Rich Gurney

Professor of Chemistry & Physics and Co-Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics
  • Chemistry and Physics
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About Me

Dr. Gurney is an expert in the field of Green Chemistry Education, where he has been actively developing curricula for the past 13 years. He focuses his teaching and research on the applications of green chemistry and finding solutions for everyday problems using materials that are "benign by design." As the Principle Investigator and Director of the Undergraduate Laboratory Renaissance Program, funded in part by the W. M. Keck Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Dr. Gurney is currently studying the effectiveness of an entirely project-based, research-integrated, greener organic chemistry laboratory experience as one component of a completely re-engineered, undergraduate, green-laboratory curriculum. The ULR Program encompasses a fundamental reengineering of the undergraduate laboratory curriculum using the principles of green chemistry to expose students to the excitement of research beginning in their first-semester of their undergraduate career. The integrity of the knowledge learned within the ULR laboratory sequence has been maintained, while providing an environment for students to hone their higher-order cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. From 2008 – 2013, the W. M. Keck Foundation supported the effort to expand this pedagogy to course-based laboratories not only in Chemistry, but also in Physics and Biology, with a total of 9 faculty participants. Dr. Gurney is also highly active in the development of greener polymeric systems capable of closed-loop molecular recycling, in collaboration with Dr. Debora Martino at INTEC (Instituto de Desarrollo Tecnológico para la Industria Química) and the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina. Funding in part to support undergraduate participation in this collaboration and research has been provided by the (Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina (CAI+D Tipo II PI 11-57), CONICET (PIP 112-200801-01079 and D-1280/2011) Argentina, the NSF OISE (#1031394), the Semiconductor Research Corporation Educational Alliance-Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, and the Presidential Fund for Faculty Excellence at Simmons University for the financial support. Dr. Gurney is one of the 16 founding members of the Green Chemistry Education Network and one of the ten founding faculty Board Members for the Green Chemistry Commitment.

What I Teach

  • CHEM 112 Introduction to Chemistry: Organic Lecture and Laboratory
  • CHEM 224 Organic Chemistry I Lecture and Laboratory
  • CHEM 225 Organic Chemistry II Lecture and Laboratory
  • CHEM 341 Advanced Analytical Chemistry Lecture and Laboratory
  • CHEM 350 Independent Study
  • CHEM 355 Independent Study with Thesis

Research/Creative Activities

Simmons Undergraduate Research Experiences for Women in Materials (SURE-WIM) & Senior Mentoring Assistance-ships 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 as SURE-WIM Scholars. The SMART Scholars then mentor the SURE Scholars 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" SURE-WIM Scholars 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 1) Greening the synthesis of 1-(4-vinylbenzyl) thymine (VBT) & 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine (bisVBT) through a Plackett-Burman Experimental Design; 2) Synthesis and characterization of 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine and its polymerization with vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride; 3) Characterization of copolymers of vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) using size exclusion chromatography, 4) Synthesis of photocrosslinkable chitan for applications in photoresist technology.

Projects

FT-IR study and chemometric analysis of photoinduced crosslinking in thymine copolymers

The photo-induced immobilization of 4-vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) copolymers is beening investigated with the aid of grazing-angle specular-reflectance FT-IR. As irradiation time increases, changes in the structure of pendant thymine groups in the copolymer due to the crosslinking process result in shifts of the copolymer network's vibrational frequencies, as well as changes in numerous IR band intensities. In this work, chemometric (multivariate resolution) methods are being applied to the FTIR data obtained while monitoring the time evolution of curing of VBT:VBA copolymers of varying composition. The spectral data obtained with FT-IR normally provide information only about the degree of conversion of the reactants in the final product but there is no knowledge about how many compounds are involved or how they evolve over time. The use of the so-called Multivariate Curve Resolution-Alternating Least Squares (MCR-ALS) allows the sequentially estimation of the contribution to the signal due to the different species in the matrix data. The photo-dimerization kinetics for copolymers of varying composition is also currently under investigation.

Synthesis and characterization of 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine and its polymerization with vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride

1-(4-Vinylbenzyl)thymine (VBT) is a monomer that has attracted much attention in polymer research due to the versatile characteristics of its structure such as aromatic stacking, photosensitive crosslinking site, and two or three parallel hydrogen bonding sites. During the synthesis of the monomer, we have isolated and characterized a byproduct, 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine (bisVBT), a di-substituted VBT. This novel compd. exhibits similar characteristics to VBT but unique properties upon polymerization due to the two vinyl groups in its structure compared to the single vinyl group on VBT. The synthesis and properties of the copolymer of bisVBT with 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) of different ratios will be described and compared to the known copolymer 1:8 VBT-VBA.

Characterization of copolymers of vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC) using size exclusion chromatography

VBT, a versatile monomer, has successfully been copolymerized with 4-vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride (VBA) to create a material that can be cast as a photo and enzematically reversible coating on a variety of surfaces, including silicon wafers. Molecular weight determination of (VBT)n(VBA)m, however, has been presented many difficulties due to the high charge density of VBA. Copolymerization of VBT with VBC will lead to a system that can be fully characterized and subsequently quaternized to yield a polymer with similar utility, but with higher tunability to that of the (VBT)n(VBA)m system. Results of the synthesis of (VBT)n(VBA)m copolymers will be presented. Size exclusion chromatography (SEC) is a liquid chromatographic technique, which allows for the separation and characterization of organic compounds based on size of the molecules. This technique will be utilized for the characterization of copolymers of VBT and VBC, using standard samples of poly-VBC to create a standard curve.

Integration of Vinylbenzyl Thymine Research in Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Laboratories

To provide students with a better understanding of the scientific process, the Organic Chemistry I and II courses at Simmons University were integrated with faculty research involving synthesis of co-polymers of compounds vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC). This green compound has application as an antimicrobial thin film. The research integration program greatly benefits students, who rate personal levels of knowledge and confidence in the lab as much higher with the implementation of the research in normal course lab time. Students gain exposure to a research setting and to green chemistry in practice. Research integration also aids faculty, who have an opportunity to incorporate components of personal research into class time both as a learning tool and as a project showing real world applications of chemistry skills, and in addition allows for the opportunity to create publishable research at a faster rate. The funding for the implementation of the research integration program at Simmons has been sponsored in part by the William M. Keck Foundation.

Publications

Project Publications

Evaluation of photo-induced crosslinking of thymine polymers using FT-IR spectroscopy and chemometric analysis By Bortolato, Santiago A.; Thomas, Katelyn E.; McDonough, Kristin; Gurney, Richard W.; Martino, Debora M., Polymer, 2012, 53, 5285 – 5294.

Past VBT Project Presentations at National ACS Meetings

Photosensitization of water-soluble polystyrene copolymers of vinylbenzylthymine and vinylphenylsulfonate, Nowakowski, Veronica; Gurney, Rich; Martino, Debora M. From Abstracts of Papers, 244th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, United States, August 19-23, 2012 (2012), CHED-353.

Synthesis and characterization of 1,3-bis(4-vinylbenzyl)thymine and its polymerization with vinylbenzyl triethyl ammonium chloride, By Vy, Ngoc Chau H.; Lee, Nancy E.; Gurney, Richard W. From Abstracts of Papers, 244th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, United States, August 19-23, 2012 (2012), CHED-351.

Using green chemistry principles as the framework to incorporate research into the organic laboratory and the resultant effects on the entire undergraduate chemistry curriculum By Gurney, Richard; Lee, Nancy; Chen, Changqing; Lavoie, Cheryl From Abstracts of Papers, 244th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, United States, August 19-23, 2012 (2012), CHED-141.

Characterization of copolymers of vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC) using MALDI-TOF MS By Thistle, Katrina; Lee, Nancy; Gurney, Rich; Chen, Changqing From Abstracts of Papers, 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, San Diego, CA, United States, March 25-29, 2012 (2012), CHED-1224.

Integration of vinylbenzyl thymine research in undergraduate organic chemistry laboratories By Nowakowski, Veronica C.; Vy, Ngoc Chau; Werner, Melissa; Huynh, Anna; Koelln, Rebecca; Yasi, Emily; Kirch, Vera; Chen, Changqing; Lee, Nancy; Gurney, Rich From Abstracts of Papers, 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, San Diego, CA, United States, March 25-29, 2012 (2012), CHED-1167.

FT-IR study and chemometric analysis of photoinduced crosslinking in thymine copolymers By McDonough, Kris; Bortolato, Santiago A.; Thomas, Katelyn; Lee, Nancy; Gurney, Rich; Martino, Debora From Abstracts of Papers, 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, San Diego, CA, United States, March 25-29, 2012 (2012), CHED-1120.

Characterization of copolymers of vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC) using size exclusion chromatography By McLaughlin, Amanda L.; Gurney, Richard W.; Lee, Nancy; Chen, Changqing

From Abstracts of Papers, 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, San Diego, CA, United States, March 25-29, 2012 (2012), CHED-331.

Synthesis, characterization and quaternization of vinylbenzyl thymine-containing copolymers: Applications as antimicrobial thin films By McLaughlin, Amanda L.; Thistle, Katrina M.; Corrielus, Maureen; Veronica, Nowakowski; Okey-Igwe, Nnennaya; Vy, Chau; Werner, Melissa; Gurney, Richard W.; Chen, Changqing From Abstracts of Papers, 242nd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Denver, CO, United States, August 28-September 1, 2011 (2011), CHED-240.

Undergraduate laboratory renaissance for organic chemistry By Gurney, Richard W.; Lee, Nancy E.; Chen, Changqing From Abstracts of Papers, 242nd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Denver, CO, United States, August 28-September 1, 2011 (2011), CHED-121.

Undergraduate laboratory renaissance for organic chemistry By Gurney, Rich; Lee, Nancy; Chen, Changqing From Abstracts of Papers, 242nd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Denver, CO, United States, August 28-September 1, 2011 (2011), CHED-16.

Synthesis characterization and greening of vinylbenzyl thymine monomer, vinylbenzyl thymine, and vinylpyridine copolymer By Bento, Jennifer; Malamen, Deborah; Williams, Milo; McLaughlin, Amanda; Thistle, Katrina; Gurney, Richard; Lee, Nancy From Abstracts of Papers, 241st ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Anaheim, CA, United States, March 27-31, 2011 (2011), CHED-1178.

Grazing angle incidence specular reflectance FT-IR characterization of the photocrosslinking of 4-vinylbenzyl thymine (VBT) and 4-vinylbenzyl trialkyl ammonium chloride (VBA) copolymers By Thomas, Katelyn; Searls, Lauren; Bento, Jennifer; Martino, Deborah M.; Gurney, Richard From Abstracts of Papers, 240th ACS National Meeting, Boston, MA, United States, August 22-26, 2010 (2010), CHED-106.

Publications Describing Model for WIM Program

Evolution of the Women in Materials program: A collaboration between Simmons University and the Cornell Center for Materials Research By Goldberg, Velda; Soltzberg, Leonard J.; Kaplan, Michael D.; Gurney, Richard W.; Lee, Nancy E.; Malliaras, George G.; Schember, Helene R.

From Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings (2010), 1233(Materials Education), Paper #: 1233-PP10-05. , DOI:10.1557/PROC-1233-PP10-05

Women in Materials: a collaborative effort between Simmons University and the Cornell Center for Materials Research By Goldberg, Velda; Malliaras, George G.; Schember, Helene; Kaplan, Michael; Soltzberg, Leonard; Gurney, Richard W.; Johnson, Patrick From Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings (2006), 909E(Forum on Materials Science Education), Paper #: 0909-PP03-10.1.

See also Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Richard_Gurney