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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.

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

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

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                   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 



DECEMBER 3, 2015


Belmont's College of Sciences and Mathematics hosts the Science Undergraduate Research Symposium (SURS) each fall semester. The 1st Annual event was held December 2, 2004, with 27 presenters at this first event. SURS is the culmination of many hours of undergraduate research work done during the summer and fall with faculty advisors and peers and offers these research students the opportunity to show the Belmont community the interesting research that is being done. 



Research posters were set up in the 3rd and 4th floor atrium areas of Belmont's Ayers Academic Center. There were 58 students presenting their research posters in the areas of Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Honors – Psychology.  There were also 24 different individual and group oral presentations in Psychology.  The keynote address was given by Dr. Christopher Raridan, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Clayton State University who presented “What Undergraduate Research Means to Me”. 

Click here to see a listing of the research projects.

Students and Faculty Present Research at SWRM/SERMACS

Belmont undergraduate students and faculty presented their research at the 2015 Combined Southwest Region Meeting (SWRM) and the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS).  The 71st SWRM and 67th SERMACS were held in Memphis, TN, November 4 - 7, 2015.   Conference topics included Analytical, Biological, Chemical Education, Computational, Inorganic, Medicinal, Organic, Physical, and Polymer Chemistry. 


  • Ilyana Ilieva, Sophomore Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, presented her work titled A kinetic study of the dependence of ascorbic acid concentration on temperature and time at the physical chemistry undergraduate poster session. 


  • Bailey Rose, Junior Chemistry major, and Dr. Justin Stace, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, presented their work titled Ligand exchange or polymerization of an enzyme-mimic Schiff-base copper (II) complex? A kinetic study at the inorganic chemistry undergraduate poster session.

  • Adam Woods, Senior Chemistry major, presented his work titled Cationic gemini surfactants used for enhanced oil recovery at the organic chemistry undergraduate oral presentations.

  • Dr. Maria Danielle Garrett, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Education, presented her work titled It’s easy being green: Budget-friendly, safety-conscious chemistry labs for the science classroom of today at the general organic chemistry poster session. 
Libby Ligon, Junior Chemistry major, and Dr. Kim Daus, Professor of Chemistry, also attended the meeting.  Students were not only able to share their work with peers and professionals, but they also had the opportunity to attend the Graduate School Fair, networking among representatives from various universities.  Adam, Bailey, Ilyana and Libby were all participants in the 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in the Sciences (SURFS) through Belmont’s Department of Chemistry and Physics.

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.


The College of Sciences and Mathematics hosted The Tennessee Academy of Science (TAS) Collegiate Division Middle Region Meeting on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at Belmont University. There were four research sessions: Chemistry, Ecology/Zoology/Botany, Cellular/Microbiology/Health and Medical Science, and Mathematics/Engineering/Computer Science. Students presented their research in the format of 15 minute talks and there were a total of 37 student presenters from Belmont University, Tennessee State University, Motlow State Community College, Fisk University, Volunteer State Community College, and Austin Peay State University.

The TAS meeting was coordinated by Dr. Duane Hatch, Chemistry. Each session was judged by faculty volunteers and 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention awards were given out. Belmont University faculty volunteer judges included Drs. John Niedzwiecki, Robert Grammer, Nick Ragsdale, Lori McGrew, Chris Barton, and Roger Jackson from Biology and Drs. Rachel Rigsby and Justin Stace from Chemistry. Belmont University student volunteers were Biology majors Brandy Sweet, Mohamed Darwish, and Austin Demaagd.

The following Belmont students won awards:

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2nd place - Daniel Beagan
3rd place - Victoria Lim
1st place - Sonia Kadakia
2nd place - Jackson Smith
3rd place -Brielle Davis
Honorable Mention - John Gossen

Cellular/Microbiology/Health and Medical Science:
1st place - Lauryn Bouldin
2nd place - Justin Smith
3rd place - Stephanie Ray

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.


Chemistry faculty Drs. Alison Moore, Rachel Rigsby, and Justin Stace traveled with students to the 249th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Denver, CO in March, 2015. “Chemistry of Natural Resources” was the theme of the ACS spring national meeting. The conference included 130 poster sessions that included Sci-Mix, more than 10,000 papers presentations, nearly 4,000 poster presentations, and more than 6,000 oral presentations.

The following Belmont Chemistry majors presented undergraduate research posters during the conference:


Sami Ansari presented “Comparison between two extraction techniques used to isolate antioxidants from the pith and carpellary membrane of pomegranates”


Vickie Lim presented “Computational analysis of conformational tunneling of Glyoxylic acid”


Daniel Beagan presented “Synthesis and reactivity of an enzyme-mimic nickel(II) complex”


Leena Patel presented “Determining the effects of processing on antioxidant activity in cilantro, parsley, and rosemary”


Spencer Colling presented “Ligand exchange of an enzyme-mimic Schiff-base copper(II) complex: A kinetic study”

In addition, the students presented a poster highlighting Belmont’s Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) chapter at SCI-MIX, a meeting-wide poster event for student chapters across the country as well as selected research posters from every ACS division.  

Finally, Belmont SMACS past-president Vickie Lim accepted a Commendable Chapter Award honoring Belmont’s SMACS chapter for their activities and outreach during the 2013-2014 academic year.  Belmont’s SMACS chapter, led by Dr. Alison Moore, has received a prestigious Commendable award seven of the past eight years.  Only about 100 chapters from across the country and Puerto Rico are honored with this award annually. 


Chemistry major Adam Woods recently attended the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), a meeting co-sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The meeting was held in Washington, D.C. and Adam presented a poster titled, New Positively Charged Contrast Agents for Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis, which resulted from his summer 2014 research experience at Boston University.

More than 1,000 people from 240 colleges and universities attended the three-day annual conference. The conference provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields to enhance their science communication skills through poster and oral presentations judged by 140 scientists and engineers. The oral and poster presentations are the core of the conference, but the attendees also found value in ERN's other offerings, such as opportunities for networking, plenary talks by science leaders, and workshops on topics such as where to find funding for school.