James Shepherd, assistant professor of chemistry, wins NSF CAREER award

Thursday, May 20, 2021

James Shepherd, University of IowaAssistant Professor James Shepherd of the University of Iowa Department of Chemistry has won a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, his second prestigious, federally funded early-career research award in two years.

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious research award for early-career faculty in the sciences. The highly competitive awards grant funding to scientists who show exceptional promise for a productive and innovative academic career that integrates education and research while advancing their discipline.

CLAS supports assistant professors in applying for NSF CAREER and other early-career research awards.

For more information, contact Kristi Fitzpatrick, director of the CLAS Grant Support Office.

Shepherd, a computational chemist who studies fundamental questions around how electrons interact in materials, will receive $648,345 over five years to advance the field of ground-state electronic structure calculations using wavefunction methods. His research group is working to advance understanding of the unique electronic structures of materials such as catalysts and semiconductors, so that the researchers can accurately simulate them using computer models. The ability to do so will enhance computer-aided design of materials.

“Simulating enough particles to represent the bulk properties of solids has been a major barrier towards our successful modeling of the complex quantum mechanics in certain materials,” Shepherd said. “With this award, we will be able to develop theory and software to enhance these simulations by focusing on the long-range character of electronic interactions in metals and semiconductors.”

In addition, Shepherd's CAREER grant will fund the development of a course-based undergraduate research program that will train undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors in the computer-aided design of new materials.

In 2020, Shepherd won the U.S. Department of Energy's top award for early-career researchers, receiving $700,000 in funding from the DOE's Early Career Research Program.

Shepherd earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge, and joined the UI faculty in 2017.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.