From the Lab to the Slopes, Schmidt '19 Rises to Every Challenge

by St. Andrew's Communications Staff
Kirstin Schmidt ’19 was faced with a hard choice as an 11-year-old – follow in the footsteps of her brothers who were students at St. Andrew’s, or attend boarding school in Vermont and have a shot at pursuing a competitive skiing career.
More than six years later, and after a lot of hard work, Kirstin is not only happy with her decision, but grateful for the opportunities that have flowed from it. She has an internship at the National Institute of Health, leads the Community Service Club at St. Andrew’s, and spends her weekends coaching ski racing to kids in Vermont.
  
An aspiring biomedical engineer, Kirstin said boarding school would not have provided her with the academic challenges and supportive relationships she’s found at St. Andrew’s. One example is her summer internship at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, where she worked with experimental antibody-based drugs and tested them on cancer cell lines.
 
“I took biochemistry with Ms. (Irene) Walsh. When I went into the lab, they didn’t expect me to know molecular structures, but I knew a lot from class. It was helpful to have that background,” she said.
 
The internship was such a success that Kirstin is now collaborating with Dr. Matt Hall, Branch Chief of the NCATS Chemical Genomics Center, on a paper that will explain antibody-based therapeutics to a high school audience.
 
“Kirstin is an exceptional person. She was passionate about the research she was doing, and passionate about the science. She took the time to read research papers and understand the science she was working on,” Hall said. “We got to the end of the summer and we were saying, ‘We wish you could keep doing this,’ and we worked out a way to do it.”

“It has been wonderful to watch her evolve from a curious ninth-grade student to a dedicated, fierce student determined to get the most out of each of her Upper-Level courses,” said Kim O’Shaughnessy, Head of the Science Department. “She holds herself to the highest standard and enjoys the satisfaction that comes with the pursuit of knowledge and engagement in the sciences.”
 
Choosing not to go to boarding school, however, did not mean Kirstin chose to stop skiing. Every weekend during ski season, Kirstin and her family flies to Connecticut and drives to Stratton Mountain in Vermont, where Kirstin coaches ski racing to eight- and nine-year-olds.
 
“I really love it, and it’s definitely helped with time management,” Kirstin said, noting that the drive to and from Vermont gives her plenty of time to get her homework done.
 
Kirstin said her family instilled in her a love of skiing during the weekends and holidays spent at Stratton. They also encouraged her to give back, and she does so through the Community Service Club, which she founded during her sophomore year to help make service more integral to school life.
 
Throughout the school year, the club collects unclaimed items from the Lost and Found and washes, packages, and ships them to the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky, which provides food, clothing, disaster relief, and more to people in need in Appalachia.
 
A member of the Cum Laude Society, Kirstin plans to major in biomedical engineering and biochemistry.
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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool (Age 2) through grade 12, located in Potomac, Maryland.