Crystal Grant, PhD

she/her/hers

You can find her on Twitter: @itscrystalgrant

Education: 

  • Cornell University, Biological Science Major, Anthropology Minor, 2013
  • Emory University, PhD, Genetics and Molecular Biology, 2020

Current Job Title: Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow,  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?

I liked biology in high school but I remember really loving it once we got to the Genetics section. Everything seemed so structured and like it fit together so well, every protein had its purpose in the processes of transcription and translation–I loved how ordered and logical it seemed. I found, the more science classes I took, the more I loved learning specifically about the genetics and molecular biology parts, so it’s the field I’ve stayed in.

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.

I’ve had many people help me in my career, from my undergraduate course advisor who encouraged me to start researching, to my undergraduate PIs who trained me in how to conduct my thesis research, to my grad school mentor and friends who helped get me across the finish line in my PhD–no one gets anywhere alone, it’s all through the help of our community.

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?

I’d say Cornell was 4 straight years of doubting myself. Luckily, everyone there is also doubting themselves, so I was able to bond with friends about whether we’d make it out of there with a somewhat decent GPA. I’m grateful though because getting my Bachelors prepared me to be comfortable doubting myself and to do it less and less. So I entered my PhD knowing that there’s no topic I can’t learn and master if I really put my mind to it (the exception is Physics–that subject will never make sense to me).

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

  1. Well I went to Cornell fully expecting to go to medical school after, but my faculty advisor instead encouraged me towards research and a PhD which I’m grateful for and I know it was a better fit for me.
  2. I was actually unsure what to do after college, I knew I liked policy/politics and I knew I liked science, and those two things didn’t seem related. But I started learning about the role science PhDs can have in the government shaping policy, and it’s part of why I decided to get a PhD, so I could contribute both to policy and to scientific discovery.
  3. In my PhD, I took my first statistics class taught in R and I found I LOVED it! We had like 2 months to do this coding project and I was so excited about it I stayed up and did it all the night after we’d gotten the data. I didn’t expect that I’d love working with data so much but I’m happy that I did and it’s become something that I can’t imagine not doing in my future job (or in my down time). 

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.

I love to travel. During my PhD I got to spend a year working at a lab in the Netherlands thanks to a fellowship from the NSF. Because they have a better sense of work-life balance and allow enough time off for vacation there, I got to see a lot of Europe in that year and explore other cultures–it was a great way to do research I enjoyed while also pursuing a passion of mine. 

Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.

Whichever subjects you like, no matter how different and unrelated they may seem, there is something at the intersection and that’s where you belong. I liked science but was terrible at benchwork–then I learned about the field of bioinformatics. I loved politics and science and didn’t know which to choose–I’m now looking at careers in science policy. Whatever career you want, I promise, it exists out there if you look for it (and if it doesn’t you can create it).

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