than what you might imagine. I would think it would be kind of squishy, but it’s like, firm,” she said.

‘Dedicated scholar’

High school English and Spanish teacher Alice Mannix nominated Greiner for the Wells Scholarship. She has nominated students for it since 1992.“She embodies everything that an advanced scholar demonstrates,” Mannix said. “She’s a dedicated scholar. It’s not that she’s a high school student, she’s a dedicated scholar.

“I don’t think she’ll quite understand the prestige of it all until she graduates from IU and applies to graduate school, and next to her name says ‘Wells Scholar, Indiana University,’” Mannix said.

Greiner’s parents, Clark and Corina, were elated when their daughter received the call in December.

The oldest of four, Corina has always set out to achieve her goals, Clark said.

“We never have to come in and say, ‘Corina sit down and do your homework. Pay attention to that.’ She’s just very focused, she’s very goals-oriented. She identifies a goal and breaks it down to try and identify what she needs to do to accomplish that,” he said.

Over the summer, Corina applied to participate in the IU Project SEED program, an internship for high school students interested in doing science and engineering research at the college level.

Corina was placed in IU assistant professor Mary Murphy’s lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Murphy studies stereotype threat and interracial interactions.

After the summer was over, Corina was invited to continue assisting in research. She ended up leading a study in the lab.

Corina wrote her essay for the Wells scholarship about race relations and the achievement gap in inner-city schools between minorities and whites and ways to mitigate the problem. The question was “Discuss a topic that thoughtful people might disagree on.”

Each day, Corina leaves the high school at 12:30 p.m. and drives to Murphy’s lab where she works until about 5 p.m. before heading home.

“I would say I am a reflective person, so I really appreciate my driving time so that I can go back and think about what the day has been like and how I feel about it,” she said about how she handles stress.

Her parents appreciate that Brown County is close enough to IU to allow their daughter such an opportunity. The family moved here from Missouri when Corina was a freshman.

They also are thankful for the volunteer opportunities Brown County has provided, including teaching self-defense at the Silver Linings Women’s Shelter, helping organize pancake breakfasts and chili dinners at St. Agnes Catholic Church, and folding clothes and stocking shelves at St. Vincent de Paul Society, to name a few.

“We as a community often overlook where we live, and I think that’s been an important role and what’s really helped her succeed at that, because of the encouragement of the community and what it has to offer,” Clark said.

Clark said he also appreciates the hard work of Brown County Schools and its teachers.

“You don’t have to live in Indianapolis to do very well on things like this,” he said.