Pirate Profile: Kai Davis
In anticipation of graduating with his bachelor’s degree in biology in May, senior Kai Davis is looking toward the next steps in his future. Davis has had a multitude of opportunities throughout his undergraduate experience as an Honors College student at East Carolina University.
“I actually did not know anything about ECU when I came here. I didn’t tour or have an orientation, so it was a little bit of a risky adventure,” he said. “I’m glad that it paid off because I’ve had really valuable opportunities and experiences and met really cool people here both academically and socially.”
Growing up in Kailua, Hawaii, Davis developed a strong love and respect for nature while being surrounded by the abundant beaches and marine fauna. He then moved to Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“I’ve always been fascinated with life and understanding how things work, why things are, and what makes us living sentient creatures,” he said. “There is just so much out there.”
This past summer, Davis was selected and participated in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the San Juan Islands in Washington. He conducted independent research on the effects of mussel biodeposition on ocean chemistry dynamics in relation to ocean acidification.
“They have state of the art labs where we were able to pressurize water to remove the carbon dioxide and then add in known amounts of carbon dioxide to alter the pH of the water,” Davis said. “We were able to truly have a pH gradient, which is really hard to do.”
This allowed Davis to simulate ocean acidification conditions while studying chemical changes in the mussel beds.
Along with this research experience, Davis also attended career development seminars and workshops.
“They created such a nice inclusive work environment where no matter how much experience you have, you were always recognized as a scientist,” he said. “I formed genuine connections and gained networking opportunities, and it was just one of the best experiences.”
Davis presented a poster at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting (ESA) in Portland, Oregon, following the REU.
“That was my first large annual conference I’ve ever been to. There were presentations about recent ecological projects, seminars discussing ethical concerns in the private sector, workshops for improving scientific talks with humor, and so much more. It was hard to find the time to see everything.” Davis said.
Additionally on campus, Davis conducts personal research for his signature honors project on plant microbe associations in response to environmental stressors to enhance wetland restoration.
Davis attributes many of his opportunities to his mentor Dr. Adriene Peralta, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at ECU.
“Really, it all comes back down to Dr. Peralta,” Davis said. “She’s been an amazing mentor over the past couple of years.”
With just a semester between him and graduation, Davis is beginning to apply to graduate school to reach his goal of working for a private sector environmental remediation company.
“I hope to pursue a master’s degree and eventually a PhD degree in conservation biology or microbial ecology,” Davis said.
Throughout his career, Davis hopes to fuse his love for the environment with his passion for sustainability.
“I wish to take part in the fight against climate change and build a better world that’s more sustainable for all forms of life,” he said.
Name: Kai Davis
College: Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Hobbies/interests: Traveling with friends, listening to music, camping, reading, thrifting and buying plants that I don’t have space for.
Clubs and Organizations: Pirates on Water, Pirate SCUBA Association, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, and the Honors College.
Favorite hangout: My house and the trails at River Park North
Favorite place on campus: Flanagan Library or the corner window rooms in Biotech
Favorite place to eat: Coffee+Spice
Favorite class: Microbial Ecology (BIOL 4560)
Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Ariane Peralta
Favorite TV show: “True Detective”
Favorite band/musician: I have way too many but my current top 3 are Men I Trust, Erykah Badu, and the Bill Evans Trio.
Favorite movie: “Interstellar”
Favorite app: TikTok
Dream job: Lead researcher at a bioremediation company
Role model: Noam Chomsky
Your words to live by: “Listen less to your fears and more to your dreams.”
What advice do you have for other students?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I feel that our generation is pressured to grow up as fast as possible, and with that, become more independent. However, we are still so young and only just beginning to live our lives, so it’s inevitable that we won’t know everything. Whether you’re struggling with life and mental health issues, or you’ve got an organic chem exam coming up that you’re completely unprepared for, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, classmate or even a professor! You’ll be surprised by the connections that you can make.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?
There are so many cool opportunities and free resources available for you! ECU provides extra financial aid with the Student Treasure Chest, free food with the Purple Pantry, funded research apprenticeships, CURE labs and so much more. All you have to do is take that first step.