This week’s #WCWinSTEM is Dr. Kristal Maner-Smith, technical director of the Emory Integrated Lipidomics Core.
As compiled by Chrystelle Vilfranc
The PhD Journey
Our lovely #WCWinSTEM is Kristal Maner-Smith, Ph.D. Dr. Maner-Smith graduated from Howard University with a B.S. in Chemistry. Her undergraduate research involved the synthesis of organic compounds to mimic naturally occuring inhibitors of the MAPK cascade as potential anti-cancer agents. She received a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry and a minor concentration in Biochemistry from Cornell University. Her dissertation focused on understanding the role of the omega-3 fatty acids in the development of the central nervous system. To accomplish this, she used tandem mass spectrometry to analyze polyunsaturated fatty acids in subcellular fractions.
Dr. Maner-Smith completed two postdoctoral fellow positions: one at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the second at Emory University. During both post-doctoral positions, she studied endogenous ligands of three small lipid binding proteins to understand how their targets could be leveraged for the management of diabetes and metabolic disorders. Heavy stuff!
Currently, Dr. Maner-Smith serves as the technical director for the Emory Integrated Lipidomics Core. Lipidomics is an “offshoot of the field of metabolomics,” she explained. Lipids are traditionally thought of as the components of biomembranes. They are often energy sources, as well. Recently, lipids have been implicated as signaling molecules that can be used to track the progression of many diseases, from cancer to metabolic disorders. She has researched lipid dysregulation in diabetes, which is a disease that one of her grandmothers struggled to manage. This project led her to a different, yet related project in Alzheimer’s Disease, which coincidentally her other grandmother is battling. Dr. Maner-Smith says:
“Each of these projects reminds me that my contributions not only advance the field, but more importantly, may help prolong someone’s life or improve their quality of life.”
Dr. Maner-Smith has published a novel: The Thinker’s Guide to L.A.LALAND, which was inspired by her personal adventures in graduate school. The main character of her novel is a #WOCinSTEM graduate student who is torn between continuing in the field of science and her secret passion of script writing. She says, “I often refer to the novel as a smarter, Bridget Jones’ Diary, but with swagger.”
Dr. Maner-Smith on Highlighting #WOCinSTEM
Dr. Maner-Smith believes that representation truly matters. She mentors young girls, ages 9 to 10 years old, who are often shocked or in disbelief when they find out that she is a chemist. Once that sinks in, she explained, they often have a ton of questions for her.
“My goal is to show these young girls that they can be whatever they put their minds to, whether it be a stay-at-home mom or an astronaut, or both!”
Thank you so much Dr. Maner-Smith for all that you do to contribute to the world of #STEM! We appreciate you!
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