Women in STEM – Crystal Lantz

s-ladyologyCrystal Lantz – Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Maryland – College Park

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Life Inside the Lab:

What is your research topic? I study the development and maintenance of plasticity in the primary visual cortex. More specifically, I look at how inhibitory neurons gate plasticity in different ways throughout life and I investigate ways to manipulate this control for the treatment of amblyopia.

lantz_deskCrystal Lantz is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Maryland – College Park in Neuroscience. Follow her on Twitter @BoozyBrain.

What was your best day of science? I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good days in science. Any day that my electrophysiology rig is working well and I’m collecting good data makes me happy, as does trying new experiments that work the very first time. Recently I piloted an optogenetics study using new equipment that I built myself. Amazingly, it worked perfectly and as predicted the very first time I tried it (not so much the next few times). That was a very good day.

What was your worst day in science? Worst days are usually when science doesn’t work because I did something thoughtless, or when things just don’t work for no reason. When I was in graduate school I was doing a blood alcohol time course and had come in at 2am to start my experiment, I was taking a time point every 2 hours for 24 hours. At the end of the day I had to run each sample in an old photospectrometer, which decided that it would no longer work. I was exhausted and so very frustrated.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? My favorite piece of equipment is my electrophysiology rig. I built it, I perfected it and it’s my baby. It gets me almost all of my data and very rarely lets me down.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in a town called Harrisonburg. Home of the Blue Streaks and JMU Dukes.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I always wanted to be a scientist. When I was in elementary school my uncle lived with us while attending college, he was studying science (and went on to PhD, post-doc and now a professor). To say his excitement for science rubbed off on me would be an understatement.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? To relax after work I generally craft or cook. I really enjoy baking, sewing and painting watercolors. On weekends I’m usually hiking, backpacking, or fly fishing

Do you have any fun hobbies? I like to think all of my hobbies are fun! I really enjoy fly fishing as it has a wonderful sense of community as well as gets me to backpack and hike in places I wouldn’t normally go. I’ve fly fished in diverse places from the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to the Salt Flats of Belize.

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What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask questions, ask for help, ask to work in a lab. Even in high school you can get experience at local labs. You cannot get anywhere without reaching out, and you will always benefit from asking questions and asking for help.

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I don’t think I have just one person, but a community of STEM oriented people that inspired me throughout my youth. I’ve already mentioned my uncle (Dr. Chris Lantz), but there was my incredible 8th grade science teacher, Ms. Ritchie, whose excitement for science was infectious. Then the entire team of STEM teachers at my high school, Harrisonburg High School, that were always supportive, passionate and on the cutting edge of science. There was Mrs. Flick, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Blosser, Mr. White and Mr. Lineweaver just to name a few. It’s amazing how many things I use that I learned in high school. Don’t ever think high school math is worthless. I routinely use geometry, calculus and algebra in my work.

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? I’ve always loved Neuroscience, from the first time I saw a drawing of a neuron in Mr. Blosser’s biology class. There was a brief time when I considered going to medical school, I spent 2 years working as a scribe in various emergency rooms, but I decided medicine wasn’t for me. I ended up pursuing science and a PhD because I like research. I like working at the bench, asking questions and finding ways to try to answer them.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Getting to the end. PhDs are hard. Grad school is hard. It’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when other students in your cohort are graduating and your experiments keep failing. I learned, probably too late, the best mantras for grad school are “Don’t try to be the fastest” and “Don’t compare yourself to others.”

 

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Fun

What is your favorite desk snack? Sourdough bread and cheese. So good, can make a bad day good.

What would you listen to while writing? I tend to listen to a random playlist of classical music. In high school a teacher told me that listening to classical music raises your IQ (it doesn’t really), so I got into the habit of listening to classical while studying. That habit stuck with me all the way through my PhD and is now my writing music. Coding music and surgical music are very different.

Any other fun facts about you… While I was in graduate school I took two weeks off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my mom, it was totally worth it.Lantz_kilimanjaro

What color socks are you wearing? Grey/Blue Darn Tough.tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Follow Crystal on Twitter @BoozyBrain

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