Elgin Academy 2015 | Smith College 2019
Cassie Kemmler ‘15 is Elgin Academy! She is a “lifer,” having started her educational journey in our Early Childhood program and concluding her Elgin Academy education as valedictorian of her class. Cassie was recognized at the Academy for leadership, academic prowess, and service to school and community. At Commencement, she was the recipient of one of two of the Academy’s highest honors, the Mother-Daughter Award.
At Smith College, Cassy is part of a group study at Smith that is researching forebrain development in zebrafish, specifically investigating the role of slit proteins and their robo receptors in the formation of the post optic commissure. (Zebrafish are a popular model for studying genetics and developmental biology.) Cassie tries to simplify this for us by explaining that basically, she is “looking at attractant and repellant proteins that direct axon growth to cross the brain at a specific location during neural development.” Her senior honors thesis examined Slit proteins and their role in axon guidance during forebrain development using the zebrafish model system.
In summer 2018, Cassie did an internship with Professor Emily Bates' lab at the University of Colorado, Anschutz where she studied tubulinopathies (mutations in cytoskeletal proteins inside a cell) and also worked to characterize a mutation in a tubulin related protein in a teenage patient with neurodegeneration.
Cassie graduated from Smith College in May of 2019 with highest honors in Biological Sciences and moved to Denver to work as a Research Assistant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Dr. Christian Mosimann’s Lab. Currently, she works on various research projects that mainly focus on mesoderm development and enhancer testing using the zebrafish model system. In particular, Cassie studies notochord development and creates tools to make transgenic animals (which involves making fish embryos and adults that are fluorescent in a specific structure or cell lineage) that can be shared with other researchers in the field who use different model organisms to identify evolutionarily conserved gene regulatory programs.
I spent 14 years of my education at Elgin Academy, and, as surprising and almost impossible as it may seem, I really did love every minute of it. The day I got to Elgin Academy I met two other little girls. I grew up with these two girls and I threw my cap into the air with them at Commencement in May 2015. At EA I went from spending recess playing our invented game “rock-homes” to canoeing and portaging across the Boundary Waters in Canada to flying to Nicaragua to teach English to children. At Elgin Academy, I fell in love with theater, biology, field hockey, and community service.
EA is where I figured out who I am. I learned that I can always write when I need to sort out my thoughts, I learned that even if you have gone to school with someone for 15 years you can always find them changing and evolving, and I learned that asking for help and taking risks is the best way to get the most out of your education. EA is where I learned how to succeed, and, even more importantly, how to fail. Elgin Academy will always be my home. It helped me become ready to leave, but it was also very sad to have to say goodbye.”
Cassie Kemmler ‘15