Meet Crystal, a biologist who also cheers for the St. Louis Rams. Crystal will be leading the Big Cheer for Science at a local school on Friday, 4/27 at 1:30 pm ET. Thousands of students across the country will do the same, one-minute cheer at the same time then measure shaking produced by their cheer using sensors provided by the United States Geological Survey. Participating schools then become part of an important USGS network to monitor future seismic activities!
This event will be anchored in Washington, DC, where cheerleaders from the Ravens, Redskins and Wizards (among other teams) will lead thousands of participants in the Big Cheer at the USA Science and Engineering Festival! Boy will all those people be surprised to learn that all those cheerleaders are also scientists and engineers! Learn more about the Big Cheer in Washington, DC, here. Learn how you can get involved in the Big Cheer (wherever you are), here.
Ok, it’s time to meet Crystal!
SciCheer: You have a biology degree. What made you choose that field of study?
Crystal: I have always had an interest in science. In college my major was biology, but I wasn’t sure about which route I wanted to take within the field. It took a tragic moment in my life for me to realize what I wanted to do. In 2006 I lost my Nanny to Alzheimer’s. She was an inspiration in my life and always encouraged me to follow my dreams. Watching her go through a deteriorating disease I knew that I wanted to do something more to give back to the research of Alzheimer’s. As a college graduate and full time employee with Sigma Aldrich, I am making great strides to further pursue my dreams of making an impact in the research of Alzheimer’s.
Also, I was drawn to biology because I find it to be versatile and it offered me an abundance of opportunities. My biology degree would allow me to go to medical school or to be a geneticist, toxicologist, environmentalist, or even a pharmaceutical sales representative. The possibilities in biology are endless. This multifaceted major intrigued me because it allows me to explore additional areas beyond research.
SciCheer: Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Crystal: One of my favorite courses was microbiology. This course that gave me insight into many different microorganisms present in our environment. The course covered the defense mechanisms in our immune system and how our body reacts when attacked. The elements of this course outlined and increased my interest in pursuing disease research.
You’re an associate scientist. Can you describe what you do ?
Crystal:I analyze and perform research on different projects focusing on proteins and antibodies that are a part of drug research, medical diagnostics, and disease research. Incidentally, I was starting my season as a Rams cheerleader when I was interviewing for this job. We were taking etiquette classes and media training which helped me to become more poised and refined with my interviewing skills. When I interviewed for my current position my supervisor told me he admired my willingness to learn and my excellent interviewing which I feel were enhanced by the training I received from the Rams organization.
SciCheer: You’ve just completed your rookie season with the St. Louis Rams. What was the experience like for you, and why you did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
Crystal: My rookie season with the Rams has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have made lifetime friends and learned things about myself that I never knew before. The experience has made me better at time management and has encouraged me to put my fears aside. I have been dancing since I was eight years old. In college I was afraid to try out for the dance team and I let my fear of failing deter me from continuing with my passion. I always dreamed about being a Rams Cheerleader, and I told myself that I would not let my fear take over again. Going through the audition process taught me it’s worth fighting for what you want.
SciCheer:Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
Crystal: It’s hard to say which came first because my love for dance has always been a part of my life and I have had an interest in science since I was in second grade. All throughout my education science was always my favorite subject even in high school. My passion for dancing was the same. I always found a way to be a part of a dance class, dance team, or praise dancing at my church.
SciCheer: Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your professional experiences? (Are you taken seriously?)
Crystal: I would say that it has helped my professional experiences. Most people in my professional environment know me as a scientist. When they find out I am a Rams Cheerleader they are eager to learn about my role as a professional dancer. To me, this is one of the joys of my role because I get to oppose the stereotypes, and promote the reality of the NFL cheerleader as a smart, intelligent, and beautiful young women.
SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Crystal: My best cheerleading experience was this past January when I had the opportunity to accompany the Rams to Hong Kong. We performed in the Chinese New Years parade in front of thousands of people and even more people watching from their homes. Seeing the happy faces in the crowd, representing the United States, dancing , and being along side my fellow teammates was on of the best experiences of my life. Being in Hong Kong was a once and a lifetime experience and I was so grateful that I had the chance to be a part of the experience
SciCheer: Best science-related experience?
Crystal: My best science experience was on my first day of work. I had only worked in a lab during college which was somewhat different from a professional laboratory. On my first day I made so many mistakes that I thought my employer would reconsider his decision. But it was that day that I realized making those mistakes allowed me to learn. I also learned that there were people that had been working there for years and still made mistakes on a daily basis.
SciCheer: If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Crystal:I would not. Although I’m not an award winning scientist do believe my contributions to research help on a larger scale. After all it takes multiple pieces to make a puzzle and I’m honor to contribute to the bigger picture.
SciCheer: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and following another ?
Crystal: To me there is no such thing as being a geek these days. If anything it’s considered respectable to be smart and have an education. Studying and doing well in school should be a number one priority however it’s important to pursue your other dreams as well. As a child I always loved to dance. It was my stress reliever when I felt overwhelmed and dancing makes me happy. I’ve always had an interest in science. I didn’t want to be a dancer full time but I didn’t want to be a scientist focused only on my career. So I found a way to satisfy both of my aspirations. Through determination and passion I managed to exceed all of my expectations by becoming a scientist and a Rams Cheerleader. Who said you can’t have the best of both worlds, you just have to believe in yourself and strive to have it all.
SciCheer: Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Crystal: I would tell myself that school is important and to take advantage of my education. I would also tell myself to remember that its important to live life and do what you love. I would tell myself to spend time with family, friends, and enjoy being a kid. Do what makes you happy.
SciCheer:What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Crystal: One thing that people may find surprising about me is that I am a little shy. At work I’m the reserved scientist that is constantly trying to stay on top of things but as a Rams Cheerleader I am able to come out my shell, talk to people, mingle, and be the bubbly person I am.
SciCheer:What are your plans for the future?
Crystal:In the future I hope that my contributions to science will help to give back to the studies of disease. I plan to continue with my masters and eventually pursue my PhD. I hope to one day manage and supervisor my own laboratory geared toward the research of diseases.
SciCheer: Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
CrystalI want to be a science cheerleader because I want to let children know that it is possible to have more than one dream and achieve it. You don’t have to pick or chose between your passions. I want more girls to be inspired to continue on with their careers in science as well as others and break down the stereotypes about cheerleaders and build a new one of character and intelligence.