“I’ve always loved science but didn’t really realize it until my first year of undergrad,” said Crystal Khan, a fourth year graduate student in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry track now called Biochemical Mechanisms in Medicine. “I was planning to enter as a music major but after taking my first required science class I realized the arts wasn’t for me.”
Khan decided to officially change her major to biology and describes that as a first generation college graduate, she didn’t know much about career possibilities in science.
“I didn’t really know anything about science other than what I had seen in the movies,” Khan said.
Khan decided to learn more by finding a job in the lab.
“I was wandering around UT Health Science Center until a very nice professor asked me if I was ok so I told him my plan about getting a job in a lab,” she said. “He smiled and offered me some great advice to pick a department and email the chair my resume.”
After emailing her resume to faculty members at UT Health Science Center, Dr. Paul Fitzpatrick emailed her back with a job offer washing the lab dishware.
“I took it and eventually started to do research in his lab,” she said. “That is where I discovered my love of biochemistry, specifically enzymology.”
After graduating from University of Texas San Antonio with a degree in biology in 2012, Khan decided to apply for a graduate degree at UT Health Science Center.
Khan is currently working on research in the lab of Dr. Paul Fitzpatrick focused on the mechanism of the regulation of the enzyme Phenylalanine Hydroxylase, which is an important in the disease phenylketonuria (PKU).
“One of my favorite things about enzymology is the ability to see how complex biological systems can be described by basic algebra…it is mind blowing,” Khan said. “My goal for my research is to add to the understanding of this very complex enzyme which has been researched on for decades.”
Khan explained that since the enzyme is highly complex that learning how it actually works would aid in understanding of PKU and hopefully add to the development for treatment. In the future, Khan hopes to become a tenured professor and help underrepresented minorities learn more about the career possibilities in STEM.
“Since I was a first generation student, I had no idea what scientists really did and had never met anyone with a doctorate,” Khan said. “I’d like to reach out to young children in at risk areas and help them understand what it is we do and how they are very capable of doing the same if they put their mind to it. All these children need is encouragement and I want to give them that.”
Besides working in the lab, Khan likes to send time with her husband Andrew and their American Eskimo dog Polvo, and three cats Cloud, Castiel and Bear. In addition, she also likes to stay up to date with social media.
“I love the internet. I’m a user of most social media sites like Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram,” Khan said. “I like being on top the latest thing even though the older I get, the less in touch I become.”
This article was written by Charlotte Anthony, marketing specialist at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health San Antonio. This article is part of the “Meet The Researcher” series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.