Former VHS student, now Harvard prof, to speak to students, public about her work

A Harvard professor with deep roots on the island will visit Vashon High School next week, speak to students at a lunch gathering and offer a presentation to the public about her area of expertise.

Katie Hinde, Ph.D., graduated from VHS in 1997 and now serves as an assistant professor at Harvard University in its Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. Her current research investigates the role mother’s milk plays in infant development — including both growth and behavior — in humans and monkeys.

In her presentation, “Why Mammals Suck: Monkey Milk and Infant Development,” she will talk about how she came to be interested in science and details about her research, which includes the milk of the rhesus monkey. More broadly, she said in a recent email, “I study what is in milk, how it differs among mothers and how those constituents affect infant development.”

At Vashon High School, longtime science teacher Tom DeVries recalls Hinde and believes she will be an enthusiastic speaker. She was an animated and intense student, he recalled, with a drive to study anthropology and a member of an outstanding class.

“She and others in that class had strong personalities and clear visions of what to do with their lives, even at the age of 16,” he said.

Indeed, Hinde actively pursued the path she envisioned as a Vashon teenager; after she participated in the Running Start program, she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in anthropology in 1999, earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was awarded her doctoral degree from UCLA in 2008. She’s been featured on MSNBC and the History Channel and has been widely published.

In fact, DeVries said, he was reading Scientific American recently and came across a quote attributed to her. That’s when he contacted her, and she, in turn, volunteered to speak to Vashon students on a planned trip back to the island.

DeVries said he expects Hinde will talk to students about potential career paths and the road she has travelled. The evening seminar is open to the community, DeVries noted, but students will get extra credit points to attend and more points if they bring a parent or guardian.

“We are able to offer a mini-bonding experience at a science-related event,” he said.

Hinde will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Vashon High School theater.


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