Meet a Member

Kristal A. Rychlik, PhD

Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

What type of research do you do?

I am an environmental toxicologist and I study the effects of prenatal exposures on the immune system. So far in my career, I have studied ultrafine particulate matter air pollution and arsenic. Results from my projects indicate that each of these exposures seem to cause an early immune suppression leading to increased risk of infectious disease in early life. Epidemiologic evidence points to the long-lasting effects of these prenatal exposures.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered, and how did you address them?

I would say the biggest challenge so far has been in balancing work and family. I had a baby in the middle of my PhD program, and I could have left with a masters but I was determined not to quit. That may not be the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me. I think the best tip I could give is to be positive, be persistent, and don”t stop going after your goals.

Why did you join the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (BDRP), and what does it mean to you to be involved in BDRP?

I chose to join BDRP because I wanted to go to a conference that was smaller and build closer relationships with people who do similar work to what I do. BDRP has allowed me to build a network of outstanding mentors, innovative researchers, and great friends. It feels like a little family when we all get together. We have so much fun at the annual conference working and playing hard. Everyone is so welcoming, encouraging, and just wants to help each other out. Sometimes research can feel very competitive, but I never feel like that at BDRP.

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