Nancy Lee

Associate Professor of Chemistry & Physics and Co-Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics
  • Chemistry and Physics
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(617) 521-2732

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About Me

Professor Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and her family immigrated to the US when she was in middle school. She gravitated towards math and science courses in high school due to the language barrier and pursued chemistry at University of Pennsylvania. With BS in chemistry, she worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 4 years where she fell in love with synthetic organic chemistry. She decided to attend Brown to get a Ph.D. in organic synthesis. After a year of postdoctoral work at MIT in organometallic chemistry, she came to Simmons. She’s been teaching organic chemistry to science majors and pre health majors since 1994. She has put much of her effort into innovative teaching. There are two main areas of curricular change that she’s proud of: first is converting traditional lectures into “flipped lectures” for organic chemistry I and II. In the flipped lecture model, students watch a video before class and during "class", which is really a problem solving session, all the students are sent to white boards to solve problems. The second innovative curriculum change is the conversion of traditional labs to research incorporated labs. The recent paper entitled “Using Green Chemistry Principles as a Framework to Incorporate Research into the Organic Laboratory Curriculum” in the Journal of Chemical Education describes how this was accomplished. Research integration has made it possible for students to get involved in research in their first year. Peer mentoring is then used to train students for 2-3 more years in the art of research. This makes it possible for seniors to contribute independently. With these changes in curriculum, there has been tremendous evolution in how research is done by undergraduates at Simmons in the last ten years.

What I Teach

  • Chem 111 Introductory Chemistry: Inorganic
  • Chem 112 Introductory Chemistry: organic
  • Chem 114 Organic Chemistry I
  • Chem 225 Organic Chemistry II
  • Chem 343 Advanced Topics in Modern Chemistry

Research/Creative Activities

My students and I have been working on the projects listed below, all involving synthesis and characterization of a green copolymer made up of two monomers, vinylbenzylthymine (VBT) and 4-vinylbenzyl trialkyl ammonium chloride (VBA). Due to the thymine moiety in VBT, the copolymer has the ability to photo-crosslink upon irradiation with ultraviolet light, and with VBA it is water-soluble. Possible future applications of the VBT/VBA copolymer include as a photoresist that can be used to manufacture semiconductors and as an antibacterial film on surfaces.

  • Studying optimization of monomer synthesis, vinylbenzylthymine (VBT) using design of experiments (DOE). 
  • Study the molecular weights for different VBT/VBA copolymers ratios via Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC).
  • Study of the photo-induced immobilization process of the VBT/VBA copolymer using both UV-Vis Spectrophotometry (UV-VIS) and GPC to determine the gel point of the copolymer at which optimal crosslinking is achieved.
  • Study of synthesizing block copolymer with VBT and VBA. These copolymers have different properties than randomly synthesized copolymers and will have interesting applications such as drug delivery.
  • Research into incorporating thymine onto natural polymers such as pullulan, chitin, or other natural polyol.