When Kelsey Hallinen was young she spent a lot of time in doctors offices. Born with congenital heart defects, Hallinen saw how the medical field could help. She recalls, "When I was younger I was considering becoming a doctor, but ultimately the science behind medicine was what interested me more. In high school, I realized how much I liked the approach of physics and how it looks to describe and understand the world around us. Combining this with my personal interest in biology and cardiology led me to biophysics."
Hallinen points to her classes with Mr. Spahr as particularly formative, as they cemented her interest in physics. In addition to coursework, she was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. Hallinen relates, "High school was where I really started to develop my different interests and had to learn how to juggle all of them. I enjoyed running and I was a hurdler on our track team throughout high school. Music was important as well, so I took time to be part of the Marching Band and Pit Orchestra for the musical. I liked to read, so I took part in Literary Guild and English Festival. But above all, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could and prepare myself for the next steps. During my time at BHS, I learned to prioritize the things that were most important to me. As I moved forward to college and my Ph.D., these time-management skills have helped me tremendously in completing my work and staying involved in my other hobbies."
After graduating Baldwin High School in 2010, Hallinen earned her B.S. in Physics with a minor in History from Carnegie Mellon University. She has just completed her Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Michigan. Hallinen's research focuses on bacterial communities and their organizations and structure over time. She explains, "These specific bacteria I studied are the same species that are responsible for many clinical infections, especially infections of the heart valves. I enjoy asking questions that are important to me and other patients like me, and being able to work on the basic research that will advance our understanding of those questions." Hallinen spends her days in the lab running experiments. She notes that roadblocks and problem solving are inherent in research. She shares, "Throughout my time getting a PhD, there have been a lot of challenges. Because I'm in a field and researching questions I truly care about, I'm willing to put up with the frustrating days knowing that when I do find the answer I'm looking for, it will be even more exciting and satisfying since I had to work hard to get it."
With the completion of her Ph.D., she will be leaving Michigan soon to take a position as an Associate Research Scholar in The Center for the Physics of Biological Function at Princeton University. Hallinen will be doing neuroscience research at Princeton, identifying neural networks and their functions.