Graduate School

Alex Simmons

Alex Simmons

Hometown: Columbia, NC

Age: 21

Major: Chemistry, MS

Undergraduate Education: BS, Chemistry, East Carolina University, 2014

It’s no surprise that scientific research excites graduate student Alex Simmons. He’s got the right personality, or chemistry, for the job! The Chemistry enthusiast is at home in a lab and relishes the moments when testing techniques work smoothly and yield measurable results. His dedication to academics, particularly Chemistry, has garnered numerous accolades. Best of all, he’s earned the deserved recognition right here at East Carolina University, an environment that he feels has been key to his success.
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How did you choose your area of graduate study?

I began working with Dr. Love in research in the summer of 2012 and discovered my passion for research. It was a natural fit after deciding on my career path.

What do you find most challenging/rewarding about your graduate school experience?

As an undergraduate who has worked in a graduate lab, I think the most challenging and rewarding part of the program is research. Research can be very difficult when trying to test out different reactions and finding out many conditions that don't yield the product of interest. The most rewarding part of that experience is when a newly designed synthesis and purification techniques works flawlessly. It is like being a kid in a candy store!

What is cool about your area of study and why should people care about it?

It’s chemistry! Do I need to say more? Synthetic Organic Methodology is really fascinating because we are on the forefront of method development. The developed methods can then be applied in new ways to hopefully better life. For instance in our lab, we are developing methods that could be used to produce biologically active compounds.

Tell us about any academic awards/recognitions/publications you may have achieved:

I have received several scholastic awards from the Department of Chemistry at ECU (Dr. Gabriel R. Cipau Scholastic Award, the Dr. Keith and Susan Holmes Scholastic Award, and the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Outstanding Senior Chemistry Student). I also was a nominee for the Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award, having been nominated by the Department of Chemistry for my leadership within the department. I was honored to serve on the Dean's Student Leadership Council in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences as a representative for the Department of Chemistry this past semester. The University of Texas Southwestern Department of Biochemistry recognized as me a semifinalist for the Frank and Sara McKnight Prize in Chemistry for undergraduate work at ECU. This past semester I was honored with the Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award for my performance as a UTA in general chemistry labs. Recently I was a coauthor of a research paper published in Tetrahedron Letters, focusing on how reaction conditions can influence quinone/diquinone product ratios.

What recognition are you most proud of and why?

The Dr. Keith and Susan Holmes Scholastic Award and my first publication are two of my proudest accomplishments. I was recognized by the Department of Chemistry for my leadership and academic achievements. I was the President of the local ACS chapter (chemistry club), and I helped the club to be reinstated as a nationally recognized chapter. The award was a great honor since Dr. Holmes and his wife are such positive representatives of the department. My first coauthor publication was a large milestone that signified the successful work and the effort put into research. A personal goal of mine was to become a published scientist, where my work could benefit others.

What would you say to someone considering ECU as a potential graduate school?

East Carolina is an excellent school, especially the Department of Chemistry. The faculty and staff across campus are invested in education and are all dedicated to your success. If you want to have a great experience at a university that has a small town feel combined with the resources of a large university, this is the place for you!!

Hobbies: Gardening, traveling with friends

Get to campus/water flowers/cook breakfast
Review To-Do list and answer emails
Run reactions, compile data, literature searches
Teach, tutor, class, or lab work
11:00pm Relax/sleep
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College & Dept.: Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences; Chemistry

Year: 2016 (Anticipated MS Graduation)

Clubs & Organizations at ECU: East Carolina University Chapter of the American Chemical Society, Pirate Tutoring Center (PTC)

Internships: Teaching through the department as an undergraduate, tutoring through the PTC, and research with Dr. Love

Favorite class: Organic Chemistry

Professor who has influenced you the most: Dr. Brian Love

Dream job: Professor at the university level, teaching and performing research in Organic Chemistry

Your words to live by: Knowledge is power. There is no replacement for hard work. 

Significant life lesson you've learned while at ECU: The biggest life lesson I have learned while at ECU is that life isn't about the end result but more about the journey. I learned that as a student, education should not be focused on grades, but more on actually learning.