Rebecca Jarrell lands first place at the VCU 27th Annual Graduate Research Symposium

Rebecca Jarrell presenting her research poster
Rebecca Jarrell, doctoral student in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, presenting her poster at the 27th Annual Graduate Research Symposium.

Rebecca Jarrell, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, took first place at VCU’s 27th Annual Graduate Research Symposium. Her research project, "Biosynthesis of CdS Quantum Dots Using Enzymatic Generation of Hydrogen Sulfide," focuses on developing a green and sustainable method for producing quantum dots.

Quantum dots are tiny semiconductor particles or nanocrystals, typically ranging from two to ten nanometers in diameter, which have numerous applications in optoelectronics and biomedicine.

Jarrell's innovative approach leverages enzymatic proteins to synthesize quantum dots, offering a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution. Her research has the potential to revolutionize the rapidly growing quantum dot market. This same project won second place at the VCU College of Engineering’s Graduate Student Research Showcase.

Jarrell credits her success to the engineers and scientists who have come before her and to their pioneering work in the space of nanotechnology – including her advisor, Leah Spangler, Ph.D. 

“I would like to thank VCU for giving graduate students the opportunity to share their research and for the unwavering support we receive during our academic journey,” Jarrell said.

This year, the Graduate Research Symposium received 107 abstracts, demonstrating the passion VCU students have for research and complex problem-solving through innovation.

"This broad inclusion in judging criteria ensures that the Symposium remains an inclusive platform, celebrating the richness of research at VCU,” Manu Gupta, Ph.D., interim Dean for the Graduate School, said.

Embracing diverse research methods is one of the many ways VCU is affirming its commitment to promoting excellence across all disciplines. In the last five years, VCU’s efforts towards research excellence have intensified, acquiring $464.6 million in combined awards for sponsored research programs and ranking 47th in the Research and Development expenditures among public institutions. Additionally, VCU was ranked one of the top 20 most innovative public universities by the U.S. News & World Reports in 2024.

Jarrell's first-place win is a testament to her passion for biomedical research. Looking to the future, Jarrell plans to continue researching as she works toward her doctoral degree.

“Whether my research is for academia or for industry, as long as I am working towards finding ways to improve the quality of life for individuals facing challenging health conditions, I will find happiness and fulfillment,” Jarrell said.


The Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering provides undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to perform real-world research as soon as they enroll. From synthesizing solar cells from sustainable materials to engineering new treatments for Alzheimers, our students pursue a diverse range of cutting-edge research topics. Browse videos and recent news from the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering to discover how the College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University prepares the next generation of scientists and engineers for the challenges of the future.