Polymer Expert to Fill Prestigious Chemistry Post
Research Includes Materials for Shuttle Missions and Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars
Jan. 27, 2010
Dr. Dennis W. Smith Jr., a leading scientist in polymer chemistry, has joined UT Dallas as professor and holder of the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry.
His appointment was made possible by a gift from The Welch Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports fundamental chemical research in Texas.
Smith is an expert on fluorine-containing polymers, and renewable-resource and biodegradable materials. The materials include long-chain macromolecules that make up films, coatings, rubber, membranes, plastics and other materials.
Some of Smith’s materials have been tested for use on future Space Shuttle missions and in hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. In addition, his research in micro-optics — using light rather than electricity to communicate and process energy — has the potential to double storage space on DVDs and lighten the weight of military aircraft.
“Our nomination of Dr. Smith for this chaired professorship is in recognition of his accomplishments; his acceptance by the Welch Foundation confirms his excellent reputation in the community of chemists,” said Myron Salamon, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “We’re pleased to bring him to Texas, and we are honored to have him on our faculty.”
Faculty named to Welch Chairs are chosen for conducting active, effective research that raises the level of basic scientific research in chemistry and related sciences in Texas. Smith is now the second Welch Chair in Chemistry at UT Dallas. The other is Dr. Ray Baughman, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute.
From 1998 to the present, Smith was professor of chemistry and material science and engineering at Clemson University, where he trained graduate students and taught organic and polymer chemistry. Prior to his academic career, Smith was a senior research chemist and a project leader with The Dow Chemical Company, working at Dow sites in Midland, Mich., and Freeport, Texas.
Smith is the former chair of the Division of Polymer Chemistry for the American Chemical Society and was associate director of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies. He is the current editor of the international journal, Polymer Bulletin.
Smith co-founded Tetramer Technologies, LLC, which employs 25 chemists and engineers in South Carolina. He is listed as a co-inventor on 14 U.S. patents, six of which are under commercial license. His publications include 100 refereed papers (published or in press) and two book editorships.
Smith’s awards include:
- A National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the organization’s most prestigious recognition of junior faculty.
- The Dow Chemical Central Research Inventor of the Year Award.
- Cottrell Scholar of Research Corporation.
- The Charles H. Stone Award for most outstanding chemist in the southeastern U.S.
- The 2009 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Research (S.C.).
“Joining the UT Dallas family is a tremendous opportunity, and I am honored to represent the prestigious Welch Foundation,” Smith said. “A very successful future of growth and collaboration is clearly set for the Chemistry Department and UT Dallas, and I look forward to being a part of it.”
A native of Georgia and raised in Missouri, Smith received a bachelor's in chemistry and mathematics from Missouri State University in 1988 and his PhD in chemistry from the University of Florida in 1992. He was a Rhone Poulenc Graduate Research Fellow in Lyon, France, in 1991, and conducted research in Germany as a Dow Chemical Postdoctoral Fellow in 1992. He returned to Germany in 2001 as a visiting professor at the University of Heidelberg.
Smith was recruited to UT Dallas with funding assistance from the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program, which was launched in 2004 as a means to recruit and retain top-flight researchers to UT System institutions.