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Amanda W. Stubbs: Plans for a PhD in chemistry at MIT

Amanda Stubbs Chemistry major Amanda W. Stubbs '14 of Rochester, MA, is an Endeavor Scholar who has had the opportunity to work with chemistry professor Dr. David Manke in his research lab. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and will head to MIT in the fall to pursue a PhD in chemistry. Amanda also received the American Institute of Chemists Award.

How did you get interested in your major, chemistry?

I started out as a biology major with plans of going to veterinary school, but switched to chemistry in my first semester because I enjoyed my introductory chemistry courses the most. I find using math and formulas to be very satisfying. After my sophomore year, I started working in Dr. Manke’s research lab on campus—and that was when I realized I wanted to pursue an advanced degree in chemistry. I love working with my hands and find lab work to be very rewarding.

Tell us about your research.

I'm working on a project titled "The Capture of Carbon Dioxide with Lewis Base Derivatized Metal-Organic Frameworks." My focus is on the production of materials to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and waste streams. The materials that I'm working with are known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. MOFs are made by combining rigid organic components with metal clusters which assemble to make lattices with large pores.

I run experiments to incorporate electron donors into these pores. The electron donors attract carbon dioxide, which then stays in the material while other gases pass through. It is important that the MOFs can be regenerated, i.e. release the CO2, with a low energy input. Current methods of carbon dioxide capture can increase the total energy usage by as much as 40% due to their high energy costs of regeneration.

I'm working to produce materials that will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help the environment, while still keeping energy usage and cost down.

Working in the lab deepened my understanding of material covered in lecture, and I definitely feel that I grew into a more self-confident, capable, independent person along the way.

What has been your experience working with faculty?

I have had an excellent experience working with my faculty research advisor, Dr. Manke. He helped me formulate a research project I was passionate about, allowed me to learn the basic principles of research through experience, and pushed me to push myself to the best of my capabilities.

How has the opportunity to do research affected your educational experience?

My undergraduate research experiences are among my most valuable from UMass Dartmouth. Working in the lab deepened my understanding of material covered in lecture, and I definitely feel that I grew into a more self-confident, capable, independent person along the way.

How has your research affected your plans for advanced study?

I think that my two years of research lab experience is one of the key reasons why I was offered admission to top tier schools like UC Berkeley and MIT.

What are your plans following graduation?

In the fall, I will be enrolled in the Chemistry PhD program at MIT as an National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. 

Is there another memorable activity you've been involved with?

I am an Endeavor Scholar; in exchange for a cost-free education, the Endeavor Scholarship requires extensive participation in leadership and community service activities. Although demanding, this program has challenged me and allowed me to grow as a person over the past four years. Through more than 700 hours of community service, I have become more compassionate, a better communicator, and more aware of the role all individuals play in society.

Any advice for future students?

Don’t be afraid to approach the faculty . . . whether it’s about course material you don’t understand, or material you’re just interested in learning more about. In my experience, they’ve always been eager to help, eager to see me succeed, and eager to share their love of the subject matter with me.

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