Graduate Profile: Corey Gray

Name: Corey Gray

Bio: Corey Gray, 48years old, currenty lives in West Richland, WA. Siksika family history includes Grandson of Percy Yellowfly & Cecile Yellowfly (Sleigh).  Son of Sharon Yellowfly & Tom Gray.  Siblings are Sarah, Ari, & Steve. His current occupation is Operator at the LIGO Hanford Observatory and working for Caltech.

What are your educational & employment achievements? 

I received a Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Physics and Applied Mathematics from Humboldt State University (in northern California).  I joined the astronomy project LIGO in 1998 and at that time I joined the team building the largest ground-based gravitational detector in the world.  I spent most of my time helping to build the detector as well as eventually operate the detector with the rest of the operator team.  17-years later we made one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the century by directly detecting gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes.  This achievement is tied to Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.  This discovery also led to several awards, including the founders of LIGO receiving the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.  (I took personal time with family to visit Stockholm in Dec 2017 to celebrate outside of the Stockholm Concert Hall!)  

Although I’m shy, I was encouraged to do outreach/science communication work for the project.  Although I hated this at first, I have grown to like it and I especially like to share our science with Indigenous youth and also share how I connect Blackfoot/Indigenous culture to our science.

Having my hands touch the metal and glass of our machine which detects black holes and neutron stars smashing into each other is always an honor, but something I’m most proud of is getting to work with my mother (Sharon Yellowfly).  For our first detection, I knew this was going to be a big story.  So, I took this opportunity to recruit my mother to translate the LIGO press release into Blackfoot!  (She has since then translated all LIGO press releases into Blackfoot and just this month for the first time translated one of our Science Summaries.  I’m so proud of her!)

Oh, I also loved having the opportunity to host a “Gravitational Wave Grass Dance Special” at our 2017 Siksika Nation Fair.  This was an idea my cousin Trudy Yellowfly & I came up with and we had a lot of help from other family members, too.  

I have given several speaking engagements, keynotes, and even a TEDx Talk.

How did your education prepare you for your career? Impact your life?

Education is so important.  My undergraduate career, which not only included coursework, but also summer research, and various extracurricular activities (including involvement with several Indigenous programs at Humboldt State University), was very important to my career because it gave me many opportunities to prepare me for my professional path I am currently on.  Something I always encourage students is to do summer internships/research.  I was lucky to participate in 3 internships as an undergrad and that research was noticed by my bosses when they reviewed my resume and interviewed me.

What are the benefits of having OSCC? 

Old Sun Community College is so important to our people.  It is important to have OSCC and Siksika Nation Post Secondary Student Support Program because they facilitate our path in education, higher education, & our professional careers.  Although I do not live in Siksika, I do like to visit OSCC, and I think it is so important to have this institution there in the community.