Story by Steve Vanderwerff on 08/08/2019"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."- Eleanor Roosevelt
Responsible, dedicated and hard-working, are qualities Krystal Flores-Flix, a student at Ana G. Mndez University in Puerto Rico possesses to have flourished this summer as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) intern taking part in the Office of Naval Research's Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).
According to her mentors Lt. Claire Modica and Lt. John Casachahua in the Neurotrama Dept. the biology major and native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, is always eager to learn new scientific information, and says science is her "passion." By participating in the STEM program, Flores-Flix hopes the guidance her mentors provide will position her to be closer to her goal to one day becoming a neuro doctor. When asked what she learned most the past ten weeks, she said, "I learned multiple new lab techniques and acquired knowledge in matters like statistics and animal behavior."
Flores-Flix, one of more than 730 students participating in the annual STEM program, who have spent the 10 past weeks conducting research at over 40 Department of the Navy laboratories. According to her mentors, she was an important contributing factor designing the open field behavioral test conducted during their study on ketogenesis; the biochemical process through which organisms produce ketone bodies through breakdown of fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids and blast exposure. Specifically, she conducted literature reviews to find what out what other scientists have done to gather and analyze data, using equipment similar to NMRC and in similar conditions; ketogenic diet; traumatic brain injury.
"Outside of this intellectual contribution, she has also eagerly assisted in behavioral data collection, and various lab operations involving chemical formulation and biological tissue processing" said Modica. "These experiences helped Krystal develop the skills of proper technical laboratory technique and how to carefully adhere to protocols."
Not only was she able to get practical lab experience with seasoned researchers, she was also able to learn about the significance of how NMRC is entrusted to protect the health of our warfighters.
"Warfighters are constantly exposed to different illnesses that can diminish their health," Flores-Flix said. "The research we do at NMRC helps us have a better understanding of common health problems that can affect them during deployment."
Flores-Flix has not only had success while at NMRC, but on her campus as well. Most recently she was accepted into Puerto Rico's NASA Space Grant and is a recipient of the Puerto Rico Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority scholarship and her school's permanent scholarship fund. When she isn't achieving success in the lab or with her school curriculum, she is actively involved in the MedLife Association and Honor Roll Association.
She will return this fall to UAGM to finish her senior year. She is grateful for the opportunity to pursue her passion for science, specifically in the lab.
"I am very grateful to for my learning experience this summer," Flores-Flix said. "I have learned a lot of laboratory procedures I know will be of great use in the future."
She plans to apply for a Ph.D. program this fall and thanks her parents for their guidance and inspiration.
"My parents have been great supporters of me and my decisions, especially, when I applied for this internship," she said. "My parents have been tough on me to be responsible, honest and to do my best in everything I do in life, and for that I am thankful."
Thank you Krystal for your positive can-do attitude and for leaving an unforgettable impression on your peers and mentors. Best of luck in your senior year, getting into a Ph.D. Program and pursuing a career in STEM. Who knows, maybe you'll return to NMRC one day as a bona fide neuro researcher.