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USD's Summers and Swanson Earn Nolop Professorships in Biology

Drone photo of Old Main with a sunset in the background. Cliff Summers, Ph.D., and David Swanson, Ph.D., earned Nolop Professorships in biology.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of South Dakota has named Cliff Summers, Ph.D., the Nolop Distinguished Professor and David Swanson, Ph.D., the Nolop Professor. Both are faculty members in the Department of Biology.

These professorships honor the life and legacy of Keith Bradley Nolop, M.D, who graduated with a degree in biology in 1975 and had a distinguished career of more than 25 years in drug development, with a focus on allergy and asthma products, and groundbreaking, highly engineered cancer treatments. He died in May 2016 after a bicycle accident near his home in Pacific Palisades, California. His estate donated funds to establish the Nolop Institute for Medical Biology at USD.

A selection committee named Summers and Swanson to these professorships in recognition of their internationally recognized scholarly contributions in fundamental and applied medically relevant research and for teaching in USD’s medical biology program.

Cliff Summers

A faculty member in the USD Department of Biology for 28 years, Summers also holds a joint appointment as a professor in the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences in USD’s Sanford School of Medicine and holds an appointment with the Sioux Falls VA, Veterans Affairs Research Service. A fellow of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, he has published 111 peer reviewed scientific papers. Summers’ medically relevant research includes his current project that explores the development of a new method to reduce anxiety and depression through activation of certain receptors in the region of the brain that modulates fear conditioning and stress. His work is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Summers’ research achievements been made possible by seven students graduating with the Ph.D. degree (with two more in training) and 12 with the M.S. degree in his lab. A two-time winner of the Belbas-Larson Award, USD’s premier teaching honor, Summers has supervised more than 145 undergraduate researchers in his laboratory, many of whom have gone on to careers in science and medicine.

David Swanson, Ph.D., headshot

Swanson joined the USD Biology Department in 1990. He is currently the director of the Missouri River Institute and has held recent visiting positions at the Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity, Departamento de Ecologia, Pontíficia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, and at the Department of Animal Physiology, Institute of General and Molecular Biology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland. His medically relevant research involves metabolic diversity, physiological flexibility, muscle growth regulation and environmental adaptation in animals. His work has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, among other funding sources. Swanson has supervised research programs for seven Ph.D. students (with two more in training), 13 M.S. students (with two more in training), and numerous undergraduate students in his lab, and these students have greatly contributed to his research program. Swanson regularly teaches histology and environmental physiology courses for the medical biology major.

“Drs. Summers and Swanson are excellent choices to honor Dr. Keith Nolop’s legacy at the University of South Dakota’s College of Arts & Sciences. Both are prolific researchers and devoted mentors and teachers to our medical biology students,” said Michael Kruger, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News