KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 17, 2022
Growing up in Haiti as a child, Carl Saint-Louis aspired to be just like Charles Xavier, Professor X, his favorite fictional character on the animated television series “X-Men”.
“I told my father when I grow up, I want to be Professor X (with more hair) and have a laboratory with my own X-Men team,” he said. “My father replied, ‘If you believe in yourself and work hard, it will happen.’”
Fast forward a couple of decades, and while Saint-Louis does not lead a team of superheroes, he has achieved his goals, building his own research team as an assistant professor of organic chemistry at Kennesaw State University. His journey began at the University as an undergraduate.
“It’s not easy being a first-generation college student because there is no blueprint for attaining success,” Saint-Louis said. “I was just following the template like everyone else and was fortunate to meet a couple of friends along the way who helped me and guided me.”
His career trajectory changed when he took an introductory organic chemistry course with Daniela Tapu, professor of chemistry, who later became his mentor.
“The way professor Tapu taught — connecting the concepts to relatable examples — made it more accessible to the general audience,” he said.
After successfully completing Tapu’s course, Saint-Louis joined her research lab, which focused on carbenes. Carbenes are unusual carbon atoms and have played an important role as transient intermediates in organic chemistry ever since their first firm evidence of existence in the late 1980s.
Saint-Louis’ undergraduate research experience allowed him the opportunity to present his research at different conferences such as KSU’s Symposium of Student Scholars and the American Chemical Society’s Southeast Regional Meeting.
During his third year at KSU, he was selected to participate in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he then returned to earn his doctorate degree in chemistry in 2015 and obtained a patent for his research.
“One of the mottos that I follow is Marian Wright Edelman’s ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’” he explained. “Being exposed to an academic research environment at KSU made me realize that I, too, can be a professor and have my own laboratory.”
Saint-Louis is now back at KSU, leading projects involving undergraduate students funded by the College of Science and Mathematics’ Mentor Protégé Research Program. That work with fostering the next generation of scientists has already paid off.
In September 2021, he earned a grant from the National Science Foundation dedicated to improving minority representation in math and science fields. The grant is worth nearly $250,000 and focuses on assisting the careers of pre-tenure faculty in mathematical and physical sciences (MPS) at institutions that do not traditionally receive significant amounts of NSF-MPS funding. Saint-Louis said this grant fits perfectly with his mission as an academic.
– Joelle Walls
Photos 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 more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.