Carli Kovel is a chemistry enthusiast through and through. She spends her time conducting research in an inorganic chemistry lab, but has found herself interested in a wide range of topics in chemistry. And while her passion for all things chemistry may be making it a bit difficult for her to decide on a future career path just yet, Carli’s widespread interests have also opened the door for her to explore several potential avenues.
Before deciding to come to Emory in 2014, Carli had considered other schools where she might pursue her undergraduate degree. After visiting the Emory campus and meeting with some faculty members in the chemistry department, her mind was pretty much made up. Her decision to come to Emory was only made easier after learning about all the research going on here. “There is such amazing and impactful research going on at Emory and I was eager to get involved,” says Carli. “I felt like there were so many opportunities where I could become immersed in amazing projects.”
When she enrolled in Dr. Tracy McGill’s General Chemistry 141 class, Carli became even more excited about the subject and declared a chemistry major. The more she learned about chemistry, the more passionate she became. Beyond just attending classes and completing coursework, Carli regularly attended office hours, where she was able to dive even deeper into the material and start asking more complex and thoughtful questions.
In fact, her experience in chemistry 141 class was so impactful, Carli went on to become a Chemistry Mentor for the course. As a Chemistry Mentor, Carli continued to attend the class and serve as a resource for the more junior students. By being available to answer questions and discuss complicated or confusing material, she could help other students find success in the course or even identify their own passion for chemistry. Now, even though the chemistry 141 class has been replaced by the new Chemistry Unbound curriculum, Carli continues to stay involved as a Chemistry Mentor. She feels as though the new course layout has improved the flow of the material and allows for a more fluid way of learning chemistry.
Not only does this role as chemistry mentor give her experience with leadership and teaching, it also helps her develop an even deeper understanding of the chemistry material, an advantage which has proved to be immensely useful in a research setting. Carli is now an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Cora Macbeth where she studies aerobic catechol oxidation, an important organic reaction. In industry, the oxidation of compounds can be notably harmful to the environment, so much research effort is currently going toward improving this process through the use of cheaper and safer catalysts. Carli focuses on using copper and cobalt, two transition metals whose ability to easily gain and lose electrons makes them particularly useful as redox catalysts.
During her time in the MacBeth lab, Carli has gained extensive training in the techniques of inorganic chemistry. She has spent time learning paramagnetic NMR and working in a nitrogen atmosphere glove box. “Carli is a wonderful scientist and researcher. She is driven, inquisitive and doesn’t back away from challenges in the laboratory,” says Dr. MacBeth. “She has been working on some particularly difficulty syntheses, with very air-sensitive species and she has done an outstanding job characterizing these reactive species.” Beyond developing a diverse arsenal of chemical techniques, Carli has also developed a more abstract way of thinking about science and an appreciation for scientific creativity through experimental design. Carli has found it interesting and helpful to see some of the concepts she learned in class translated to the laboratory setting and has even found herself applying the concepts of chemistry to other classes, from history to poetry.
Emory’s Department of Chemistry provided Carli with the opportunity to travel to Italy with the Summer Studies in Siena program. She spent six weeks overseas experiencing Italian culture while taking three courses to expand her chemistry knowledge. During her time in Italy, Carli learned about the history and culture of Rome, the chemistry of food and wine, and the research happening at the University of Siena. Her experiences ranged from visiting a vineyard to learn the process of wine making first-hand to synthesizing an artificial meniscus to be used to mimic the articular cartilage in the human knee! Carli loved her time studying abroad and considers it to be one of the best summers of her life. “It was amazing to be immersed in that culture!” says Carli.
In case coursework, mentoring, and research doesn’t keep Carli busy enough, she is also involved in several organizations at Emory. She currently serves as the Co-President of Hybrid Vigor, a student-run online interdisciplinary science magazine and as the Co-President of The Survivor Anthology, a literary magazine that collects poems, stories, and visual arts from survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Additionally, Carli serves as Treasurer of Emory Undergraduate Medical Review, a student-run medical research journal, and as a campus tour guide. As a tour guide, she enjoys introducing prospective students to the great things Emory has to offer. “I love telling people why I am passionate about Emory. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and I really want to share them with prospective students,” says Carli.
Even though Carli is confident in navigating her way around Emory’s campus, she is still on a mission to find her future career path. Being interested in several different topics within the field of chemistry has given her a lot to consider before choosing a direction, but has also given her the freedom to explore several different possibilities. “Everything I’ve done so far with the department, I’ve loved,” says Carli. “I just want to keep taking more classes and see where that leads.” With graduation not far off, Carli is excited about what her future holds.