Could a Boise teen cure cancer someday?

Kassidi Petersen wants to cure cancer. She’s only 17, but she’s already done a lot of research and thinks it can be done through a technology genome-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.

“I want to see if I can copy the gene that produces the p53 proteins without the side effects,” said Timberline High School senior.

Kassidi’s not a typical teen. A death in the family put her on a path to change the world.

Kassidi always wanted to be a teacher until the loss of her grandma to esophageal cancer this past New Years Eve. Now she’s on a mission to become cancer researcher and find a cure.

kassidi
Kassidi (right) is with her cousin Breanna (left) on the first day of their grandma’s chemo treatment.

“I have always enjoyed science and this is a way I can help people,” Kassidi said. “It was hard watching my grandma and children in the hospital go through the disease.”

Going back-and-forth with her grandma between chemo treatments and medical appointments, Kassidi started asking doctors questions. Her curiosities lead her to doing research on the Internet and the WebMD mobile app. She researches esophageal, breast and brain cancer when she has free time.

“I want to learn more to see if my ideas would work or how I would incorporate other information to make my ideas stronger,” said Kassidi, who owns a 3.95 grade-point average and juggles four advanced placement courses, including chemistry, literature, U.S. government and calculus.

“Kassidi is passionate and works to understand the complexities of biology so she can understand her material and ask quality questions,” said Annie Schmidt, a biology teacher at Timberline High. “She tries to understand the current research in her field of interest and most students only do the class curriculum.”

Kassidi recently started applying to colleges and hopes to get into her dream school — Whitman College in Washington. She plans to study molecular biology. After earning her undergraduate degree, she hopes to apply to Boise State University for her graduate degree and then continue on to get her doctorate degree.

“Family is an important part of my life and I would love to come back to Boise,” Kassidi said.

kassidi-petersen1

When Kassidi isn’t researching about different types of cancers, she’s playing on the Timberline High ultimate frisbee team and is the president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club. In July, Kassidi competed in the national FCCLA Students Taking Action with Recognition (STAR) program competition and won bronze. She presented a lesson plan to judges in an early childhood education event.

“FCCLA has helped me with quick thinking in class and time management,” Kassidi said.

Fun facts about Kassidi Petersen

  • Favorite drink? Dr. Pepper
  • Favorite sport to watch? Boise State University football 
  • What are the first three songs on your current music playlist? “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara, “Nirvana” by Sam Smith and “Closer” by The Chainsmokers 
  • You just got a free plane ticket to go anywhere. Where are you going?  Italy 
  • Three things you can’t live without? Books, phone, Kit Kat bar 
  • Who is your favorite teacher? Timberline High School teacher, Carly Hill
  • Favorite emoji? screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-46-17-am