Alumni Achiever - Chelsi Cassilly, Independence High Class of 2008

  • Alumni Achiever Chelsi Cassilly stands next to teacher Luke Finley

    Published September 6, 2022

    Although she only attended Independence High School for one year, Chelsi Cassilly says her time as an Eagle played a significant role in helping her become the person she is today.

    The IHS Class of 2008 graduate attended Lipscomb University before earning her PhD in microbiology at the University of Tennessee. After completing her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Cassilly joined Jacobs, a civil engineering company, where she currently works as a planetary protection microbiologist.

    Cassilly returned to Independence High on September 2 to speak with students in Luke Finley's astronomy classes. While there, Cassilly talked about her role as a microbiologist and how the search for life continues in our solar system.

    What led you to want to study the field of microbiology?

    “I first developed an interest in biology when I was in eighth grade, but it wasn't until I had Laurette (Cousineau) Carle as my teacher at Independence, that my interest was solidified. She opened my mind so much, and she was very enthusiastic about the subject. After having her as my teacher, I knew 100 percent that biology was what I wanted to study. I had an interest, but she solidified it.”

    What did you enjoy most about your high school experience?

    “I really liked the classes I took. I also liked being at a school that had football. Plus, it was a new school, so I felt like we were a part of something special.” 

    What teacher(s) made a difference in your life and how?

    “I had Luke Finley for AP Physics. It was the most fun class, and I don’t even like physics. He made me enjoy a subject that I don’t like, and that is amazing. We launched rockets and we made cakes, and I learned things that I never thought I would learn. I mentioned earlier how Mrs. Carle helped me with biology, but Mr. Finley helped me learn that science is even bigger, and that gave me an appreciation for different fields.”

    Do you have any advice for current WCS students?

    “Get involved in as much as you can... and try. I think a lot of people are so hesitant to try and fail, but failure teaches you a lot. It makes you more ready for the next thing and eventually something sticks. Eventually, you will get it, which will then push you to the next stage... so try.”

    Know a Williamson County Schools graduate who has moved on to great things? Send us an EMAIL and nominate an Alumni Achiever. Simply tell us the person’s name, what they’re doing now, and an email address or phone number so that we may contact them.