Katherine Palmer Kaup's research focuses on ethnic minorities and rule of law developments in China. She is the author of Creating the Zhuang: Ethnic Politics in China, several articles and chapters on ethnic minorities, and editor and contributor to the textbook, Understanding Contemporary Asia. She won the China Quarterly Gordon White Award in 2002 for her article "Regionalism Versus Ethnicnationalism in the People's Republic of China." In 2012-13, she served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Yunnan Nationalities University where she researched rule of law developments in China's border regions. She also served as a visiting scholar at the Guangxi Ethnic Affairs Commission.
In 2005, Kaup served as special adviser for Minority Nationalities Affairs at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and was a 2008-2011 National Committee on United States-China Relations Public Intellectuals Fellow. She regularly leads groups to China, including Congressional staff delegations, museum and alumni tours, and student groups, and has served as an expert witness for a Congressional Staff Roundtable on human rights in Xinjiang. She has served as program director and principal investigator for the U.S. State Department-funded Furman-Suzhou Intensive Summer Institute and for Furman's federally-funded Startalk Chinese Camp.