On April 11, 1988, I was born in the East Harlem section of Manhattan in a predominately Italian and Puerto Rican neighborhood also referred to as `El Barrio' or `Spanish Harlem.' My parents divorced before I was even one year old, leaving me and my older sister to be raised by my mother and grandmother. It was through the love and care of my family that I was able to surpass many of the obstacles found in the impoverished community in which I grew up in.

My family ensured that I was provided with all that I needed and more. As a result, I attended private religious schools all of my life. In addition, I was always involved in some aspect of the arts. When I was the tender age of four, I was enrolled in a ballet class at the Ballet Hispanico dance school. For many years, I studied ballet as well as flamenco and African dance. Also, when I was five, I was enrolled in the Harlem School of the Arts which is where I learned how to play the violin as well as study theater. I was also blessed with the opportunity to play the violin for professional artists on shows like `Showtime at the Apollo' and MTV's `On the 10 Spot.' Furthermore, I also performed in a few off Broadway plays with the Classical Theater of Harlem in which I was an actress and dancer.

Due to the fact that I spent much of my life participating in activities that can be considered artistically inclined, many people often ask me the following: `How did I choose a major in physics?' All of my life, I was always drawn to the sciences. For example, when I was eleven, I asked my mother for some sort of a chemistry set or science kit for my birthday. Finally, in high school, I was able to narrow down what exactly it was that I was interested in. Throughout the four years, I managed to land research opportunities in Montefiore Hospital (2003), the Bronx Zoo (2003), and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (2005, 2006). However, it was my work at NASA GISS that inspired me to pursue a research career in physics. Those summers I worked in a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy laboratory first studying how to improve lithium batteries for biomedical use and then studying how to improve lithium batteries for spacecraft use. I was able to get my hands dirty and work alongside graduate students and post docs. I also was able to present my research at poster sessions at the Stevens Institute of Technology as well as the New York City Institute of Technology. It was this experience that revealed to me my passion for research. Besides, how many Puerto Rican female physicists do you know? I guess it is my way of balancing out society.

Christina Zayas
February 2007