Anna Caroline Smirnova


Charleston, SC

Academic Interests

Chemistry, Materials Science, and Sustainable Technologies

Fun Fact

I am trying to learn French and re-learn Russian

I am studying chemistry because I have a passion for innovation and developing chemical technologies that can help alleviate society's most pressing challenges. After I graduate I hope to attain a PhD in Chemistry, and become a full time researcher and scientific leader. I am particularly interested in the targeted development and synthesis of nanomaterials for applications in energy and biotech. My research has ranged from studying organic solar cell nanostructures to designing reusable polymer catalysts.

At Duke, I’ve really grown as a chemist and researcher. I’ve spent the past couple of years working in Dr. David Mitzi’s lab learning about materials fabrication characterization in the context of perovskite solar cell applications. Last summer I learned synthetic polymer chemistry working in Dr. Marcus Weck’s lab through the MRSEC REU program at NYU. During the Summer of 2020, I’ve been working on applying my technical knowledge remotely. I’m doing research for the Advanced Energy Economy on hydrogen “power-to-x” business plans and also working on research at the intersection of history and chemistry with Dr. Evan Hepler-Smith. Next fall I hope to start my undergraduate chemistry thesis with Dr. Mitzi.

I am also highly concerned with the systemic issues I've seen in the sciences and interested in the ethics of research. I hope to be the kind of scientist that can lead away from the current culture of gatekeeping and sometimes toxic classroom environments that push away many talented people. I deeply value the mentoring moments where I can give back as I guide freshmen through the process of finding a research laboratory, make organic chemistry seem less overwhelming as a tutor, or go to meetings with Duke faculty to brainstorm ways to decrease the barriers undergraduates face in accessing research opportunities.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

The Spire program has helped me overcome certain barriers in accessing research opportunities that have been key in my Duke career. At the times I’ve struggled the most with the challenges of being a chemistry major, the SPIRE program has provided me with essential support and mentorship.

Anna Caroline Smirnova