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The Department of Chemistry emphasizes the importance of research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and offers summer employment opportunities for students.

All faculty members are actively engaged in research, providing opportunities for students to learn and grow outside of the traditional classroom. Descriptions of individual research projects of faculty members can be found in our faculty directory.

Grant-Funded Research Areas

USD Neuroscience and Nanotechnology Network

The USD Neuroscience and Nanotechnology Network (USD-N3) program is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation research traineeship program. This grant provides training in the development of novel nanotechnology-derived tools aimed at both understanding and treating disorders of the brain. The program will also provide professional development opportunities that prepare students for both academic and non-academic career paths in STEM professions. Eligible students receive tuition and an annual stipend of $34,000 for up to two years during training. Support for research and travel is also available. Contact for more information.

Center for Fluorinated Functional Materials

The Center for Fluorinated Functional Materials (CFFM) is supported by the South Dakota Research and Commercialization Council. It is a five-year, $2.7 million grant awarded to the Department of Chemistry to work on the discovery and commercialization of new fluorinated functional materials. Its research activities include:

  • Fluorinated organic semiconductor materials for next generation flexible electronics
  • Fluorinated materials for high capacity batteries
  • Fluorinated macromolecules and nanomaterials for sensing
  • Fluorinated photonic materials for security printing and biomedical imaging
  • Catalytic fluorination
  • High-value fluorinated fine chemicals

CFFM supports both cutting-edge researches and workforce development. Contact for more information.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU): Undergraduate Research in Fluorine Chemistry

In collaboration with the Center for Fluorinated Functional Materials (CFFM), this program supports six intensive summer research experiences for undergraduate students in the department of Chemistry at the University of South Dakota that focuses on research related to fluorine chemistry. CFFM also provides six undergraduate research stipends for a total of twelve participants. This NSF award (CHE-1757652) also provides a living allowance, research support and travel to a regional and/or national fluorine conference for undergraduate participants. Research projects relate to: the synthesis of fluorinated monomers used in luminescence sensors and electronic devices; inorganic doped lanthanum fluoride upconversion nanoparticles for forensic applications; electrochemical deposition of fluorine monomers for battery technology; Fluorine-carbon bond activation and catalysis; analytical SERS detection of agrochemicals; and computational fluorine chemistry.

South Dakota Biofilm Engineering Science and Technology (2D-BEST) 

South Dakota Biofilm Engineering Science and Technology (2D-BEST) is an NSF EPSCoR Track-I Center co-funded with SD BOR that expands South Dakota’s biotechnology research capacity by developing a university/industry research collaboration studying the fundamental “rules of life” that govern biofilm phenotypes of stress resistance on metal surfaces and resilience against competition for colonization of plant root surfaces modified with 2D materials. The overarching hypothesis is that atomic scale properties of 2D materials can be manipulated to influence a genetic response of bacteria to their adhering state and corresponding biofilm phenotypes. In the Chemistry Department at USD, we engineer and image functionalities and defect sites on graphene films, explore their interaction with the microbial communities, and analyze the produced signaling molecules. Contact for more information.

Research on Metal-Organic Super Containers

Research in the area of metal-organic super containers has multiple applications, including gas separation, catalysis, ion sensing (especially electrochemical sensing) and neurotransmitter regulation. This project is funded by NSF CAREER and another NSF grant, DMR-1709912. Students working on this project will be exposed to a variety of concepts and experimental techniques, such as:

  • Organic and supramolecular synthesis
  • Spectroscopic titrations
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Electrochemistry
  • Neurobiology

Contact for more information.

Center for Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology

The Center for Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology (SPACT) was established in December 2014 by researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, South Dakota State University and USD to develop research solutions to thwart counterfeiting. SPACT's research at USD includes security inks with upconversion nanoparticles and anti-counterfeiting nanomaterials with surface-enhanced Raman scattering tags. Contact for more information. 

Controlling Molecular Structure and Spin with Multiconfigurational Quantum Chemistry

Multiconfigurational electronic structures have been shown to arise in a wide variety of metal complexes. For transition metals, this phenomena manifests in metal-metal bonds, spin-crossover complexes, and single molecule magnets. We are interested in using methods such as the complete active space perturbation theory method (CASPT2) to study a wide variety of systems beyond DFT. This project, funded by the Department of Energy, makes use of the analytical CASPT2 gradients implemented in the BAGEL program package. Students will learn how to perform research on high performance computing resources at USD, to think deeply about electronic structure, and to collaborate. Contact for more information.

NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers 

The NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers (NSF CSP) is a multi-institutional center involving seven universities and 18 research groups. The center integrates sustainability issues that focus on the science and technology of polymeric materials into research, education, and public outreach initiatives. At USD, the Vlaisavljevich group is performing calculations in collaboration with experimental groups in the center to synthesize new monomers by the decarbonylation of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMES) using transition metal catalysts and to understand the adsorption of reactants in zeolite catalysts. We are currently collaborating with the Tolman group at Washington University in St. Louis and the Dauenhauer group at the University of Minnesota. Contact for more information.

Data Driven Material Discovery (DDMD) Center for Bioengineering Innovation

The Data Driven Material Discovery (DDMD) Center for Bioengineering Innovation is an NSF EPSCoR Track-II Center that brings together experts in bioscience, computer science, and material science from the three states to develop a unique Biofilms Data and Information Discovery system (Biofilm- DIDs). In the Chemistry Department at USD, we are interested in how small molecules and proteins present in solution during the early stages of biofilm grown adhere to the surfaces of 2D materials. By using computational models, we will provide molecular-level insights to the other members of our team (bioinformatics experts and experimentalists). Contact or for more information.