Crystal Johnson ~ Cultivating Student Science


Sparking A Fire

One of Dr. Crystal Johnson's Ph.D. advisors managed to master having a research –intensive lab and an outreach-intensive lab, taking on nearly every student who showed interest. What Crystal learned from this was: (1) it's possible and, (2) it's good for you to make research important to regular people. "He also took on a lot of minority students and that always impressed me," says Crystal. "In fact, I nominated him for an award."

Crystal grew up in a small town in Mississippi, not having any idea what a scientist was supposed to look like or what it meant to work in a lab. She also likes to tell people that she was not a straight A student, but was excited about doing research and was a hard worker. "You don't have to be a 4.0 student and don't have to go to private high school," she says. "You can go to public high school and do fine."

Crystal was told she would never get a Ph.D. – which of course just lit a fire under her, and made her work that much harder. Her experience frames her approach today. "When I interview potential graduate or high school students I don't just look at their grades," she says. "I interview them personally to see if they have that fire."

Sharon Walker