Alumni Spotlight: Kristoffer Leon

Kristoffer Leon (second right) pictured with classmates during the UCSF White Coat ceremony for first year medical students. Photo provided by Kristoffer Leon.
Kristoffer Leon (second from right) pictured with classmates during the UCSF White Coat ceremony for first year medical students. Photo provided by Kristoffer Leon.

When asked to reflect on his chemistry major, Kristoffer Leon says: “I love my chemistry major because it was a challenging and rigorous pursuit of study that led to a lot of great connections with my professors, especially [Jose] Soria, [Emily] Weinert, [Jeremy] Weaver, and [Doug] Mulford. Also, it helped shape my path for my graduate studies.”

Kris (EC ’15) was an active participant in outreach and research during his time at Emory. As Vice President of ChEmory, Emory’s undergraduate chemistry club, he participated in Science Olympiad, National Chemistry Week, the Atlanta Science Festival, and science outreach to local schools. “[Kris’s] success stems from a unique devotion to learning while inside the classroom and an unparalleled example of leadership outside the classroom by mentoring students in all aspects of science and mathematics,” says Jose Soria. “Kristoffer is one of the most accomplished students I have ever met in my teaching career at Emory College. Chemistry played a key role in Kristoffer’s tenure while at Emory by fueling his imagination and passion for knowledge.”

Speaking of his research accomplishments, Emily Weinert echoes that praise: “Kristoffer is fantastic scientist – his intelligence and creativity were obvious both in class and in his honors thesis research. It was a real pleasure to work with him to develop ideas for his bioorganic chemistry grant proposal and then see the progress he made on his project to identify glycosyltransferases in the Cummings lab.” Kris’s honors thesis, “Cloning, expression and characterization of a β1,4-GalNAcTransferase from Schistosoma mansoni,” will be available from Emory’s online thesis library in 2017.

Now, Kris is an MD/PhD candidate at the University of California, San Francisco. Amidst his busy first year of classes, Kris has already become involved with the local community, volunteering with a homeless clinic in the area.

Many students come to Emory wanting to know if the chemistry major is the right choice to prepare them for a career in medicine.  Kris feels that the chemistry major has been excellent training for the rigorous medical school curriculum. “The knowledge I gained from my major helps a great deal in learning medicine, because learning about drugs and the functions of the human body is mostly chemistry and biochemistry.”