Bloomington High School South
Kirstin Milks left a career practicing science to pursue teaching. Supported by her family and teachers, Kirstin studied biochemistry at Pennsylvania State University, where she graduated in 2002. She went on to research bacterial photosynthesis and cell division, earning a string of prestigious fellowships and awards including a National Science Foundation Fellowship, a Fulbright scholarship and a grant from the Department of Defense. She earned a PhD in biochemistry from Stanford University in 2009.
Kirstin’s ultimate moment of discovery happened outside the lab. The summer before she started graduate school, she worked for the Boys and Girls Club of Albany developing science curriculum. At the moment when she felt most doubtful about the kind of change she could effect in such a needy community, she had a chance encounter with two Club students who amazed her by reciting with “flawless accuracy all of the experiments from the past month and what they learned from it.” Kirstin realized that “even a little effort and enthusiasm can make a huge difference for a kid from any background.”
The moment stayed with Kirstin and, as she became more and more concerned about the state of science education in the US, she eventually made the decision to become a teacher. “I’ve always considered my research career to be public service. By training to become a teacher, I feel that I’m renewing my vows to serve the public good.”