Most college students finish their undergraduate degrees around the age of 22. But Crystal Vander Zanden isn’t most students.

The 23-year-old Arizona native is leaving Colorado State University a newly minted Ph.D. in biochemistry – the youngest ever from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The soft-spoken, unassuming Vander Zanden defended her Ph.D. thesis in June, and is now packing up her apartment in Fort Collins after spending six years working toward her doctorate. In the fall, she will begin a National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the University of New Mexico. There, she’ll conduct research on biophysical characterization of Alzheimer’s Disease-related protein aggregation, while also teaching courses at a local community college.

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