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CCI Graduate Spotlight: Crystal Sherline

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Crystal Sherline

Crystal Sherline is a PhD candidate of the College of Communication and Information and will be graduating this December with a doctoral degree in Communication & Information with a concentration in Information Sciences. Crystal just defended her dissertation Scientific Communication and Data Sharing this past October. Crystal works as a technical information analyst on a Department of Defense contract at the Oak Ridge Homeland Defense Information Analysis Center.

Read on to discover the opportunities Crystal found while attending the University of Tennessee and what a typical day looks like for a technical information analyst.

What is your educational and professional background?

I attended the University of Florida and received my undergraduate degree in biology, then went on to obtain two masters’ degrees. I received my master’s in English from the University of Maryland, and my master’s in Information from Florida State. Of course, now I am getting my PhD in Information Science from University of Tennessee. As I was finishing my PhD, I worked full time for a year, as well as worked and taught at UT while writing my dissertation.

What opportunities did you have while attending UT that helped prepare you for your current career?

I had several opportunities, such as being able to attend conferences and travel, which helped me especially in the networking aspect. I was also given opportunities to work and conduct research with different groups outside of my own college and school that opened up more doors for me.

Tell us about your current position as a technical information analyst, and what does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me usually begins with a team meeting for a small team consisting of 7-9 people, depending on the project. These meetings consist of getting information on what everyone is doing and if there is any way to help or assist them. Working for the government is about being focused on the “end product” and deliverables to a client, which is what I am in charge of. A huge part of my job is to coordinate among the group members who are all in charge of something different to make sure everything comes together for the deliverables. Currently we are working for a client providing them with cultural information. Once I have gathered the information I am writing very detailed reports that range from around 10-30 pages. Not only do I just find information and perform an analysis, we analyze and process information on eight different topics on areas I am not a specialist in including alternative energy, medical information, and weapons of mass destruction. During one day I can flip flop between three different reports, all usually on something that is current and problematic. I am also in charge of collection, special library, and collecting both non-classified and classified documents. Presently I am also working on writing a procedure for my position as I am taking a promotion. I find my job appealing, as I am able to learn about things I don’t know and do research – which is fun, that’s what I went to get a PhD for.

What advice do you have for anyone who is considering getting his or her doctoral degree?

Keep an open mind. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be when I started the program. I am not doing anything I thought I would be doing, which is not a bad thing. There are a lot of opportunities out there you won’t even be aware of.