Faculty Profile: Mychal Smith, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry
Photo right: Michael Hunnicutt, Ph.D. (striped shirt), and Mychal Smith, Ph.D. (blue shirt), with Project SEED students at their poster session in August.
While exploring other scientific fields, he signed up for a chemistry class and immediately fell in love with the subject. “Not only did chemistry have exciting scientific concepts but allowed me to combine my love of math with science as well. This combination was the perfect fit for me,” Mychal says.
Mychal currently works with Project SEED, an intensive program dedicated toward providing high school students with the opportunity to conduct hands-on science experiments over the summer. “Many students we interview express their love of science but have not had the opportunity to do lab work within their school,” says Mychal. “This program allows them to utilize their love of science while interacting with other peer scientists, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students.”
His favorite part of the process is interacting with the student’s and working alongside Michael Hunnicutt, Ph.D., the founder of VCU’s Project SEED, to implement innovative ideas to spark students’ interest in the sciences. “We help students be able to see themselves as scientists because we put them in a scientific environment where they can see that they can be successful,” says Mychal.
A typical day in Project SEED involves a morning of research, followed by activities on topics such as undergraduate level instruction and labs in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and quantitative analysis; working lunches covering topics in financial aid and college applications; interacting with fellow Virginian Project SEED members at Longwood University; and tours at Afton Chemical and DuPont Protection Solutions.
Apart from his involvement with Project SEED, Mychal also conducts research with a service learning chemistry class, which allows for chem undergrad students to work with elementary school students on scientific experiments in the classroom.“We will use surveys to assess elementary students’ feelings about science, how they see themselves within science or as a future scientist, and how these feelings and beliefs change for students over time after they engage with our undergraduate students through the service learning course,” says Mychal.
When he is not busy researching, you can find Mychal weightlifting. He finds joy participating in strongman competitions—lifting logs, stones and circus dumbbells.