Women in FEMMES

Crystal Collier


Crystal Collier

When did you first become interested in science?

I’ve always been interested in science. In grade school, math and science were my two favorite classes. We had a lot of hands-on activities in each class – from collecting rocks to building terrariums – so the classes were always really engaging and interesting.


How did you decide to study neuroscience in college?

In my AP Psychology class in High school, we had a unit about the brain and I thought it was the most fascinating topic I’d ever learned about. When I first got to Michigan, I looked through class listings for any major I thought sounded interesting. I loved all the classes for the neuroscience major, so I decided it was perfect for me.


How did you get involved in research?
I knew I wanted to gain research experience when I started at Michigan, so I joined the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and they guided me in the process of choosing a lab. First, I joined Dr. Mishina’s lab where we studied Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes skeletal abnormalities.

Then I applied to the Beckman Scholars Program which provided me with a scholarship for one academic year and two summers to do research. It also helps fund research supplies and travel to conferences. After I received the scholarship, I joined the lab of Dr. Haoxing Xu to study lysosome ion channels.


What are your current research interests?
My current research focused on how lysosome functioning is involved in neurodegeneration. Right now, I’m looking at calcium signaling to and from the lysosome.


What advice do you have for young girls interested in the STEM fields?
I would tell young girls interested in STEM fields to never give up. Don’t be discouraged if it seems difficult – if you apply yourself and study, it will get easier quickly. Follow your passion and stay interested. Seek out other people in positions you want to be in and learn from them as mentors.


What challenges have you overcome or faced in your education or career?
Throughout my studies, but more in middle and high school, teachers often tried to get me to change my path or scale back my ambition. I could have let this discourage me, but it just motivated me more to keep doing what I’m doing.


What do you want to do after you finish college?
I want to become a Physician Scientist so I want to go to medical school and earn an MD/PhD and then work in academic medicine focusing on neuroscience and neurosurgery.


Who has been an inspiration to you in the STEM fields?
I’ve had some teachers that really believed in me and made sure I focused on my studies. One high school teacher nominated me for a National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) Fellowship in Medicine and Health Care because she believed in me. That experience was really important towards me continuing to pursue my passions.


What are your hobbies?
I like to play the piano, take photos, scrapbook, and read.


Outside of neuroscience, what other areas of STEM do you like?
I took a public health class that really broadened my perspective on the world and made me realize the importance of preventative medicine. Attending the Beckman Scholars Conference last year also helped me realize how much amazing science is out there!


What do you like about working with FEMMES?
I really like the chance to get young girls inspired to follow their interests in science. They’re really fun to work with and when I see their excitement in science, it makes me even more excited about science.


Crystal Collier at the microscope


Marianne Cowherd

Marianne Cowherd is currently a high school student in Ann Arbor. She has been actively involved in science and a big supporter of FEMMES! Click on her picture to see her share her passion for science at the TEDxYouth event!

What first got you interested in STEM? Any particular moment or experience?I first got interested in STEM when I went to a summer camp where I learned about how the human body works. I was really interested in the things I was learning and got to do a fun craft with different colors of marshmallows. I knew that I really liked STEM when I looked at the marshmallows and could see what they represented in the human body.What are your current research/professional/learning interests?

Right now I am really interested in using computers to figure things out about how diseases work and how we can treat diseases more effectively. I also am taking a physics class at school, which is really fun! My class is taking a field trip to Cedar Point to do a project about the science behind rollercoasters.


How have you overcome challenges you have faced in your STEM education or career?

For me the most challenging part of STEM was figuring out what I could do with my interest in science. I knew that I liked it a lot but didn’t know about anything other than classes at school that I could get involved in. I got really lucky and found a place to do research and learn about STEM outside of school but at the beginning I wasn’t sure if there were any opportunities for me.


What keeps you excited and interested in STEM learning/teaching/research/practice?

STEM is exciting because I’m constantly learning new things about how the world works. I love being able to recognize something I’ve learned about in and everyday experience. I also enjoy every time I finally make something work that I’ve been having trouble with. Seeing the results of a process that I struggled with is really rewarding and that experience keeps me going.