Published 18 June 2013 by Beatrice Lugger

‘Create an international network’

Crystal Valdez is part of this year’s official video blog team – and as a talented researcher one out of more than 600 young researchers who will attend the 63rd Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau. Actually she is a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the chemistry & biochemistry department. Crystal was so kind as to give me a short interview although she is very busy these days. 

Crystal Valdez

Hi Crystal, you will not only attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting this year, you will even shoot a video for our Online Community about it. Do you have any special interest you are looking for – also for your video?

Crystal Valdez: Yes, I will focus on the topic ‘The Spirit of diversity at Lindau” as I come from a mixed-race background, my father is Mexican and my mother is English-American. I find that my heritage plays an important role in shaping me as a person and into the scientist I am today.  I truly believe diversity of thought, race, gender, heritage, language, etc. are an extremely important contribution to great science and the Lindau meeting proves to be a true testimony.

What do you personally expect from the Meeting?

CV: There are several things I personally expect but there are two main objectives I have. The first is to meet and interact with the Nobel Laureates, learn their “individual formula” to success, the lessons they learned and are learning along their research careers and their perspective on the future of science as a whole. The second is to create an international network of friends and colleagues in the sciences that I can connect and share ideas with for the rest of my life.

How did you first notice the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings?

CV: I actually learned about this meeting through an article I read when I first started graduate school about two students attending the meeting. And my sister, who is also a chemistry graduate student, knows a few colleagues who have been in Lindau.

Why did you become a scientist and specifically a chemist?

CV: My desire to become a scientist started in my 7th grade science class where I learned that organisms, such as humans, are composed of tiny cells. I wanted to know how these tiny cells create such complex creatures. So I wanted to study biology and microbiology. However, when I got to high school and took my first chemistry course, where I learned that these tiny cells were composed of even smaller elements called atoms that make up everything, I knew that’s what I wanted to study for the rest of my life. The idea that tiny particles came together to form living creatures fascinates me and continues to.

What is your main interest in research today?

CV: Right now I’m really interested in natural catalysts, specifically metalloenzymes. Metalloenzymes account for approximately one-third of all existing enzymes and have proven to be outstanding catalysts with respect to their durability and catalytic dexterity. I aim to understand the metal-dependent functionalities of natural enzymes to further improve natural enzymes or create new ones. While nature is limited to operating with bio-available elements, some metals such as Iridium, Rhodium, Scandium, and Palladium have been shown to be excellent catalysts, even surpassing physiological metals.

If the catalytic activity of these non-physiological metals can be combined with the superb selectivity and mild operational conditions characteristic of proteins, new proficient enzymes may emerge. These artificial enzymes could be used as catalysts in industry and provide a cleaner, “greener” way of doing reactions. I see myself in the next twenty years expanding in the field of biocatalysis. I love investigating the chemistry of biology and understanding how it could be used to help society.

Which lectures, master classes or else are you specially interested in?

CV: For the lectures, I am excited for all of them. The main thing that brought me into graduate school and research is that I love to learn new things so I’m equally excited for all the lectures. I will be attending one breakfast titled “Quantum Information Processing – Where Do We Stand and Where Do We Go?”. I’m very intrigued by the topic of quantum computing and curious how current developments in it are going.

Thanks, Crystal. I wish you a great time in Lindau and am really looking forward to your video! See you soon in Lindau!


The whole video team is presented in this posting: Videos from a personal perspective.

Beatrice Lugger

Beatrice Lugger is a science journalist and science social media specialist with a background as a chemist. She is Scientific Director of the National Institute for Science Communication, NaWik – @BLugger is her twitter handle, Quantensprung her own blog.