JSU biomedical graduate aims to save lives at home in Cancer Alley, where industrial toxins cause harm

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University summa cum laude graduate Glasia Monét Walker earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in biomedical science, inspired by the effects of poor air and food quality from industrial toxins in her native Louisiana region known as “Cancer Alley.”

JSU summa cum laude grad Glasia Walker plans to use her biomedical degree to wipe out “Cancer Alley.”

Walker, of Edgard, Louisiana, has endured quite a few obstacles on her way toward earning a degree, including the loss of her family home during her senior year when Hurricane Ida wrought major destruction along the Gulf Coast over the summer. 

Still, she managed to excel scholastically. In fact, she far exceeded her expectations by being selected to provide a “reflective message” to her graduating Class of 2021 during commencement inside the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center on Friday, Dec. 10. Also, she was recently recognized by JSU President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., as a President’s Scholar for her high-achieving success.

By studying biomedical science, she hopes to improve conditions in Cancer Alley, an 85-mile long area along an industrial stretch of the Mississippi River in which refineries and petrochemical plants affect health. Her plans are to become a scientist at Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, with offices in 18 countries. She also desires to pursue a master’s in data science.

“Many people in Cancer Alley are elderly. Because this has been the only area they’ve known their entire life, they will not move. Most, if not all, suffer health ailments in relation to living in this area. If I cannot move the substances from this environment, I, at least, want to be a part of something to enhance the medical therapies they receive,” Walker said.

As if dealing with toxins wasn’t enough during her young adult life, breast cancer claimed the life of her godmother, who was her best friend. “Her death was extremely hard on me, but I know she would be extremely proud of me and my accomplishments.” Each of these things could have broken Walker’s spirit. However, even with her parents losing their home in the torrential storm, she pushed through her last semester with the support of family and friends. 

Never one to give up on her dreams, Walker said, “Receiving my bachelor’s degree from Thee Jackson State University is a huge accomplishment.” It is there where she honed her leadership skills. While a student, she actively served as a welcome week leader; an associate justice for the Student Government Association; a Du Bois-Harvey Honors College member; and a spring ’20 initiate of the Delta Pi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. 

“Jackson State University was an excellent choice because I wanted to have the HBCU experience. After touring the campus, I fell in love with everything Jackson State. I have met some of my best friends here as well as some outstanding professors.”

Continuing to trumpet the university, Walker said, JSU is a place “where the whole campus is for you – not just one person but an entire village. A village is the best way for me to describe the environment here at Jackson State University. My experience is one to remember. I have evolved into a leader. I have become more sociable. I have made lifelong friends who pushed me to the best of my abilities and have always been a huge part of my support system. I will forever be grateful.” 

Aside from her desire to work for Eli Lilly, she said she wants to start a nonprofit back home “to help give others in my community the same opportunities I was afforded.” 

She gives honor to God and expresses appreciation to her family (especially her grandparents); her supporting best friend Da’Naeja Porter, and other friends; and her professors in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

Beyond this, Walker said she wants to give back to JSU by recruiting others to attend the institution and by serving others.