Pleased to introduce you to Kristy, the latest member of the Science Cheerleader team! When she’s not cheering for the Falcons, she’s got a very cool job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Why science, Kristy?
When I was five years old, my mom went back to school to fulfill her own dream of becoming a nurse. From that moment on, I’ve been surrounded by medical textbooks, scientific diagrams, and even IVs, and I love it! In college, I discovered that also I have a passion for chemistry. I now have a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry and a Bachelors of Science in Dance—both from the University of Alabama.
You’re working as aresearch chemist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the National Center of Environmental Health’s Division of Laboratory Sciences in the Atlanta area. What do you do?
I do detailed chemical research of tobacco products and their derivatives, paying particular attention to the harmful components found in common tobacco products. My research is a project for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), assisting them with tobacco data that will give them guidance in developing guidelines and regulations on tobacco products nationwide. Considering that smoking is the number one most preventable killer in the United States, I am hopeful my research will make a difference.
How does chemistry help lead to a more disease-free world?
Chemistry provides clues that can help explain biochemical mechanisms, through which illnesses and diseases spread. Once the mechanisms are understood, we can work on ways to treat and help prevent the disease. With this understanding, we can educate the public and help build awareness towards an effort of thwarting the spread of disease.
Best part of your day job?
Knowing that I am making a difference and changing the world in a positive way is the best part of my day job.
You’re a cheerleader with the Atlanta Falcons. How long have you cheered for them and why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I have cheered for the Atlanta Falcons for two years. It has been a childhood dream of mine (ever since watching professional football with my older brother) to be an NFL Cheerleader!
Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
My interest in dance definitely came first, but my love for science followed quickly. I have been enrolled in dance since I was three years old and could not imagine my life without it. My mom and brother have been huge influences on my love for dance throughout my life. They saw talent in me at a young age and pushed me to reach my fullest potential with dance. There were many times that I remember fighting with my mother because I wanted to quit dance and “be normal” like all of my peers. I didn’t want to have to go from school to dance every day. But now I am forever grateful that I wasn’t allowed to quit dance when I wanted to and I was pushed to reach my ultimate potential and become an NFL cheerleader.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
I believe the stereotypes have helped and hindered my studies and professional career. I have often been underestimated due to my status as a dancer/cheerleader. At times, it’s been tough. However, being underestimated and forced to prove my intelligence repeatedly helped me become a strong, goal-oriented woman. I honestly believe now, more than ever, no one can stop me from reaching my goals.
Best cheerleading experience?
I absolutely love getting to interact with all the fans at games and appearances!
Best science -related experience?
Right now: serving as a role model to other girls and women to show them they can do whatever they set their minds to, particularly in science!
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you?
I would never change my degree. In my career, I am given an opportunity to impact the whole world in a positive way, and to me, nothing can be better than that.
Do you have any advice for youngsters?
Don’t lose heart, never give up on yourself, and never lose faith in yourself. You are going to be something really special one day so never stop trying and pushing yourself until you get to the top. Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to believe in you, but don’t let that stop you from reaching ALL of your ultimate goals. And, most importantly, don’t let the fear of failure EVER hold you back. Instead face it with boldness and determination. You WILL succeed.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to enroll in medical school soon to further my education and fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a physician.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want to encourage young women to believe in themselves; to know that with determination and hard work their opportunities are endless. I want to inspire them to make their own unique paths in life.