Passions Take Davis UWC Scholar Around the World

March 12, 2012


Karen “Kémi” Kemirembe ’12: Young scientist’s ambitions brought her 7,000 miles away from home to Wellesley College, where opportunities have taken her around the world

Wellesley College is known for cultivating women leaders who are driven to make a difference around the world. Karen “Kémi” Kemirembe, a double major in biology and Spanish, whose experiences as a Wellesley student include researching gene depletion in dung beetles in North Dakota to teaching English to schoolchildren in Ecuador, is an outstanding example. 

Originally from Uganda, Kemirembe traveled nearly 7,000 miles from her home in Kampala to begin her first year at Wellesley in 2008 as a Davis United World College Scholar. From the start of freshman year, Kemirembe has been actively involved in biological research. Since 2009, Kemirembe has worked alongside Professor Yuichiro Suziki and her classmates studying hormonal control in tobacco hornworms. Being part of a long-term research project has provided Kemirembe with valuable opportunities; in the past two years she has honed her laboratory skills, presented her research at national conferences with hopes of publishing her results, and formed valuable friendships with her lab mates—fellow Wellesley women from around the globe. Kemirembe has already received numerous research and internship grants, including the North Dakota State University STEM summer research grant (2011), the Wellesley Science Center Research Grant (2010 – present), and the Mentoring in the Sciences AT&T Research Grant (2009).

While Kemirembe has emerged as an accomplished young scientist, her multifaceted interests have led her to pursue multiple disciplines at Wellesley—and have taken her around the world. With a desire to augment her education with learning experiences abroad, Kemirembe spent her 2009 Wintersession in Jamaica, where she learned first hand about the country’s challenging economic and social structures; interned with Ecuador’s Ministry of Education during her sophomore summer; and spent the fall semester of her junior year in Spain, where she studied Spanish cinema, archeology, and Muslim art.

Outside the lab and classroom, Kemirembe is engaged in many activities, both on-campus and beyond. She sings with Colour is Music, an international a capella group, tutors four- to six-year-olds in Roxbury as part of the Mission Hill After School Program, and volunteers with the Somalia Development Center, helping ex-refugees to study for their SATs and write college essays.

Kemirembe is grateful for the experiences she has had while at Wellesley and credits the Davis United World College Scholars program (UWC) for supporting opportunities she might not otherwise have had. She adds that the preparation provided by the UWC has helped her to cope with the challenges of balancing rigorous academic work with extra-curricular activities and volunteer work.

Kemirembe, currently in her senior year, plans to enroll in a Molecular Biology PhD program after graduation.  She encourages future Davis United World Scholars to “carry on the UWC ideals” by contributing to the community through volunteer work, by teaching others about their culture, “as well as to keep excelling at academics.”