Hutchinson native Kayla St. Laurent is on a mission to unlock the secrets of cancer and help develop new medicines that can save lives. Set to graduate from Kansas Wesleyan University with a degree in Biomedical and General Chemistry
cum laude in May 2017, Kayla credits her professors and the supportive environment at KWU for her evolution as a young woman going into the sciences.
“One of my favorite things about the chemistry program at Kansas Wesleyan is that it’s really good — and it’s small,” St. Laurent says. “My professors have been outstanding and the small class sizes have meant I’ve had more opportunities to collaborate closely with my fellow students and get more personal attention from our faculty.”
Through her hard work and the encouragement of her professors, Kayla applied for and received a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to work for 10 weeks during the summer of 2016 in the Rafferty Research Laboratory at Kansas State University. Open to all science majors who apply and meet academic criteria, NSF REU grants are making research opportunities at leading university laboratories available to students from smaller universities. An increasing number of Kansas Wesleyan students, like St. Laurent, are obtaining competitive placements in these funded research experiences.
“It was an amazing experience to be at the Rafferty Lab at K-State,” St. Laurent says. “I was able to learn so much and actually contribute to research on a drug that could help cure some of the most common forms of cancers.”
After returning to Kansas Wesleyan in the fall of 2016, St. Laurent was more determined than ever to pursue a career in chemistry. Her dedication has paid off — she was recently accepted into graduate school at K-State’s Department of Chemistry where she will pursue a Ph.D. in Organic Synthesis starting in the fall of 2017. St. Laurent will pick up where she left off at the Rafferty Lab focusing on synthetic organic chemistry, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry.