The "Green Chemistry" Professor
Assistant Professor Rich Gurney has been instrumental in bringing green chemistry to Simmons during the last four years, and his students have taken his crusade to both national and international audiences. Gurney says he's passionate about empowering his students to apply their knowledge beyond the classroom.
"I see that as essential to my work here at Simmons," Gurney said. "If I can help my students find a project they're passionate about, then they'll become the champions of that work."
For several years now, Gurney has been working with his students on the "Cups to Cleaners: Trash to Treasure" project. Under his tutelage, Jennifer Boice, a 2008 graduate, developed a method for converting biodegradable plastic cups used in the Fens dining area into a "green" cleaner able to remove lime scale and soap scum in the College's bathrooms. The project grew to include more than 12 students and is now led by Cassandra Cacoq, a senior, and several other juniors and sophomores.
According to Gurney, the students are driving the project, and several of them were invited to present their work at professional association conferences, including the American Chemical Society's annual meeting and the Materials Research Society's international conference. "This is something I haven't even been asked to do!" laughed Gurney.
Three of the students from the "Cups to Cleaners" project studied in Santa Fe, Argentina, last summer working on "the synthesis, characterization, and modeling of a new 'green' polymer," Gurney explained.
Also last summer, Gurney was one of 10 educators nationwide to be invited to participate at a Green Chemistry in Education workshop in Washington, D.C., where he also attended the International Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference and presented two papers highlighting the strong contributions of Simmons students.
"It's been exciting for me to be able to contribute to the 'greening' of Simmons and I look forward to working more with students on various green chemistry projects," he said.