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Student Research

The Chemistry and Physics Department is dedicated to helping students discover where they want to go in the sciences. We have a very active learning community between our majors and faculty that gives students opportunities to learn outside the classroom. The faculty offer a wide range of undergraduate research opportunities for our students in chemistry. A unique aspect of these research opportunities is that each student works directly with a faculty member. Laboratory assistant jobs are available for those interested in earning extra money while obtaining laboratory experience.

College of Sciences and Mathematics Hosts Middle Tennessee Collegiate Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science

Belmont University College of Sciences and Mathematics hosted the annual Middle Tennessee Collegiate Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science in the Janet Ayers Academic Center on April 21. This event serves as an opportunity for students to highlight their scholarly work and fosters collaboration with other universities. This year, 24 students from Belmont University, Columbia State Community College, Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University presented their research as oral presentations in one of four different sessions including chemistry, cellular and molecular biology/microbiology, health and medical sciences and zoology/ecology/environmental sciences.

All sessions were moderated and judged by faculty volunteers who awarded 1st, 2nd & 3rd place certificates to the top three presenters in each session. The meeting is coordinated and run by Dr. Duane Hatch, assistant professor of chemistry at Belmont. Dr. Nick Ragsdale, biology, assisted with the event.

TAS 2018 Faculty Judges
Faculty judges included Drs. Lori McGrew (BU biology), Steve Murphree (BU biology), Danny Biles (BU math), Justin Stace (BU chemistry), Robert Grammer (BU biology), John Niedzwiecki (BU biology), Karen Kendall-Fite (Columbia State Community College) and Radhika Ramjee (Columbia State Community College).

Winners from each session included:

Chemistry: 1stChristopher Hansen (BU), 2nd – Alekzander Garcia (TSU), 3rdAvery Daniels (BU).

Cellular and Molecular Biology/Microbiology: 1stAC Dowd (BU), 2ndDana Cornwell (BU), 3rdBrandi Duke (BU), and Honorable Mention – Haley Hatfield (BU).

Health and Medical Sciences: 1stRebecca Derby (BU), 2ndElizabeth Sparks (BU), 3rd – Sargoel Rezanejad (BU), and Honorable Mention – Christian Candler (BU).

Zoology/Ecology/Environmental Sciences: 1stTaryn Anderson (BU), 2nd – States Labrum (CSCC), 3rdShaoyun Yang (BU), and Honorable Mention – Terra’lexus Roberts (BU).

Health and Medical Sciences: Rebecca Derby (BU), Elizabeth Sparks (BU)Sargoel Rezanejad (BU),Christian Candler (BU) Zoology/Ecology/Environmental Sciences:   Taryn Anderson (BU), States Labrum (CSCC), Shaoyun Yang (BU), Terra’lexus Roberts (BU).

Lemus Selected as Featured Speaker, Travel Grant Recipient at CUWiP

Lemus works on her research in one of Belmont University's labsThird year honors neuroscience student Crystal Lemus was recently awarded a travel grant by the National Science Foundation/Department of Energy Office of Science and presented her physics research at the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.

The American Physical Society is a leading voice for physics education and supports efforts at all levels through its programs, publications and resources. CUWiP works to help undergraduate women continue in physics by providing them with professional networking opportunities.

Lemus’s oral presentation was titled “Design and Implementation of Microfluidic Devices by the Foil-Embossed Method for the Isolation and Yeast Cells and Sortation of Microspheres.” Her research was conducted this past summer in the McBride lab at Belmont University. She focused primarily on the construction of simple microfluidic devices that could manipulate geometrically constrained fluids to a sub millimeter scale and separate particles. Lemus was successful in isolating yeast cells which could later be translated to isolation of target cells in any biomedical situation.

Aside from presenting her research, Lemus was also selected among all conference attendees to give a talk based on her advocacy work for women in the STEM field. She discussed what women could do to stand out in the field and her creation of Women in Science, a new student organization on Belmont’s campus.

“I never could have imagined that so many doors would open through one conference,” Lemus said. “The people I have met, gotten to speak to and learn from are truly invaluable. Science is all about learning, creating and sharing knowledge and it feels great to contribute my part as a science researcher and advocate.”

Barber Receives Travel Award and Presents Research at SEMSS

Mary Barber, a junior chemistry major at Belmont, recently won a National Institutes of Health / National Institute of General Medical Sciences travel award and attended the Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Duane Hatch (Barber’s Belmont academic advisor) recommended this conference based on her interests in a career as a physician and scientist. SEMSS is an American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) regional meeting that brings together aspiring physician scientists from schools around the southeastern United States.

SEMSS is for undergraduate, MD and MD-PhD students and physician-scientists to share current research and learn about the career path of a physician-scientist. SEMSS is sponsored by the MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Programs) of Vanderbilt University, University of Alabama-Birmingham and Emory University and the American Physician Scientists Association.

In addition to receiving the travel award, Barber was selected as one of four undergraduates to give an oral presentation along with other MD, MD-PhD, and PhD graduate students. Her talk was titled “Modeling Breast Cancer Therapy-Induced Cardiotoxicity in Human Cardiomyocytes,” and she spoke on the implications that novel, targeted cancer therapies have on the heart and the need for developing a pre-clinical model to screen for these toxicities. Barber’s research is based on work she has been doing in Dr. Javid Moslehi’s laboratory at Vanderbilt University in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. Barber said, “This was a great weekend for networking, making new friends, meeting future colleagues and learning about interesting science!”

Students Present Research at American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco

Photo of the four students that presented their research posters
Dr. Alison Parker and Dr. Rachel Rigsby, along with Belmont Chemistry majors Morgan McCauley, Bailey Rose, and Libby Ligon and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major Sarah Maxwell attended the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco, CA on April 2-6, 2017. The ACS National Meetings occur twice a year in various cities around the U.S. and each one attracts an estimated 11,000 to 13,000 chemists, chemical engineers, academicians, graduate and undergraduate students, and other related professionals.

Photo of alumni Vickie Lim with Drs. Parker and Rigsby

While in San Francisco, the group also saw Belmont alum Vickie Lim, a 2015 double major in Chemistry and Mathematics, who is attending graduate school in Chemistry at UC Irvine.

The four students presented their posters:

Photo of Morgan McCauley with her research poster

Greening the synthesis of virstatin: Finding an alternative solvent to dimethyl formamide. Morgan McCauley and Dr. Kim Daus

Photo of Bailey Rose with her research poster

Cavity ring-down spectrometry of gas-phase ions prepared via electrospray ionization.
Bailey Rose, Libby Ligon, and Dr. Thom Spence

Photo of Libby Ligon with her research poster

Synthesis, characterization, and unusual solvation and luminescent properties of terbium amine complexes.
Libby Ligon and Dr. Justin Stace

Photo of Sarah Maxwell with her research poster

Analysis of tyrosinase inhibition with extracted catechins from granny smith apples.
Sarah Maxwell and Dr. Rachel Rigsby

CSM Hosts Middle Collegiate Division of the Tennessee Academy of Science

The College of Sciences & Mathematics hosted the Middle Collegiate Division of the Tennessee Academy of Science on April 8, 2017.  Nearly 30 students, mostly undergraduates, presented their research.   Belmont was very well represented with 22 students making presentations. Fisk University, Tennessee Tech, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State, and Sewanee were also represented.  Belmont faculty Drs. Rachel Rigsby, Darlene Panvini, Lori McGrew, Matt Heard, John Niedzwiecki, Justin Stace, and Danny Biles coordinated the event and served as session judges.  

 From the TAS website, “The Tennessee Academy of Science seeks to promote scientific research and the diffusion of knowledge concerning science; to secure communication between persons engaged in scientific work, especially in Tennessee; to assist by investigation and discussion in developing and making known the material, educational, and other resource and riches of the state; to arrange and prepare for publication such reports of investigations and discussions as they further the aims and objectives of the Academy.”

Click here to see abstracts of all TAS presentations.

Belmont had multiple students receive presentation awards:

Chemistry/Physics/Mathematics Session

  • Second Place: Cavity ring-down spectroscopy of gas-phase ions prepared via electrospray ionization. Bailey S. Rose*, Libby L. Ligon*, Thomas G. Spence. Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Third Place: Synthesis, characterization, and unusual solvation and luminescent properties of terbium amine complexes. Libby Ligon*, Justin Stace, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Students Present Research at American Chemical Society Meeting


SERMACS, the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society was held in Columbia, SC on October 23-26, 2016.  Four Belmont students, all of whom presented at the conference, and Dr. Justin Stace attended.


* Sarah Maxwell (Honors, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major) presented a research poster titled “A Kinetic Study of Ligand Exchange by a Copper(II) Schiff-base Complex”


* Priyanka Kumar (Honors, Biology major) presented a research poster titled “Studying the Physical Properties of Copper Complexes with Various Counter Anions”

* Sarah Cannavino (Chemistry major) presented a research poster titled “Symmetry breaking in nanorod synthesis using metal salts”

libby_ligon_sermacs* Libby Ligon (Chemistry major) presented a talk titled "Determining the activation energy of the rate-limiting step of the Fenton reaction". This talk discussed the research done during the past two summers working under Dr. Spence as part of SURFS.

From Dr. Stace, “I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the conference was excellent.  In addition to hearing about some exciting work done around the southeastern region of the country, our students also had to opportunity to present their findings to a challenging audience and receive invaluable feedback and some ideas about future work.”


Belmont University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics hosted the annual Middle Tennessee Regional Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science in the Ayers Academic Center on April 16, 2016.  This event has served as an opportunity for our students to showcase their scholarly work and to foster collaboration with other local universities.  This year there were 33 students from Belmont University, Cumberland University, Fisk, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, and Vanderbilt University, presenting their research as oral presentations in one of four different sessions:  Mathematics/Computer Science/Physics, Chemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Health and Medical Sciences.

The meeting was coordinated and run by Dr. Duane Hatch, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. All sessions were moderated and judged by faculty volunteers, who awarded 1st, 2nd, 3rd place certificates to the top three presenters in each session. Faculty judges were Dr. Lori McGrew (BU Biology), Dr. Steve Murphree (BU Biology), Dr. Danielle Garrett (BU Chemistry), Dr. Steven Damo (Fisk), Dr. Qingxiu Li (Fisk), Dr. Kim Atwood (Cumberland University), and Dr. Mary Kidd (Tennessee Tech University).

The following are the winners from each session:

  • Chemistry: 1st - Daniel Beagan (Belmont)2nd - Shekinah Baum (Belmont)3rd tie - Rukiayah Warner (Fisk) andLibby Ligon (Belmont)
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology: 1st – Alexandra Ruff (Vandy), 2nd – Alyssa Tidwell (Belmont)3rd – Kathryn Hook (Belmont)
  • Health and Medical Sciences: 1st – Parker Tumlin (Belmont)2nd – Araceli Garland (Belmont)3rd - Brandy Sweet (Belmont)
  • Math/CS/Physics: 1st – Sharee Brewer and Ashley Davis (Fisk), 2nd - Tucker Dowell (Belmont), 3rd tie – Howsikan Kugathasan (Fisk) and Gwendolyn Buchanan (TTU)



Mathematics/Computer Science/Physics

              Health and Medical Sciences

tas tas


                   Cellular and Molecular Biology

Students Present Research at American Chemical Society National Meeting

Belmont faculty and students recently attended the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Diego, CA. This meeting attracts an estimated 11,000 to 13,000 chemists, chemical engineers, academicians, graduate and undergraduate students, and other related professionals. During the meeting, scientists present new multidisciplinary research, hear the latest information in their areas of professional interest, and network with colleagues. Chemistry faculty members Drs. Rachel Rigsby and Alison Moore-Parker attended the conference along with nine students who presented eight posters and gave one talk.

Ryan Agh
gave an undergraduate research talk titled “Towards the concise syntheses of selenium- and tellurium-containing tryptophan analogs for the elucidation of protein structure and function”. Ryan's research was done under the mentorship of Duane Hatch, Chemistry, as part of a grant Hatch received to do research at Los Alamos National Labs. Ryan also presented the SMACS chapter poster, “Belmont student members show the community that science is awesome”.

  • Parker Tumlin and Libby Ligon presented research they did with Dr. Thom Spence, CSM Dean, in the SURFS (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in the Sciences) program. Their poster is titled “Determination of the activation energy of the rate-limiting step of the Fenton reaction”.

  • Dr. Kim Daus, Chemistry, had three students presenting their research posters: Sofia ElMaliki presented “Quantification of polyphenols and assessment of antioxidant activity of polyphenols present in organic and non-organic raspberries from different sources”; Adam Woods presented “Cationic Gemini surfactants for enhanced oil recovery”; and Sarah Heacock presented research on “Surface-active properties of bis-quaternary ammonium-sulfate Gemini surfactant-conventional ionic and nonionic surfactant mixtures”.

           daniel       caroline       bailey
    Daniel Beagan Caroline Williams Bailey Rose
  • Dr. Justin Stace had two students present their work in inorganic chemistry: Bailey Rose presented “Ligand exchange reactions of an enzyme-mimic Schiff-base copper (II) complex” and Caroline Williams presented “Ligand-exchange reactions in biomimetic model coper (II) Schiff-base complexes'”. Daniel Beagan received funding to present “Synthesis of a multi-electron transfer reagent using click chemistry”, work he did as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Cincinnati.


The Belmont SMACS (Student Members of the American Chemical Society) chapter received the Honorable Mention chapter award for 2015-2016.

Also, Belmont SMACS had a submitted photo selected for publication on the ACS website, on a page for New Activities Grants sponsored by the Undergraduate Programs Office. The photo from the SMACS and Tri-Beta plant sale fundraiser can be found at this link.

Students Present Research at American Physical Society Conference

Belmont students Rachel Evans (Physics), Sarah Cannavino (Chemistry), Christy King (Chemistry), and Matt Wing (Medical Physics) attended the American Physical Society March meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, March 14-17, 2016.  Dr. Davon Ferrara, Physics, also attended the conference. The APS March meeting is the largest international meeting of physicists in the world.  The meeting brings together nearly 10,000 physicists, scientists, and students from all over the world to share groundbreaking research from industry, universities, and major labs.

 Rachel, Sarah, and Christy presented their research posters at the conference.  Here are the titles of their posters and a link to the abstracts:


Optical Properties of Silver Nanoparticulate Glasses

Rachel N. Evans, Sarah A. Cannavino, Christy A. King, Joseph A. Lamartina, Robert H. Magruder, Davon W. Ferrara, Belmont University


Green Chemistry Techniques for Gold Nanoparticles Synthesis

Sarah A. Cannavino, Christy A. King, Davon W. Ferrara, Belmont University 


Students Present Research at Los Alamos National Laboratory Symposium


Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Duane Hatch and two Belmont students, Ambrose Rice and Ryan Agh, spent 10 weeks at a Department of Energy national laboratory this summer engaged in a research project as part of the DOE’s Visiting Faculty Program, for which Hatch was selected. On August 4th, 2015 the students presented their research posters at the 15th Annual Los Alamos National Laboratory Student SymposiumThe annual event brings together more than 150 students from universities all over the U.S. and is intended to broaden students’ expertise to prepare them for careers in the science and nontechnical fields. 


Agh, a rising senior chemistry major, presented a poster titled “Towards the Concise Syntheses of Selenium- and Tellurium-Containing Tryptophan Analogs for the Elucidation of Protein Structure and Function” and won first place in the research poster competition. Click here to see Ryan Agh's research poster.

Rice, a rising junior biology major, presented a poster titled “Enzymatic Synthesis of Unnatural Amino Acids and Their Bio-incorporation into Selected Proteins.”
Click here to see Ambrose Rice's research poster.