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.