On Track in Her Field
Biochemistry major and runner Hannah Kiser
excels in academics and athletics
By Tara Roberts
Photos by UI Photo Services
Hannah Kiser spent her summer doing two of her favorite things: learning and running.
Kiser, a member of the University of Idaho track and field and cross country teams and a biochemistry major, took summer classes so she can earn her bachelor’s degree in December and head directly into UI’s graduate program in movement sciences while continuing to compete as a Vandal.
The program is a perfect fit for Kiser, who hopes to conduct research that will help elite athletes perform better.
“I feel like that will be a good area for me,” she says. “I have a biochemistry background, and I can apply it to something I love and do every day.”
Kiser's other major summer activity was working at the same cross-country camp she attended as a high school student. As a mentor to 11 young runners, she had the opportunity to encourage them to succeed in sports and academics.
“I feel like running is my gift, and I have to share that with other people,” she says.
Kiser is enthusiastic about her role as a student-athlete. She spent her younger years hungering for a challenge, and she found two at UI – competition and complex science.
In addition to setting Western Athletic Conference records, earning first team All-American honors at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and being named the 2013 top female student-athlete in the WAC, Kiser has risen to the top of her academic field. She earned a prestigious statewide research fellowship in 2012 and a top student award from the biological sciences department in 2013.
Kiser says her favorite semester was when she took biochemistry, organic chemistry and microbiology all at once – as a sophomore.
Her list of favorite classes includes her first microbiology lab and a course reviewing the history of chemistry, but organic chemistry, the study of matter containing carbon, has been her creative outlet as well as most-loved scientific pursuit.
“It’s like learning a new language. You really have to get the hang of it and put a lot of work into it,” she says. “That was the first time in school I found something that was so different.”
Juggling sports and school has required Kiser to make some sacrifices – for example, she doesn’t have the time to fully commit to extracurricular lab work – but ultimately, it has been worth it.
She says being an athlete has made her a better student by increasing her energy and teaching her to seek balance in her schedule.
“You go and you work out and you’re super tired, you don’t want to move – you can still study,” she says with a laugh.
Her passion for running and learning drive her, and the supportive UI community backs her up.
“At Idaho, the professors really work with the students, and the coaches do as well,” she says. “They know we’re student-athletes, with the student coming first.”