Fearless learner: Asking questions opened doors to scholarships, mentors, career path for biology grad
By Billi London-Gray
It’s hard to believe brilliant people who tell you, “Don’t be afraid to feel dumb.” But these words are the motto of Krystle Moore, who recently completed her bachelor’s degree in biology at Texas State University. Her brave, inquisitive attitude has led her to one great opportunity after another.
Moore grew up in Del Rio, a south Texas border town across the rio from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. She describes her family — which bridges the border with a parent from each nation — as “working class” and says she didn’t give serious consideration to college until she received a scholarship for graduating from high school a year early.
“My dad said, ‘Well, you got this scholarship — you should go,’” Moore says.
Moore decided to enroll in a vocational nursing program at the Southwest Texas Junior College campus in Del Rio. She says she “started falling in love with science” through her courses. After two years in the program, she was honored as the top student in her class of 60 and was accepted into a program to become a registered nurse. But she decided to pursue a different path.
“One of the professors told me, ‘Maybe you should think about being a doctor,’” Moore says. “I had never thought that a person like me could do something like be a doctor.” With motivation to look outside nursing, she transferred to Texas State’s College of Science and Engineering.
“I just knew I wanted to do science,” she recalls. “I investigated the instructors’ research at Texas State, and I liked the size of the school, too. I wanted to go someplace where people would know who I was. I’m the type of person that likes to go to a professor’s office and get help one on one.”
With such personable enthusiasm and an unabashed sense of inquiry, she quickly impressed her professors at Texas State by coming to office hours for help outside of class. At the end of her first semester, she was offered a job working in Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri’s molecular biology lab, conducting studies into the plant hormone auxin. She also looked for scholarship opportunities and discovered she qualified for the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (H-LSAMP) Scholars Program, which provides financial, academic and mentoring support for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
“What I found out [at Texas State] was that I really like chemistry, which I knew very little about before I got here,” Moore says. Enjoying her work in the lab, she wanted to identify chemistry-related jobs that would also involve research and an element of patient care — an aspect of nursing she really enjoyed. Through talking with professors and extensive online research, she set her sights on a career as a pharmacist. The H-LSAMP Program director, Susan Romanella, then paired Moore with a mentor, Dr. Lucinda Mendoza, a pharmacist in the Texas State Student Health Center.
“I really learned a lot about pharmacy from her,” Moore says. “It seemed like I would have a lot more options as a pharmacist than with other jobs … I could be teaching people about medicine, and I could do patient care.”
When it came to finding a career path that combined her interests, Moore points out that she couldn’t have done it without asking for help.
“I think it was mainly my talks with professors — Dr. Jennifer Irvin, Dr. Nihal Dharmasiri, Dr. Sunethra Dharmasiri, Dr. Joseph Veech — and advice they gave me when I told them that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. They gave me different alternatives,” she says. “The professors have all been so nice here, and accommodating. They always help me when I go to them. I’ve never felt intimidated by them. I feel like they are happy that I’m there trying to get help.”
Based on her experiences, Moore has two pieces of advice to help people make the most of college:
- Don’t be afraid to feel dumb. “You don’t have to be perfect,” she says. “That’s why we’re here — to learn stuff. You need help to figure things out — that’s what professors are for, so go to their offices and ask questions.”
- Don’t turn down opportunities to learn something new. “You never know where the opportunity is going to take you and you may find things you really like doing,” she insists. “I found what I want to do because I said yes to working in the lab. I’d rather try and fail than not try.”
With her undergraduate degree completed, Moore will continue to work in Texas State’s molecular biology lab through the summer. She hopes to complete research on plant resistance to the herbicide Picloram — for which she will be listed as a co-author when the work is published — before starting a doctoral program in pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin in the fall.