Research opens door to doctorate program for Leets

Katelyn Leets will earn her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology on Saturday, May 7, 2016. But she won?t be taking time for rest and relaxation after graduation. She will travel to Austria to continue work on her National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) through the University at Syracuse-SUNY. After completing the REU, she will begin the Ph.D. program in Chemistry the University at Syracuse-SUNY.

Leets credits much of her success to the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program at Penn State Berks and its faculty and staff, who have been mentors to her through her academic career. She also credits the Chemistry faculty for advising her with research and graduate school expectations.

?Being able to work with and conduct research one-on-one with faculty at Penn State Berks was helpful,? comments Leets. ?It?s a smaller community, so there are opportunities to network, to get advice from faculty, talk to people, and hear about their experiences. I definitely got a good education here, and I want people to know how amazing this place is.?

Her REU was titled ?Synthesic Studies of Kapakahine C,? and it focused on creating a molecule that has demonstrated anti-leukemia properties. Leets explained that Kapakahines are marine-derived natural products isolated from a South Pacific sponge in trace quantities that have shown anti-leukemia potential. Past studies have been slowed by Kapakahines' lack of availability, making synthesis necessary for study.

She had an opportunity to describe her research through a poster presentation to the Syracuse Science Division and to write a paper that was submitted for publication to the National Science Foundation. She presented her research at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Diego, CA, March 13-17, 2016.

?The NSF-REU experience was a great way to gain experience doing organic synthesis research,? states Leets.

Leets is a member and Vice President of the Penn State Berks Chapter of the American Chemical Society, contributing to the group?s success in receiving multiple national awards in both community service programming and green chemistry. She is a chemistry teaching assistant and works part-time as a laboratory assistant in the college?s Chemistry labs, as well as working part-time at Suburban Testing Labs in Reading, PA.

She plans to continue her studies toward a Ph.D. in Chemistry with the goal of working in government or industry as a Synthetic Chemist, eventually obtaining a teaching position and bringing her full circle, back to the classroom.