Science students turn trash into treasure
The Chemistry Department at Simmons is doing something incredible! Students are conducting serious research and are being asked to present their findings at national conferences. Since Simmons is committed to going green, this particular project is important.
Science students are taking the plastic cups that are distributed around the Simmons campus and turning them into a cleaning solution that is comparable to Lysol, 4-in-1 all-purpose cleaner, and other similar products. The Cups to Cleaners: Trash to Treasure project was spearheaded last year by Cassandra Cocoq '10 who worked on the project as her senior thesis, under the tutelage of Associate Professor and Department Chair Rich Gurney.
"Cassandra was naturally attracted to this project," said Professor Rich Gurney. "She not only wanted to look at chemistry, but look at the social implications of chemistry. She was focused more on the personable end that chemistry had on people, especially the impact of the chemical industry on Durban, South Africa. She wanted to make change."
Cassandra is now pursuing a Master's degree in Chemistry at the University of Oregon, and we are proud to say that she is a Simmons alumna. Cassandra says that being a part of the Cups to Cleaners project definitely helped her decide to pursue this degree.
Professor Gurney has been a part of the project since its beginning in 2005 when Jennifer Boice '08 developed the process of breaking down the biodegradable plastic cups and turning them into a cleaning solution. As a strong advocate for green chemistry, Professor Gurney says that scientists need to be thinking about the impact chemical processes have on the environment.
"Everything we interact with everyday is made out of materials that were made through a chemical process. We can't keep making things without worrying about the effects of material on the environment. I don't want 'green chemistry' to be different from 'chemistry.' All chemists should think about design in a benign way."