Student Research

Hands-on research experience is a key part of a Simmons science education. All Simmons students engage in a year-long senior Independent Learning project as part of their program.

In chemistry, Independent Learning means current research, at Simmons or in one of the many other research laboratories in Boston. Research gives students the opportunity to put their knowledge to work. With her faculty adviser, each student plans and performs experimental work, and she analyzes and documents her results. Each student writes a senior thesis based on her research and defends the thesis in an oral exam. Our graduates report that this experience is invaluable preparation for job interviews and for graduate school. Research opportunities are also open to students as early as the freshman year.

Hands-on Experience with Modern Equipment

Simmons chemistry students begin using up-to-date laboratory instruments in the very first chemistry course and continue to build this hands-on experience throughout the curriculum. Simmons graduates are known for their ability to take on laboratory projects with a minimum of supervision. Computers are used extensively throughout the various chemistry-related programs.

Individual Student Chemistry Carrels

Each Simmons student who declares a chemistry-related major gets an individual laboratory carrel in our Independent Study Laboratory. Students are encouraged to do laboratory work in their carrels, where they can work individually or together, calling on Faculty for guidance as needed.

Easy Contact with Faculty

Although the Simmons chemistry faculty are actively involved in research, we feel that research should not take us away from our students. Simmons students are actively involved in our research as part of their Independent Study work. We are always glad to meet with students outside of class individually or in small groups.

Simmons Mentoring Assistantships for Research Training (SMART) Scholars

Undergraduate Simmons women work with faculty mentors to bring their senior-thesis research projects into the standard teaching curriculum and serve as Research Teaching Assistants and Instrumental Teaching Assistants (SMART Scholars) to underclasswomen. Typically, these Senior and Junior undergraduates will recruit the most research-capable students to join the research laboratory in their Sophomore year. The SMART Scholars then mentor the underclasswomen in groups of 2 to 3, while they are working on their Senior Thesis Projects in the research laboratory. During the first semester research “rotation” underclasswomen either decide to join the research group and begin to develop a related project of their own, or they may choose to pursue another faculty member to experience another research project in a different discipline.

In recent years there has been great interest in the design and construction of micro and nanostructures having functional responses to external stimulus (pH, temperature, light), especially for use as microsensors and photoresist materials. Our studies involve the synthesis, characterization and copolymerization of monomers containing thymine residues, 1-(4-vinylbenzyl) thymine (VBT), 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine with ionic styrene derivatives, 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) and 4-vinylphenyl sulfonic acid (VPS). 

Individual projects include:

  • Greening the synthesis of 1-(4-vinylbenzyl) thymine (VBT) & 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine (bisVBT) through a Plackett-Burman Experimental Design
  • Synthesis and characterization of 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine and its polymerization with vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride
  • Characterization of copolymers of vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) using size exclusion chromatography
  • Synthesis of photocrosslinkable chitan for applications in photoresist technology.


Students who have successfully completed either the research-integrated Principles of Chemistry course CHEM113 or CHEM115 (Introduction to the Chemical Research Laboratory) and CHEM224 (Organic Chemistry I) are eligible to apply for the Program. Entry point is typically after completion of the first year. Minimum GPA requirement of 3.0. Consideration for participation will be based upon Faculty Recommendation from a laboratory instructor in CHEM113, CHEM115, CHEM224 and the students GPA.


Funding for this program in part comes from the Semiconductor Research Corporation Educational Alliance Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

Representative Senior Theses

Representative Senior Theses in Chemistry and Biochemistry

  • Kiara Y. Dupuy '14
    "Determination and Validation of a Liquid Chromatographic Tandem-Mass Spectrometry Method for the Measurement of Adrenal Steroid Hormones"
  • Vera Alexandra Kirch '14
    "Analysis of Zcchc6 uridyltransferase activity on microRNA regulation and cytokine expression using TALEN and CRISPR-Cas9 systems"
  • Rebecca Koelin '14
    "Greening the Synthesis of 1-(4-Vinylbenzyl) Thymine (VBT) Through a Plackett-Burman Experimental Design"
  • Shanell Mojta '14
    "Optical Imaging of Blood-Brain Barrier Leakage and Tissue Concentration"
  • Zun Zar Chi Naing '14
    "Transcranial Ultrasound-Optical Transmission Correlation"
  • Kayla Alyse Willis '14
    "Crosslinking Polylactic Acid to Improve its Thermal Properties"
  • Brittany Taylor Caruso '13
    "Functional Analysis of the Interaction Between Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpes virus Anti-apoptotic BCL-2 Homolog and the Human Host Pro-apoptotic Protein, BIK"
  • Ngoc Chau Vy '13
    "Synthesis and Characterization of 1,3BIS(4-Vinylbenzyl)Thymine and Its Copolymerization with Vinylbenzyltriethyl Quaternary Ammonium Chloride"
  • Kris McDonough '13
    "Infrared Spectroscopy Evaluation of the Photodimerization of 4-Vinyl(Benzyl) Thymine and 4-Vinyl(Benzyl) Trialkyl Ammonium Chloride Induced by Ultraviolet Light"
  • Nnennaya Okey-Igwe '13
    "Comparison of Methods for Pesticide Residue Analysis Using QuEChERS, Microwave Extraction and GC-MS/ LC-MS/MS Quantitation"
  • Maureen Corrielus '13
    "Characterizing Antibacterial Properties of a Bacteriostatic Copolymer, Vinylbenzyl Thiymine and Vinylbenzyl Triethylammonium Chloride, Against Gram-positive Bacteria"
  • Cynthia Reynolds '13
    "Characterizing the Antibacterial Activity of a Vinylbenzyl Thymine and Vinylbenzyl Trietheylammonium Chloride Copolymer Against Commonly Nosocomial Gram-negative Bacteria"
  • Diane McKiernan '12
    "Use of AA for Arsenic Determination to Study the Impact of Iron Particles in BioSand Filtration Systems"
  • Amanda Lynn McLaughlin '12
    "Development of a Method for Characterizing Synthetic Polymer Samples Using Gel Permeation Chromatography and a Poly-Vinylbenzyl Chloride Standard Curve"
  • Caitlin Kilbashian '12
    "GC/MS Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Apples"
  • Katrina Marie Thistle '12
    "Characterization of Polyvinylbenzyl Chloride by Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry"
  • Hannah Elisabeth Gilman '12 
    "Studies on the Adsorption Behavior of Amelogenin onto Amorphous Calcium Phosphate"
  • Nicole Kawamoto '11 
    "Synthesis of Large Area Graphene Films by Chemical Vapor Deposition"
  • Elthea Hendrickson '09
    "Detection Limits for Steroids Using MALDI_TOF Mass Spectrometry"
  • Jennifer DuBois '09
    "Confirmation of Epstein-Barr Virus-Host Interactions & Expansion of the EBV-Host Interactome"
  • Kavetha Ranjit '09
    "Determination of Dissolved Contaminants in the Muddy River by X-ray Fluorescence"
  • Lauren Searls '09
    "Synthesis and Characterization of Thymine-based Photoresist Polymers"
  • Katelyn Souza '09
    "Literature Curation to Generate a Database for Epstein-Barr Virus Protein-Protein Interactions"
  • Vivian Yu '08
    "A Search for Endocrine Disruptors in the Muddy River"
  • Jennifer Boice '08
    "A Green Process to Depolymerize Polylactic Acid"
  • Shauna Tracy '08
    "Analysis of Steroids Using MALDI-TOF Post Source Decay"
  • Mai Tran '08
    "Crosslinking Polylactic Acid"
  • Susanna Wong '07
    "Synthesis of Amino Acid Terminated Thiols for the Preparation of Biomimetic Crystal Nucleation Templates via Self-Assembly"
  • Supicha Kridaratikorn '07
    "The Analysis of Historically Significant Dyes via MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry"
  • Christina Wong '07
    "The Evaluation of NADPH-Dependent Ketoreductase Enzymes and Their Ability to Reduce Hindered Acetophenones"
  • Alison Bergeron '06
    "Identification of Protein Partners Using Peptide Mass Fingerprinting"
  • Kathy Chaurasiya '06
    "Characterization of ß-Amyloid (1-42) Aggregation by Dynamic Light Scattering"
  • Teresa Rizzi '06
    "Evaluation of Volatile Sulfur Compounds in Muddy River Sediment and Their Potential Impact on Remediation Activities"
  • Firdous Qadir '05
    "Modeling the Interactions of Impurities with Calcium Oxalate Monohydrate Crystals"
  • Hannah Knowles '04
    "A Validation of Two Forensic Procedures for the Detection of Salivary Amylase"