The Right Chemistry

a young, white female student standing in front of yellow-leaved trees
Katie Hatstat (Class of 2016)

Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Major: Chemistry

Extracurriculars: Rhodes Women’s Soccer Team, Rhodes Resident Advisor, Member of Chi Omega, Rhodes Diplomat, Chemistry peer-tutor and TA, Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society, Goldwater Scholar

For Katie Hatstat ’16, moving from her home in the mile-high city of Denver, CO, to attend Rhodes College in the southern river city of Memphis, TN, was a big change. But from her first semester at Rhodes, when she joined the research lab of Dr. Mauricio Cafiero, the chemistry major hit the ground running. Her very first project at Rhodes, which entailed doing revisionary calculations on a graduated student’s paper, was submitted for publication in an academic journal.

Since then, Katie’s love of chemistry and her prowess for chemical research have continued to produce results. She has competed in several conferences at the University of Memphis and national meetings of the American Chemical Society, giving oral and written presentations in regional competitions. She was inducted into the Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society last spring, and a second paper, co-authored by Mallory Morris ’16, was published in 2015.

Katie was named a Goldwater scholarship winner in 2015, after receiving an honorable mention the year before. The Goldwater scholarship is a prestigious award for undergraduate students planning to pursue research or careers in the fields of science, mathematics, or engineering, and applicants must be nominated by their institution. Katie explains, “You compete against students from your home state, not against the state of your institution. It’s a research proposal, then a general application. It teaches you how to write a research proposal. You have to pick a topic that you’re interested in, and mine happened to be what I’m researching now.”

Katie’s current independent research is being conducted with the oversight of Drs. Cafiero and Larryn Peterson. She is working on small molecule drug design, analyzing dopaminergic derivatives as inhibitors of catechol-O-methyltransferase. “I work in Dr. Cafiero’s lab to do a computational analysis of the derivatives that we’re looking at as ligands in the enzymatic active site, and then in Dr. Peterson’s lab I’m making the derivatives, and we’re going to test them in an enzyme assay,” she explains. She adds of Cafiero and Peterson, “If I need anything, they’re right down the hall all the time. Research is one of their highest priorities, and they come and help me work me through whatever I’m struggling with.”

Despite the many hours she has spent doing research, though, Katie’s involvement at Rhodes has not been restricted to the chemistry department. She played center midfielder for the Rhodes Womens’ Soccer team for four years and has worked as a Resident Advisor, a Rhodes Diplomat, and a peer tutor.

Katie plans to pursue her chemistry studies after she graduates this spring, and is looking at Stanford, Yale, Duke, and Wisconsin. After a four- to six-year program for a chemistry PhD, she ultimately would like to end up doing pharmaceutical research and development.  

By Kenneth Piper ’17