Spring is perfect for a meet-up in The Depot by Kaldi’s Coffee outdoor seating area. Aditya Kolisetti (24C) sits at a table on the porch of the popular Emory University coffee spot with bulky black headphones around his neck. He smiles.
“In coming back to the States, I’m excited to be here, and I’m very, very happy for the summer day,” he said, motioning toward the bright rays that poke through the cracks of the wood paneled awning.
Kolisetti was born in Portland, Ore., but he moved to India at eight years old and spent the majority of his life there, moving back to the United States to go to Emory. He is both a U.S. citizen and an international student, since his home is in India.
He is also very close to his family and tries to call home each week, though he said the 11-hour time difference can make that tough. He said he tries to call at hours when both sides are often awake, usually 7 to 10 a.m., or 9 to 11 p.m. Atlanta time. However, at times, he said he has had to make midnight or 2 a.m. calls to reach his family if there’s something pressing. Kolisetti said that the hardest thing about the time difference was when he was in India during the pandemic and his online chemistry labs were held from 3 to 6 a.m.
Despite the inconvenience of traveling from India to Atlanta, Kolisetti said that going to college in the U.S. was a clear choice. As a U.S. citizen, he said he receives more financial aid from schools here compared to what he would’ve received in India. He also said that many Indian universities are very “strict,” and only recently has India established liberal arts schools.
“They’re very young universities,” Kolisetti said. “Here, there’s always been a lot more of an interdisciplinary focus and because I didn’t want to abandon either humanities or the sciences, I think I had to come here if I wanted to make the most of it.”
As both a chemistry major and an English minor, Kolisetti finds the complementary aspects in seemingly-opposite things. However, he said that he doesn’t feel that managing these two disciplines requires a “balancing act.”
“In fact, I think it’s more of a coexistence,” Kolisetti said. The very creative side of English — the extremely subjective ebb and flow of words and pace, meter, rhythm, register — all of that lends itself really well to scientific writing, as well.”
Kolisetti specifically chose to come to Emory for this duality. He said he was initially attracted to the University for its emphasis on students gaining a well-rounded, liberal arts education, but that he ultimately committed because it has both strong chemistry and English programs.
“It was the best of both worlds,” Kolisetti said.
This sentiment of bridging the gap is prevalent in many of Kolisetti’s endeavors. He serves as the director of the research committee for Plastic-Free Emory, as well as the Green Chair for the University’s official chemistry club, ChEmory. In these positions, he is able to combine his interests in chemistry and environmental activism.
“I enjoy being able to straddle the line and make sure that both [clubs] get what they want out of the science,” Kolisetti said.
He said he plans to organize a collaborative event between the two clubs for Earth Week, the last week of April, in which he hopes to bring the analytical, quantitative side of chemistry to Plastic Free Emory, and a more environmentally-sustainable lens to ChEmory.
Kolisetti cares deeply about the environment — a passion he said he will carry with him for the rest of his life. During his sophomore year, he worked in a lab with Dr. Sihi in Emory’s environmental science department on soil carbon analysis projects. He plans to attend graduate school after Emory to study organic synthesis in chemistry. In his graduate school search, he said he prioritizes finding a place that has good public transport and meat-free food options, as he strives to follow a vegetarian diet for environmental reasons.
Kolisetti, who has lived in India for most of his life, said that living a meat-free life in the U. S. is challenging.
“A lot of fast food and easy-access cuisine has been either vegetable-lacking or meat or dairy-focused,” he said. “Of course, there are great restaurants that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly, but a majority of my meals will need to be home-cooked if I want to have variety while also getting enough nutrition from meals.”
Kolisetti is a sponge. He is enamored with life and soaks up everything around him. He said he believes that there is something to learn from everyone in his life, especially those in the Emory community.
“I look up to everybody around me,” Kolisetti said. “Peers, friends, professors — there’s honestly something very noble and very, very forward-driven about most people. I mean, it’s Emory. There’s good people here, you know what I mean?”
Kolisetti has a 30-year plan. His ideal trajectory involves graduate school, then working as an independent researcher for 10 to 20 years, and finally retiring as a professor, hopefully teaching organic chemistry.
He is also a natural teacher. While he adores learning, Kolisetti said he enjoys passing on his knowledge to better the lives of others even more. At Emory, he’s worked as a learning assistant teaching chemistry courses, including Chemistry 150, 202, 203 and 204.
“Two years of teaching so far, and I don’t intend to stop,” he said beaming. “I’m really glad for the students who have shown marked improvement and who have said that I was able to tangibly change their life for the better.”
Kolisetti also holds his own personal review sessions for his classmates in the classes he takes.
“I think being able to put that forward and give what I’ve been given from my mentors previously, that’s been a real treat here,” he said.
Kolisetti said he believes that learning is lifelong. It doesn’t stop once you get a grade on an exam.
“I don’t think I’m gonna ever stop learning,” he said. “I’m never gonna stop setting goals. The only thing that I will do tomorrow is better than today. And that is it. I cannot give you the world, and I cannot give you more than what I have right now, but be sure that one day eventually I will. Success is an inevitability, not an endpoint.”