Alumni Profiles

Katharine Bossart '85

Entrepreneur, scientist, and mentor are only some of the ways to describe Katharine Bossart. From her cutting-edge work at her biotechnology company, to her profound commitment women’s empowerment, Katharine embodies what it means to be a “Hamlin girl.”
I spoke with Katharine about her path from a plaid dress in McKinne to a lab coat in San Francisco, Boston, Australia and now Marin County. As we spoke, she reflected fondly on her time at Hamlin, mentioning some of her most memorable teachers and experiences. Her times in the science labs with Mr. Fandal and in math classes with Ms. Lister (later Mrs. Mohan) were amongst some of her favorites. Instilled in her from her earliest moments at Hamlin, she believed she could do anything. The people Katharine encountered at Hamlin and the opportunities she was given continue to shape her to this day.  
“When I was there we had some of the very first Apple computers and they had little turtles on them; I'll never forget that. That was around 1983 — Hamlin was pretty on it. When I saw the Rosie the Riveter Lab for the first time I thought, ‘Good on them for pursuing the latest and greatest technology, with no limitations for girls.’ I think that's one thing that Hamlin excels at, no matter when you were there or when the changes happened.”
Hamlin’s mission of educating girls to meet the challenges of their time is something that Katharine carries with her and deeply values about Hamlin. After leaving Hamlin and graduating from the University of California in Santa Cruz with a major in Biochemistry, she eventually found herself in a Microbiology and Immunology PhD program at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland. Many of the faculty were women who inspired her with their ability to balance families, their work and the military. When she finished her program, she moved to Australia to complete her post-doctoral work. Despite having an incredible experience there, she missed those strong female role models.
As her career has progressed, Katharine notes that she sees a gender gap in the work. “I've definitely run into a lot of issues with [being a woman in this field]. Not so much on the surface, it's deeper … The people in charge are not women a lot of the time.” However, she is not discouraged. Throughout our conversation, Katharine kept circling back to the importance of mentorship. She is embracing her passion for women’s excellence and representation in her field and has become the mentor to others.
Integrated Research Associates, the biotechnology lab Katharine founded, is not only women-owned but the employees are all women as well. Katharine believes that this is a true testament to the work ethic, dedication, and passion of women.
“I don't have anything against men,” she says. “It's just that certain women have stepped up to help pro bono and men haven't. It’s the nature of when you're running a startup and you're an entrepreneur and you can't afford to pay everyone, you look for help from where you can get it. The help that I've been able to get has all been from women. I just think that says something.”
Katharine’s lab is currently working on groundbreaking projects creating vaccines and therapeutics for viruses, including Zika virus, hepatitis C virus and the enteroviruses that cause polio-like diseases in children.
Inspiring the next generation of leaders in STEM fields, she has come back to Hamlin on multiple occasions to speak with students who are curious about careers in science. Her words of wisdom echo past Hamlin school year themes, “Be a go-getter!” Katharine encourages girls to ride the wave of life and prepare for unpredictability, but always have grit and passion. Stick to what you love, be a good person, live with integrity and it will take you far. Most importantly be bold.
“Don't be afraid to be a little crazy. [Taking a risk by starting my company] has been crazy and stressful and difficult. I'm on this crazy new learning curve and, you know, that's what life is about.”

Profile written by Molly Kehoe ‘14
Posted on December 2, 2020

Zoe Grimaldi '08

We’ve all been there: supporting a political candidate with so much enthusiasm. Every statement they release, we quickly snatch from a publication and cling to their every word. We know all about their family and we fall in love with their mannerisms and their catchphrases. But how many of us have had a hand in helping them get to where they are? Maybe you’ve donated or even volunteered some hours of your time. Zoë Grimaldi ‘08, on the other hand, has truly put every fiber of her being into certain candidates. She has been behind the scenes and in the middle of action. She has fought hard for people in whom she deeply believes. Most recently, Zoë was a full time organizer for Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential race.
Zoë and I were able to meet — COVID-style — over Zoom and chat about her experience with Warren as well as in organizing in general. She explained she found her way into organizing after Hillary Clinton lost what was supposed to be a landslide of an election. She started her organizing career doing work for a pro-choice advocacy group, eventually finding her way to Warren’s Washington state office for her presidential bid. Her placement in Washington specifically taught her all about vote-by-mail, the state’s standard practice. She acknowledged that, at the time, she had no idea how relevant that experience would come to be.
It is clear that Zoë does this work for the candidate and for the people in the communities in which she’s working. She told me about her work on digital organizing practices, in particular phone banks — when a group of volunteers and organizers makes calls to potential voters and advocates for their candidate. She spoke about the varying levels of access individuals have to information and technology and how these barriers prevent informed voting. Digital organizing helps combat some of these challenges and is one of the ways to connect with the most people no matter who or where they are.
“I've had conversations where someone has been so excited because they… live around a bunch of people who don't think like them. They think they're alone until you call them and say, ‘Hey, jump on this phone bank with us. Be around people who are going to support you and who believe in the same things you do.’”
One of Zoë’s favorite parts of organizing is the personal interactions and people who she has met. There is a lot of divisiveness in politics, even within one party. However, when she’s not doing work for a particular campaign, her colleagues come from all different places in democratic politics and all find common ground to make the most change. In one case, her favorite co-worker was 56-year-old former organizer for Michael Bloomberg in Massachusetts. Despite their ideological differences, they had a positive relationship; he gave her resume advice and she helped him buy gifts for his daughters.
In light of the 2016 presidential election, she said she no longer believes in being confident when it comes to an election. However, she is still as passionate as ever about her work as an organizer. For Hamlin students who are interested in this work, she encourages them to jump in head first. Don’t be held back by not knowing everything about politics — if you have a couple of things that interest you, that’s enough to get engaged.
“I don’t like telling people to give their labor for free, but find a candidate you like and volunteer. Just get into the ecosystem, see what you like, see what you don't. You don't have to be a field organizer to be a part of a campaign; there are plenty of parts of the structure that will need you. So jump into the water and see what you like.”

Profile written by Molly Kehoe '14
Posted September 14, 2020

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