Ever fascinated by the natural world, biology, and the wonders of nature, Kirsten Kester knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a “scientist.”
After graduating from Harvard College (as a biology major) and then finishing her MBA at Harvard Business School, she merged her work in both science and business to land in the field of immunotherapeutic cancer research. Her education and career path, which included six years as a life sciences strategy consultant in New York, led her to see many applications for her knowledge “where you can be close to the research, but not necessarily a doctor or lab scientist.”
When she speaks about her current work at Obsidian Therapeutics, a startup biotech in Boston for immunotherapy and cell therapies, she recalls her introductory biology lessons. “You learn about your white bloods cells, your little army from within” and the ability of science to literally “reprogram them and harness the body’s own defense system to treat disease,” Kirsten explains.
Kirsten’s Nashoba Brooks School experience, which started in preschool, has been a strong thread throughout her life, starting with early days of discovery in science class. She remembers and appreciates the outdoor class time and her science teacher, Nancy Ashkar, who introduced her to the scientific method and how to test a hypothesis. She recalls early experimentation, such as looking at pond samples under a microscope and, in Grade 6, creating a model of a cell in the form of a pizza and toppings.
“I had a very well-rounded educational experience, having explored so many different fields. It is important to learn how to write well and I think people especially tend to undervalue that skill in the field of science,” Kirsten adds. Nashoba Brooks School is where she learned to write her first essay and she recalls the rigors of Grade 8, which made for a smooth transition to Middlesex in high school.
She is a big proponent of her all-girls educational experience and speaks fondly about the lifelong bonds she created. “It’s this magical, trusting environment, where girls feel comfortable taking risks but that is also rigorous. We worked very hard and were a self-driven group.”
Kirsten keeps in touch with many of her classmates today whom she considers to be lifelong friends and now serves on the Board of Trustees at Nashoba Brooks, which provides the opportunity to return to School often. For Kirsten, being a trustee has enabled her to contribute to the School in a new way that combines her personal and professional interests. Kirsten also has the pleasure of seeing the School through a new set of eyes. Her niece is a current student so she gets to see through her sister’s len as a parent.
“Coming back to Boston has been great and provided me the opportunity to physically return to the School. It’s changed so much, but has stayed the same in all the best ways.” She references the new Shilling STEAM lab that “allows students to embrace new technologies that did not exist when I was a student,“ yet acknowledges that “our core values and approach to education have remained consistent.”
As for the future, she aspires to be the CEO of a biotechnology company. It is clear that she is well on her way.