USD Awarded More than $2 Million in Funds for Science

Research Includes Work to Reduce Petroleum Dependence and Improve Air Quality


The University of San Diego Chemistry and Biochemistry Department has been awarded more than $2 million in funds from the National Science Foundation and other private foundations. The funds will support research that could reduce the United State’s dependence on petroleum and improve air quality.


USD Assistant Professor of Chemistry Peter Iovine received the prestigious $475,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the NSF’s top award in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education. 


The award will support work in the study of dendrimers, perfectly branched polymeric molecules with potential applications 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 called lignin. By attaching the “sticky-ended” dendrons, Iovine hopes to create novel synthetic hybrid materials that could be used as an eco-friendly plastic.  “If the goals are achieved, the work may impact our reliance on foreign oil by reducing the demand for traditionally synthetic polymers derived from petrochemicals,” he says.


Associate Professor of Chemistry David De Haan, has received a major research grant of $310,000 from the NSF, funded through the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Faculty Research Projects program and NSF’s Directorate of Geosciences.

His research focuses on the interactions between dicarbonyl compounds --—such as glyoxal—and animes triggered by droplet evaporation. Dicarbonyl compounds are believed to contribute to the formation of haze in the atmosphere. Since the major source of glyoxal over Southern California’s skies is from components of unburned evaporated gasoline, DeHaan’s research may suggest a way to reduce haze in the region through gasoline reformation.


The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department was also awarded a $500,000 Department Development award from the Tucson, Ariz.-based Research Corporation that will be matched by funds from USD for a $1 million-plus investment in science and an award of nearly $600,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation to establish the Clare Booth Luce Professorship in chemistry and biochemistry.


The Research Corp.’s award is one of only six national awards made by the foundation in the last 10 years and required extensive evaluation and site visits, along with a five-year development plan.


“It’s like winning a national championship,” says Thomas Herrinton, USD Associate Provost and chemistry faculty member.  With the completion in 2003 of the state-of-the-art Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology and outstanding faculty, USD is carving a niche as a comprehensive, national university that not only offers but requires research opportunities for undergraduate students in chemistry and biochemistry. “We want the University of San Diego to be among the best places to study and practice chemistry and biochemistry at the undergraduate level,” he says.


About the University of San Diego


The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls some 7,500 students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The inauguration of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies will bring the University’s total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Leadership and Education Sciences, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.



About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.