SMU Department of Chemistry

SMU Chemistry Research

Research endeavors within the Department of Chemistry involve students at every stage of their career. Undergraduates are encouraged to participate in the laboratory from their first semester on campus. Graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, staff, and faculty members investigate topics ranging from medicinal chemistry to chaos theory.

Research in the Chemistry department is both focused on extending the understanding of the fundamentals of chemistry and chemical synthesis as well as establishing new materials, compounds and technologies at the interfaces of chemistry, biology, engineering and physics.  These projects range from large-scale multi-institutional research endeavors to individual undergraduate research projects at SMU.  Recent hires in the fields of Theoretical/Computational Chemistry, Chemical Biology and Materials Science demonstrate the department’s dedication to interdisciplinary research.  Below we will outline interdepartmental research involving intramural, extramural and the development of a new Center for Drug Discovery Design and Delivery at Dedman College (CD4) as well as the interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computation (SCS).

Extramural Research

Similar to most chemistry departments, developing extensive collaborations with scientists spanning the entire range of scientific disciplines around the world is a fundamental aspect of research at SMU.  Chemistry faculty have extensive collaborations with researchers at academic institutions, including UTSW Medical Center at Dallas, Case Western Reserve University, Carnegie Mellon, Wesleyan, and Miami University, and also with commercial entities including Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Theravance. In the past decade, articles from the Chemistry Department have been published in several interdisciplinary journals, including Biochemistry, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, Biochemical Pharmacology, Current Medicinal Chemistry, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, and others. The CATCO group is engaged in international collaborations with colleagues in Europe (Netherland, United Kingdom, Sweden) and South America (Chile).


Center for Drug Discovery Design and Delivery

The CD4 was initiated in 2011 and is a unique multidisciplinary approach to the design and implementation of new therapeutic agents for the treatment of human illness.  Currently 16 research labs from the departments of Chemistry and Biology are dedicated to coordinating innovative approaches and cross-disciplinary techniques to train new generations of biomedical researchers, while addressing some of the most pressing problems in the pharmaceutical and medical community.  Through these efforts the center will open up new avenues of research, funding and educational opportunities at the graduate and undergraduate level.  Moreover, the high visibility of and pressing need for new therapeutics affords ample opportunity to increase the department’s and University’s exposure to the Dallas and national community.

Center for Scientific Computation

Both Dieter Cremer and Elfi Kraka are active members of the Center for Scientific Computation (CSC), which was installed in 2009 to stimulate interdisciplinary education and research in simulation-based engineering and science. Specific goals of the center include: a) Education and training focused on high-performance computing algorithms, software, and hardware; b) formation of interdisciplinary research teams addressing cutting-edge applications; c) rapid communication of faculty and student research accomplishments. Both faculty bring their experience in the field; actively pursue grants for high performance equipment, developed a number of computationally oriented chemistry courses and training programs. 

For additional information on research activities within the Department, see the highlights below and visit faculty member's individual websites. 

Research Highlights

Ed Biehl is developing new anti-psychotic and anti-cancer drugs. He was recently named one of nine Dreyfus Scholars in the U.S., recognizing outstanding undergraduate teaching and research.

John Buynak is focused on the design, synthesis, and development of new antibiotic agents.  He has a long history in the area of beta-lactamase inhibitors.  One of these inhibitors, LN-1-255 is now being evaluated in a murine model of a multidrug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii infection. He collaborates with microbiologists, enzymologists, crystallographers in both the commercial sector and academia and designs new beta-lactam antibiotics and specialize in designing compounds to treat resistant Gram-negative pathogens.

Dieter Cremer develops new quantum mechanical methods to study electron conduction in molecules to be used for computer transistors of the future. He also works on relativistic methods to describe transition metal complexes and super heavy atoms.

Werner Horsthemke is studying the formation of spatial patterns in oscillating reactions and the effects of random fluctuations on nonequilibrium systems.

Elfi Kraka is designing new anti cancer drug leads utilizing mother nature's recipes, quantum chemical methods, and high performance computers to facilitate the drug development process. Her work has been frequently mentioned in many media outlets.

Mike Lattman is synthesizing new "hypervalent" molecules with applications for advanced materials and catalysts.

Alex Lippert

Mark Schell specializes in theoretical and experimental chemical chaos.

David Son is synthesizing new multidentate ligands for supramolecular assembly, and investigating the syntheses and applications of novel organosilicon monomers, polymers, and dendrimers.

Peng Tao

Nick Tsarevsky works on the synthesis of functional well-defined polymers and studies novel polymerization systems using bio-inspired monomers.

Patty Wisian-Nielson is developing inorganic polymers with potential applications as electronic or biomedical materials.

Brian Zoltowski