Michelle Jung '17 Works in the GurLee Lab

July 16, 2015

Michelle Jung

Michelle Jung '17 takes a minute to talk with us about her experience as a SMART Scholar in the GurLee Research Lab.

Tell us about your experience as a SMART Scholar.

I first applied to be a SMART/SURE Mentee while taking organic chemistry II with Dr. Nancy Lee and Dr. Rich Gurney during the fall semester of my sophomore year. I started out by shadowing the upperclassmen during their research times in the lab, assisting them around the lab, and attending the bi-weekly research group meetings.

As a SMART/SURE Mentee, I was given the opportunity to attend the national American Chemical Society meeting in Denver, CO in March 2015. Being able to attend the national conference as an undergraduate was an incredible experience, [where I met] professionals as well as other undergraduates in the chemistry community.

Starting in May, I have dedicated my summer break at Simmons to pursue a brand new research project within the GurLee lab. So far it has been a very rewarding experience, and I am very excited to continue my research during the 2015-16 school year as a SMART Scholar myself.

It will be interesting…going from the mentee to mentor position within a year.

How has your understanding of sustainable chemistry changed as you've spent more time in the lab?

Learning about and putting into practice the Design of Experiments (DOE) method in both the organic chemistry labs and research, first introduced me to sustainable chemistry in the research setting. After two years in chemistry labs at Simmons, I have further learned the environmental effect and damage that volatile and toxic chemicals have on our planet.

While our new project does not yet follow the DOE approach, we have taken precautions to identifying, then using, less harmful organic solvents during our research. We also are mindful in minimizing the amount of chemicals, water, and supplies we use, therefore reducing the amount of waste produced.

Since the research in the GurLee lab is focused on and driven by the principles of green chemistry, we create polymers that are water soluble, reusable, and have multiple possible applications. It is very exciting to be a part of the green chemistry movement and hopefully contribute to the greater good.

How do you plan on using your lab experience once you leave Simmons College?

I hope to use the laboratory experience and knowledge I am gaining from Simmons in either the biotechnology or pharmaceutical research industries. After graduating from Simmons in the Spring of 2017, I am planning on applying to jobs and working for several years before going back to school in order to accomplish either a Master's degree or a PhD.

I want to gain real-world work experience before going back to school because I want to see all of the possibilities out there for me, as well as identify a specific focus/discipline within the broad field of chemistry and biochemistry.

The laboratory skills/techniques we learn and instruments that Simmons students have the unique privilege of using hands-on…will no-doubt prepare well me to succeed in my future jobs and career.

What advice would you give to other young women interested in chemistry?

For other young women interested in chemistry, I would say to follow their dreams and passions…I would also advise them to take some time to research on the internet all the different disciplines and careers in chemistry, to find [what] interests them.

I would also advise young women to reach out to their teachers and professors, because one of my favorite things about Simmons is how the professors here are very open, welcoming, and willing to talk to you. They have so much knowledge to teach you not only in the classroom, but outside as well…they want to help you succeed.