Christina Williams, 25, of Centralia, is determined to be the first in her family to be a college graduate. She has learned the hard way that to overcome obstacles, “you need to have the drive to want to succeed and can’t be a victim of anything that may deter you.”
To prove her point, Christina has learned from her tough experiences and wants to do something important. She’s setting her goals on becoming a neurophysiologist–a researcher who studies how the brain has developed.
“The two greatest mysteries are space and the brain,” she exclaimed. “They both leave a lot of room for discoveries.”
Life hasn’t been easy for Christina. She moved frequently during her childhood years and has lived in Centralia since turning 13. She attended Centralia High School and stopped to help at home (she has four siblings). She earned her GED at Centralia College, acquired her CNA, and worked for five years.
“It was an exhausting job. I worked for a rehabilitation center and took care of 15 to 18 people during an eight- to 12-hour shift,” she said.
She wanted to return to college, but needed to wait until she turned 24 to qualify for financial aid. “At one point, I was juggling three jobs and still helping out at home,” Christina said. “My STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields) scholarship has allowed me the freedom to work in my field and focus on my studies.” That wasn’t possible before the STEM scholarship.
Her passion for science was ignited by her grandfather, who was in the U.S. Air Force. They spent a lot of time talking about science and stars. Only recently, Christina chose to study neurophysics over studying astrophysics. “Everything we use is a product of what is created in the mind,” she added.
Christina is taking classes such as Pre-Calculus 2 and a slew of environmental and earth science classes. She is beginning an independent research project for biology associate professor Dr. Steve Norton.
“This is a great opportunity to do real research that’s not always available at other colleges,” she claimed. “Dr. Norton is recruiting responsible, self-motivated students to conduct the research.”
Christina and Dr. Norton are collecting different species of freshwater cottids (bullheads) from different rivers around the Olympic Peninsula. The bullhead DNA will be used to track the postglacial recolonization of the northern and eastern rivers after the last major glaciation in Puget Sound.
“Christina was my student in the biology series last year,” Dr. Norton noted in an email. “She worked very hard and demonstrated tremendous curiosity and self-motivation.”
Dr. Norton also said, “These are the important characteristics in developing the next generation of scientists. Christina is the first participant of what I hope will be a developing partnership between students and faculty in the sciences to conduct independent research.”
Christina has been involved with starting a new student club appropriately dubbed the Centralia College Science Club. “I heard rumors that the local creeks were polluted,” Christina said. “So we started a club to recruit volunteers to collect data.” She also attends Stream Team meetings to see how the club, which started winter 2012 and is advised by biology associate professor Dr. Lisa Carlson, can be involved.
Christina has one more year at Centralia College and is considering attending Evergreen State College – although her heart wants to attend a private school in Boston. Besides attending classes and working with the science club, Christina also works five hours each week as a lab/office assistant for Dr. Ruby Nagelkerke, chemistry/mathematics professor.