Dr. Crystal Lantz is a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Quinlan at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a neuroscientist who studies how we see and how different experiences effect vision. (I’m not sure if you need this part)
When I first saw a drawing of a brain cell, a neuron, in middle school, I wanted to know more. I spent the rest of my school years with the goal of becoming a neuroscientist, a scientist who studies brains. When I learned how complicated our brains are, they contain nearly 100 billion neurons, each making thousands of connections to other neurons, I was hooked. Then as now, I wanted to know how these cells connect and communicate to each other, and how these connections shape our experience of world. I study how our brain processes the light coming into our eyes to give us vision, and how different types of visual experiences can change the way our brain sees. I love sharing my research and teaching other people about how our brains function. You can often find me volunteering at local events for people of all ages sharing my knowledge about neurons and their connections that make up our brains.
I record the electrical activity of big groups of neurons while my test subjects view different types of images. The colored lines on my monitor are different recording spots within the same subject.
To record the activity from brains I build my own electrodes. These electrodes are very small, they have 16 wires and each wire is about the width of a hair.
Once I finish recording I can look at the areas of the brain I recorded from and see if there are any changes. I do this using a technique called fluorescent immunohistochemistry, which when I look at the neurons under a microscope, makes different cells and parts of the cells glow when exposed to specific colors of light.
Part of my research is to study what happens in the part of the brain that processes vision when subjects live in pitch black. To check on my subjects I use night vision goggles so I can see in complete darkness.
I love sharing my knowledge about the brain. To help me with this I used 3D printing and modeling to make to scale copies of my brain and the large bundles of connections, called the white matter, inside my brain.
Different animals have very different size brains. Here is a 3D print of my brain next to a 3D print of a mouse brain. There are many differences between these two brains other than size, such has the human brain has folds in it, while the main body of the mouse brain does not. These folds are called sulci and gyri.
Neuroscience research involves working together. I work closely with the other members of my lab to discuss new research projects, recently published scientific studies, and plans for experiments. Pictured: Graduate Student Sarah Roberts & Post-doctoral Scientist Sachiko Murase, PhD.
Sharing my experiences and volunteering for science related organizations is very important to me. I volunteer with the Society for Neuroscience to teach people of all ages about the brain, as well as for L’Oreal & AAAS For Women in Science where I help advance the careers of other women in science. Pictured: Me & Kristin Lane, PhD.