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The Department of Chemistry

Our faculty provide a high quality education and research experience at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. There are currently 33 faculty, and we expect several new appointments in the next few years.
Faculty are involved in a wide range of research representing the classical sub-disciplines (Biological, Inorganic, Organic, Physical, and Chemical Physics) and newly emerging interdisciplinary acitivities such as materials chemistry and nanotechnology.
There are 179 full-time Ph.D. candidates, 39 post-doctoral research associates, and a number of visiting scholars.

The department is home to the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute. We also participate in cross-discipline projects with other departments and centers. Information about individual faculty research can be found in the faculty section.

Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute

The Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute is closely associated with the Chemistry Department. Researchers in the Institute are faculty members or students in the Department of Chemistry. The Institute places emphasis on fundamental hydrocarbon and polymer chemistry, but research in many other areas of organic synthesis and mechanistic organic chemistry is also active.

Research highlights from ongoing research at the Institute include:

  • Carbocationic as well as radical mechanisms which result in the oligomerization of methane
  • New methods for the preparation of functionalized derivatives of methane, such as methyl alcohol, acetic acid, trimethoxymethane.
  • Methyl alcohol and related derivatives are explored as advantageous fuels for direct oxidation fuel cells.
  • Isomerization and alkylation of saturated hydrocarbons to provide high octane gasoline
  • New ways of hydrocracking of coal, shale oil and other 'heavy petroleum sources and residues' via superacidic catalysts to form gasoline range hydrocarbons.
  • Preparing new hydrocarbon and electroactive polymers via cationic, anionic and condensation routes
  • Preparation of narrow molecular weight distribution stereoregular polymers by anionic living polymerization.
  • Synthesis of new polymers with unique architecture, leading to materials with novel properties, especially in the electrooptics area. Quasi delocalized p-electron systems are particularly useful in electroptic modulation, light emitting diodes, and optical memories.
  • Relating the physical properties of polymers to chemical structure.

The Institute is active in bringing noted scientists from Universities and Industry to campus to participate in collaborative research as well as in the International Symposium Series. This provides chemistry students the opportunity to exchange ideas with prominent scientists.


Center for Quantum Information Science & Technology (CQIST)

Quantum information science and technology is an emerging interdisciplinary academic discipline concerned with the study of the new possibilities quantum mechanics offers for the acquisition, transmission, and processing of information. Quantum computers are predicted to solve classically intractable tasks such as breaking cryptographic codes, efficiently search large databases, and efficiently simulate quantum dynamics. Quantum cryptography offers unconditional security. And quantum information theory has revolutionized our understanding of the capacity of communication channels.

The mission of the USC Center for Quantum Information Science & Technology (CQIST) is to advance fundamental experimental and theoretical knowledge in relevant areas of Engineering and Physical Science. We mentor graduate and postdoctoral research, sponsor a vigorous visiting scholars program, develop and teach novel QIST-based courses, organize international conferences and workshops, and hold regular seminar series.

CQIST is a truly interdisciplinary Center, spanning the USC College of Letters, Arts & Science, and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Our faculty members represent wide-ranging expertise in theoretical, experimental, and technological aspects of quantum information processing.


Center for computational studies of electronic structure and spectroscopy of open-shell and electronically excited species.

The Center for Computational Studies of Electronic Structure and Spectroscopy of Open-Shell and Electronically Excited Species was established in September, 2006.

It is funded by the National Science Foundation through the Chemistry Research Instrumentation and Facilities: Cyberinfrastructure and Research Facilities program and is also supported by the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences (University of Southern California).

The Center’s mission is:

  • to develop a model for efficient cyber-technology transfer from the developers of state-of-the-art theoretical methods and software
  • to prospective users whose research would be greatly enhanced by using novel computational tools;
  • to serve as a testbed for larger scale computational centers by demonstrating how specific needs of the focused groups of users can be addressed.

The Center provides training and state-of-the-art computational resources to several experimental groups, whose research involves open-shell and electronically excited species. Tools that will facilitate the interpretation of electronic structure calculations in terms of experimentally relevant observables and bonding paradigms are being developed. The feedback from the experimental groups guides Center's future developments.

iOpenshell has recently released two short educational films explaing interaction of molecules with light and physics behind thelasers using non-traditional visualization tools.

"Shine a light":

"Shine a light" has been viewed more than 10,000 times on Youtube in the first month since the release.


Center for Energy Nanoscience (CEN)

The Center for Energy Nanoscience (CEN) is an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences. CEN's mission is to use semiconductor nanotechnology and organic molecular design in innovative materials and device designs to develop a new understanding of the fundamental issues controlling the performance of low cost, high efficiency solar cells and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

CEN is comprised of a consortium of researchers from USC, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The research efforts throughout the center are highly interdisciplinary; at USC, CEN spans the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Viterbi School of Engineering. The collaborative work being done by faculty, graduate students, and post-docs includes material synthesis, physical characterization, device fabrication, and theoretical modeling.


© 2015 Department of Chemistry , USC