Peter Iovine,Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been awarded the highly prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. CAREER funding aims to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education by the recipient.
The award will provide $475,000 in funding over five years in support of Iovine’s research and teaching. In conjunction with the grant, Iovine and his students will develop a class of materials known as dendrimers. The word dendrimer comes from the Greek word dendron, meaning, “tree”. Dendrimers are perfectly branched, large, polymeric molecules that have applications in areas such as new materials, drug delivery agents, and enzyme mimics. One objective of the grant is to use “sticky-ended” dendrimers to chemically modify a renewable material termed lignin. By chemically decorating the renewable material with dendrimers, Iovine hopes to create novel natural-synthetic hybrid materials that can be used as plastic alternatives. If this goal is achieved, Iovine believes his work may impact our reliance on petrochemical feedstocks by reducing the demand for traditional synthetic polymers.
Beyond the research, the NSF CAREER award will allow Iovine and USD’s office of Community Service-Learning to engage local educators and students by supporting a scientific outreach program. The outreach program targets local middle and high schools serving diverse populations and integrates USD undergraduates at every level. The outreach program will impact local students but it will also teach undergraduate students the value and best practices in communicating scientific results and concepts to a non-science audience.