Gifted chemistry student is first to receive McMullan Award

If you were given $20,000 on college graduation day, you might decide to use the gift to travel around the world before plunging into a career. That's what Emory College graduate Joe Kable has decided to do. But in addition to visiting tourist sites, Kable plans to seek out the world's trouble spots as well.

After working four years as a volunteer in Atlanta area homeless shelters, Kable wants to assess the situation worldwide. "Poverty is a world phenomenon; you don't get a sense of it just living in the United States," said Kable.

Kable's response is not surprising considering he is the first recipient of the Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, given to a graduate who exhibits "outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and potential for service to his community, the nation and the world."

William L. Matheson, a 1943 graduate of Emory College, endowed the McMullan Award in honor of his uncle. The award is accompanied by a $20,000 gift that can be used for the purpose of the recipient's choosing. Kable said the award may help him to combine his two great interests: chemistry and volunteer service. Kable served as co-director of Volunteer Emory, organized the Alternative Spring Break Program for the past four years, and contributed much time and energy to Empty the Shelters, a local advocacy group for the homeless. At the same time, Kable made the Dean's List every semester and was an Emory Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board, and a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship.

"Most science students don't see how my volunteer work is relevant to what I do in the labs," said Kable. "But I think I can bring the two different worlds together, for example, by teaching science in elementary schools located in underprivileged areas." Kable compiled an impressive academic record at Emory. "We see a chemistry student as good as he is only a few times in a career," said chemistry professor Ronald Johnson.

Kable will spend this summer working in an Emory chemistry lab, continuing his research in neurotransmitter transporters, which was the topic of his honors thesis. His work will be published in research journals and presented at scientific meetings next year. Kable would eventually like to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree. "Then I could teach on a university campus and be involved in volunteer service," he said.

--Nancy Seideman

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