Crystal Johnson ~ Cultivating Student Science


Dr. Crystal Johnson caught outreach fever as a participant in the NSF program Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12). "Seeing other Principal Investigators (PIs) who were outreach-friendly showed me it was possible," she says. She also learned to develop modules to more easily show junior high teachers how to adapt her research to their classrooms, as well as how to deal with Biosafety Level 2 pathogens when working with students. "Now I'm always thinking about how I can develop this into something I can do in the classroom," she says. "I've gotten pretty creative in adapting things - it's a necessity if you want to bring this to students in a hands-on way."

"Whether you're dealing with junior high, high school, undergrad, or graduate students, co-PIs or panelists reviewing your grant proposal, you have to engage. If they don't feel engaged then the science isn't accessible to them."
Crystal's commitment to outreach operates on all levels – from public lectures to working with high school, undergrad and grad students. "I'm hoping to teach tomorrow's environmental scientists and policymakers," she says. She has established the Summer Research Internship (SumRI), in which two high school students spend six to eight weeks in her lab each summer, and employs undergrad and graduate students as well. And COSEE Central Gulf of Mexico has been instrumental in providing the connections to these outreach opportunities.

Crystal is well aware of the two-way street that comes about in the process of consistently doing outreach. "It broadens your own horizons, and makes you more adaptable," she says. "I am not above being told I made a mistake or being taught by the students. That's a huge benefit."

Crystal's Education and Outreach Collaborations