Science at Simmons integrates lab training with original research
Forget cookbook lab instruction. Simmons' science program has transformed the way students learn chemistry, physics, and biology by combining lab training with original undergraduate student and faculty research projects. The innovative curriculum introduces students to the fundamentals of research starting their first semester at the College.
"Our students need to be trained to enter the workforce immediately, and to do that in chemistry they need to know how to do research when they graduate," says Gurney. "More learning takes place when students experience the ins and outs of an experiment and have to work through or around problems that arise."
In addition to job training, the design of the program promotes a greater sense of community via cross-collaboration and peer mentoring. Chemistry, physics, and biology majors work closely together to study different aspects of a research project, and junior and senior students have the opportunity to become teaching assistants or instrumentation technicians for introductory lab courses.
"Our friends at larger universities can't believe what we are doing," says Amanda McLaughlin '12. "They wish they could come here once we tell them what they are missing. It's unbelievable to think that one day our chemistry could be used for something practical."
The research Amanda refers to is the thymine polymer project, which aims to create greener, and better antibacterial agents that can be used to coat surfaces to prevent the spread of bacterial infection. The details of the project were presented last month at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Denver.
Other examples of Simmons' lab-research integration include: Cups to Cleaners: Trash to Treasure; the Muddy River research project; and the study of pigments in paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts.
To read the entire feature article on Simmons' science program, visit Chemical & Engineering News: Reengineering the Undergrad Lab. To learn more about Simmons' research projects, visit the student research website.