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Lyon alum is lead author of published chemistry research

A Lyon College alumna has been published in The Journal of Chemical Physics.

Morgan Perkins, ’18, of Perryville, is the first author of “Anchoring the hydrogen sulfide dimer potential energy surface to juxtapose (H2S)2 with (H2O)2,” which she researched with other Ph.D. students at the University of Mississippi.

“I’m studying physical chemistry and in particular computational chemistry, so all the science I do is on a computer,” Perkins said. “We model molecules and their interactions and can relate that to what's happening in the real world.”

Her research studies the noncovalent interactions present within hydrogen sulfur dimer, (H2S)2 and how the molecule compares to water molecules.

“H2O is something my research group studies a lot. You think ‘It’s water. How interesting can it be?’ But it has a lot of really interesting properties because of its strong noncovalent interactions.”

Although Perkins published research as an undergraduate, this was her first time being the first author of a paper. 

“This is much more involved than that first paper,” she said. “It’s really exciting because I hadn’t seen this level of detail and what it takes to get a paper published.”

Perkins continued, “In chemistry, it’s a big hurdle to get over writing that first paper and going through the whole review process.”

Every author makes an intellectual contribution to the paper, she said, but the first author bears the majority of the responsibility for the research.

“There’s some added pressure to treat the research well and convey what you did well because you’ve been working on it for so long.”

She continued, “In your head, you see the value and benefit of your research, but you worry ‘What if I can’t convey that well?’”

Perkins will continue publishing research as part of her Ph.D. program, which requires students publish a certain amount of papers. She is interested in pursuing a career in scientific communications after graduation.

“Scientific communications shares the work scientists do with the non-scientific public, who aren’t as familiar with the work or the details.”

Perkins is hoping to intern with the Office of Technology Commercialization at the University of Mississippi, which helps STEM departments patent their works or get them out to the public as products.

“They often hire graduate students as interns to be the middlemen and help interpret the science. I haven’t interned with them yet, but it’s something I’m looking into.”

Perkins advised students working on their first research project to focus on getting ideas on paper.

“I have trouble in my mind breaking down a large task. It helps to compartmentalize it in whatever way is useful. Getting your ideas out there helps you start to see how things need to take shape.”

Fortunately, her courses at Lyon College taught her how to communicate her ideas.

“I learned a lot on how to better vet my words and interpret how they would appear to other people.”

She continued, “In a lot of our science classes, we had to communicate lab results or something we researched to fellow classmates. Learning how to do that and getting confidence with it is helpful.”

Perkins said letting go of the need for perfection is an important step in publishing research.

“You have to learn how to get your research to a point where it’s acceptable to you so you can give it to your advisor, be proud of it and be ready to take criticism.”