Photo: Associate Professor of Chemistry Kelli Kazmier points to the page in “The Biological Basis of Neuropharmacology” where she had her “this is it” moment, realizing she wanted to pursue a career in biochemistry. (Hannah Kwapisz/Collegian)
Photo: Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Kelli Kazmier points to the page in “The Bio­logical Basis of Neu­rophar­ma­cology” where she had her “this is it” moment, real­izing she wanted to pursue a career in bio­chem­istry. (Hannah Kwapisz/Collegian)

Kelli Kazmier said she sees the natural world’s beauty — through bio­chem­istry.

“We can know these things, like how the mol­e­cular details of how pro­teins and macro­mol­e­cules function are intricate and complex but knowable, and that’s awe-inspiring,” Kazmier said.

Kazmier is Hillsdale College’s new asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry, hailing from Rollins College in Florida. Matthew Young, dean of chem­istry, said she brings a fresh enthu­siasm for the subject to Hillsdale’s growing chem­istry department, and Kazmier said she wants to bring her love for bio­chem­istry to her stu­dents.

“I try to get stu­dents to engage in the material by doing projects or writing essays, even though we’re in the sci­ences,” Kazmier said. “I like to get stu­dents to think crit­i­cally and deeply and to come up with new ideas on their own.”

Young said he looks forward to Kazmier’s role as the only bio­chemist at Hillsdale except for Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Christopher Hamilton. The bio­chem­istry major has grown over the past few years.

“Dr. Kazmier brings an infec­tious enthu­siasm for bio­chem­istry to our department, which is one that already has lots of pos­itive energy,” Young said. “One of the things that I always look for in a can­didate is intel­lectual energy, and Dr. Kazmier has lots of it.”

Hillsdale senior Alexis Garcia was present for the trial lecture Kazmier gave this spring, on glu­co­neo­ge­nesis, the biosyn­thesis of new glucose.

“It was engaging and under­standable,” Garcia said. “I think she’ll make a won­derful addition to the Hillsdale chem­istry faculty.”

Kazmier said she had long known she had an interest in chemical reac­tions and bio­logical processes, but it was while reading “The Bio­logical Basis of Neu­rophar­ma­cology” by J.R. Cooper as an under­graduate at Beloit College in Wis­consin that she later realized was the moment it all came together. She knew she wanted to study bio­chem­istry, she said.

“I flipped open, just ran­domly, to this page where I had high­lighted every­thing and wrote, ‘This is it!’” Kazmier said. “I had no idea I had doc­u­mented the moment in time where I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

Kazmier said she fondly recalls her time at Beloit, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in bio­chem­istry.

“I knew I wanted to teach at a small liberal arts school,” Kazmier said. “My under­graduate back­ground was at a small liberal arts insti­tution. I valued my edu­cation, and I valued my inter­ac­tions with my faculty.”

She said Hillsdale’s high aca­demic stan­dards and core cur­riculum made the college attractive to her.

“I was drawn to the rigor and the expec­ta­tions of stu­dents,” Kazmier said. “I appre­ciate the core as a philo­sophical and edu­ca­tional foun­dation for my stu­dents.”

Kazmier said some of her fondest mem­ories of college involve strug­gling with the intensity of her aca­demic courses. She recalled a time as a graduate student at Van­derbilt Uni­versity in Nashville, Ten­nessee, when, after an intense study session, she and a friend went out to buy Red Bull and Hot Pockets at 4 a.m.

“We were wearing whatever clothes we could find: sweat­pants, cutoff sweat­shirts, toboggan hats,” Kazmier said. “We were delirious.”

Outside of school, Kazmier said she enjoys playing vol­leyball on a semi-com­pet­itive stage.

“I am still looking for some­where to play here,” Kazmier said. “If anyone wants to invite me to play, I would be much obliged. We may have to put together a faculty team.”

Kazmier said she is excited about teaching at Hillsdale and looks forward to her future as a pro­fessor here.

“I feel like this is one of the few places where stu­dents are really being pushed to be stronger and better,” she said.