Kieran K.

Graduate Ambassador at Cornell University

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA


Graduate Program

Graduate Program: Biomedical and Biological Sciences, Combined DVM/PhD Program

Anticipated Graduation Date: 2026


Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Major: Biological Basis of Behavior (Neuroscience)

My Background

I was adopted from South Korea and grew up in the Greater Philadelphia area. I completed my bachelor's at the University of Pennsylvania with the goal of later pursuing veterinary school. To strengthen my vet application, I joined a research lab early in my undergraduate career and unexpectedly fell in love with being a biomedical scientist. With some gap time between my undergrad and grad careers, I worked as a technician in both a research lab and a veterinary hospital, undecided about continuing my path to vet school or instead pursuing a PhD program. I ultimately decided to meld my interests and joined Cornell's Combined Degree program, where I have the opportunity to complete my Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and my PhD in biomedical sciences concurrently. I am the first in my family to complete a four-year degree and the first to pursue doctoral training.

Why I chose Cornell

Cornell stood out to me because of its welcoming and supportive community. From the moment I first arrived in Ithaca during recruitment, I was engaged by a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students in a way that made me feel not only welcomed but also excited to join such a vibrant community. In addition, I was drawn to the structure of Cornell's Combined DVM/PhD program. Students in the veterinary curriculum build strong relationships with their peers and mentors through active, problem-based learning, and the Biomedical and Biological Sciences PhD program offers ample flexibility and support for students to tailor their scientific training based on their unique goals and interests. With all these factors in mind, it was easy for me to envision not only being at Cornell, but also thriving at Cornell.

My research interests

My work integrates gut biology, neuroendocrinology, and cutting-edge genomics (including single-cell transcriptomics) to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate overall metabolic health. I am interested in leveraging my clinical training to contribute towards the development of translatable therapeutic strategies for metabolic disease.

My experience at Cornell

I have learned and grown so much as a scientist, a leader, and a human being in my time at Cornell thus far – no doubt thanks to the support of my amazing network of mentors and peers here. Beyond the academic aspects of my graduate program, I am also involved in extracurricular organizations such as the BBS Graduate Student Society and the BBS Diversity & Inclusion Council, through which we are able to foster a sense of community and provide avenues to make a positive impact on our program's culture. Though the rigors of graduate school are challenging at times, interacting with my mentors and peers always brightens and energizes my spirit.

My advice for those exploring graduate school

Take time to filter out others' expectations, figure out what YOU want to do, and then surround yourself with people – mentors, advisors, peers, friends, family – who you can trust will support you in your endeavors. Navigating graduate school and academia can be fraught (especially if you are a first-generation student), so assemble a team with different perspectives who can help you make the best decisions for YOU.

I'm passionate about...

Being Outdoors Travel Reading Listening to Music Art & Animation Cooking & Eating Nature & Wildlife Walking my dog Veterinary Medicine Spending Time With Friends and Family

I'm involved with...

BBS Graduate Student Society BBS Diversity and Inclusion Council Cornell Life Sciences Diversity Recruitment Weekend Expanding Your Horizons Cornell Cornell Association of Veterinary Scientists Women's Club Ice Hockey
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