The NSF CAREER Award, designed to support exceptional faculty in the early years of professorship, has been awarded to Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Tim Clark, PhD. The 5-year grant will support an educational outreach project, and a research project that incorporates 15 undergraduate research students, two high school teachers, two high school students and one postdoctoral research associate to strengthen his ongoing studies.
“The grant requires a research plan and an educational plan,” Clark said. “In terms of my research program, this award provides funding that will be an enormous boost for my projects.”
Clark’s research focuses on metal catalysts that can mediate organic reactions. He said he plans to utilize the 15 undergraduate research students in groups of three per summer. Those students will assist him as he works to simplify ways to access complex organic molecules—like those used for pharmaceuticals and biological materials.
“One direct application of the organic products that we can access is the formation compounds that can be used as glucose sensors,” Clark said. “We hope to streamline the synthesis of these compounds enough to simplify the development of the science to incorporate them into materials.”
"As a faculty member, my favorite aspect of the job is working with students. This includes my time in the classroom, in the research lab, and with University Ministry."
The CAREER Award also provides funds for an educational plan. Clark has chosen to focus his efforts on high school students. He will engage teens with outreach activities, and study the most effective ways to encourage them to pursue the sciences.
Clark is an active professor and currently has seven undergraduate research students working with him. Two of USD’s three Dreyfus Scholars have been working with Clark since January. Biochemistry majors Randall Clendenen ’14 and Wendy Guan ’14 both chose to work in Clark’s group after he encouraged them to get involved with undergraduate research.
“I am very fortunate to work with talented undergraduate students,” Clark said. “Without them, my research program would not exist. In the process of learning, they do great work that is published in high-impact journals. So far I have had five publications as an independent faculty member and they all have undergraduate student co-authors.”
Clark is passionate about encouraging and facilitating undergraduate research. He said the experience helps students make real-life connections to concepts they cover in various courses.
“Students improve learning and retention by being involved in undergraduate research,” he said. “Equally important, students that are interested in getting a job or going to graduate school are exceptionally prepared. Since they have been involved in research, they enter their job or graduate school with many of the tools they will need to be successful.”
And he should know. A USD alumnus, Clark had the opportunity to conduct research with chemistry faculty before heading to graduate school. He said he counts those experiences as some of the most enjoyable of his undergraduate career.
“To this day, I appreciate how much my instructors pushed me to dig deeper and really understand the material,” he said. “Those years really got me started in inquiry.”
"To this day, I appreciate how much my [USD] instructors pushed me to dig deeper and really understand the material. Those years really got me started in inquiry."
As a USD student, Clark was also involved with University Ministry (UM). He enjoyed his experience so much that he continues to work with UM as a faculty member.
“I was involved in leadership and was able to live on-campus with other students that were seeking a deeper faith life,” Clark said. “It was a very powerful experience and one that also started my desire to ask life’s most important questions.”
Clark said the most enjoyable aspect of his job is working with students, whether in the classroom, laboratory or through UM.
“My favorite part of teaching students is seeing the ‘light’ go on—when they finally get the concept and it clicks.”
- Anne Malinoski '11