Kennesaw State senior earns spot in exclusive chemistry research program


KENNESAW, Georgia (May 27, 2022) — Kaia Ellis, a chemistry major at Kennesaw State University, is one of nine undergraduate students chosen from hundreds of applicants for a prestigious 10-week summer research program in chemistry at Northeastern University in Boston.

Kaia Ellis

The research opportunity is part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduate Students (REU). During his REU program, Ellis will study and discuss the chemistry of catalysis across the spectrum, from small molecule catalysts to enzymes. Catalysis is an important aspect of organic chemistry for medicinal chemistry, which she described as a possible career path.

“I saw that Northeastern had research in medicinal chemistry and I’ve been interested in it for a year,” said Ellis, a senior from Atlanta. “Not many schools have a dedicated medicinal chemistry research lab, so when I found the REU program at Northeastern University, I decided to apply. I accepted the offer to join the program over the summer to see if this is what I really want to pursue after graduation.

Seeking enrichment opportunities has become second nature to Ellis, who joined the lab of Kennesaw State Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry Carl Saint-Louis in the fall of 2021.

St. Louis research focuses on the discovery and characterization of new fluorescent organic materials widely used in the fields of materials and imaging technologies due to their potential applications in molecular sensors, laser optical recordings and materials. organic light-emitting diodes (OLED). Ellis thrived in her lab, and she credited St. Louis for encouraging her, both to improve her knowledge of organic chemistry and to apply for Northeastern’s REU program.

“At first, even joining Dr. Saint-Louis’ lab, I was anxious because I had never worked in a lab before,” Ellis said. “He kept reminding me that science is a process and learning science is a process. It was the same applying for the research opportunity, but I’m really glad he continued to encourage me to apply.

St. Louis said Ellis is a shining example of how students grow through the experience of working in a lab.

“Kaia joined my lab excited about organic chemistry,” he said. “She discovered that we were working on projects that interested her and she immersed herself in the work. Now she will gain even more lab and research experience over the summer.


This summer, Ellis can expect 10 weeks of immersion in the study of catalysis, which studies the effects of using a catalyst to create a chemical reaction. She said her group will have weekly seminars and classes. More importantly, Ellis said experiences like these are within the reach of any Kennesaw State undergraduate student interested in research.

“Research enhances the learning process and helps connect classroom work to practical application,” she said. “It can really help people understand what they want to do in science.”

—Dave Shelles
Photo by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global connections, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and around the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated (R2) doctoral research institution, placing it among an elite group of only 6% of US colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit


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