20th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences

Brianna Higgins

Three students in the Department of Chemistry and Physics won second-place awards for research.

Students Present at Research Conference


  • Biochemistry (B.A.)
  • Physics (Minor)


  • Chemistry & Physics

By Tommy Riggs, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications

Three students in the Department of Chemistry of Physics won second-place awards for research they presented with faculty at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in October.

Erin Marshall ’19, a biochemistry major, and Sarah Meyer ’18, a biochemistry major and physics minor, presented a project called “Determination of Ethanol Concentration Using Raman Spectroscopy.” They were assisted by Kevin Bennett, Ph.D., professor of chemistry; Susan Ensel, Ph.D., professor chemistry; and Christopher Stromberg, Ph.D., professor of chemistry.

Raman spectroscopy can be used to identify vibrational and rotational modes of molecules, which constitute their structural fingerprints and hence, can be used for quantification. The students used this method to measure ethanol concentrations of different substances. They then compared those results to measurements obtained with the traditional IR spectroscopy, which involves the interaction of infrared radiation with matter. It was determined that Raman spectroscopy is more accurate because it limits the amount of human error involved.

Brianna Higgins ’19, a biochemistry major, interned in Frederick Community College’s science department and conducted research on “Revising a Key Organic Chemistry II Pharmaceutical Extraction to Enhance Student Learning and Increase Experimental Success.”

Her research involved the extraction of the three active ingredients in extra strength Excedrin: acetaminophen, caffeine and aspirin. The goal was to use methods such as dissolution, recrystallization solubility, acid/base reactions and filtration to isolate and purify each active ingredient. She compared those ingredients in Excedrin pills, powder mixture and store-bought materials. The store-bought product differed from the powder and tablet materials, but the materials from the tablets and powder were very similar.