Frank Leibfarth graduated with honors from the University of South Dakota, earning a B.S. in Chemistry and Physics in May 2008. During his undergraduate tenure, he participated in two National Science Foundation summers of undergraduate research; the first at Columbia University under Professor Colin Nuckolls and the second at IBMs Almaden Research Center under Dr. James Hedrick. He also completed a thesis project incorporating dendrimers into mesoporous materials under Dr. Ranjit Koodali. Frank began his doctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, under Professor Craig Hawker in the fall of 2008.
Frank started in the group working on methodology which introduced ketene groups on the backbones of polymers. These thermolytically generated reactive groups can be exploited to provide crosslinking, act as a reactive handle for polymer functionalization, or both. This versatility, along with the rich history of ketenes that dates back to Staudinger, provides methodology applicable to a variety of functionalized polymeric materials. More recently, Frank has been working on triggered molecular switches that provide dynamic control over materials properties, including network formation, catalysis, molecular motion, and/or reactivity.