Richard Pollenz



Office: BSF 204
Phone: (813) 974-9470
Lab: BSF 261, 263


Ph.D. - Cellular, Molecular and Structural Biology (Northwestern University)

BS - Toxicology (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science)

STEM Education Research, Environmental Molecular Toxicology, Cell Biology


Richard S. Pollenz earned a BS degree in Toxicology from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and a PhD in Cellular, Molecular and Structural Biology from Northwestern University. He was a tenured faculty member at the Medical University of South Carolina prior to taking a position within the Biology Department at the University of South Florida in 2000. Dr. Pollenz’s research program has been funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and focused on aspects of molecular toxicology. His research included studies of gene regulation and protein degradation mediated by environmental chemicals such as TCDD. His lab published over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts in many of the top journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Pharmacology, Journal of Biological Chemistry and Toxicological Sciences.

He was named a Fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his contributions to the field of Molecular Pharmacology in 2013.Dr. Pollenz served USF as the Associate Dean in the USF Graduate School between 2008-2011 where he developed numerous professional development workshops for graduate students and used institutional data analysis to help inform practices and procedures. .  He rebuilt the USF Office for Undergraduate Research with innovative training and hands-on attention to students and served as its Director between 2011-2016.

Dr. Pollenz developed the very successful STEM Academy Program that was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that was designed to empower first-year STEM majors entering the university for maximal engagement and success.  Between 2015-2019, nearly 1,000 Scholars participated in the program many whom engaged in undergraduate research across multiple disciplinary areas.   The program resulted in >90% overall university retention due to the personal attention and community that the program created.  See the publication link to several reports published in Life Sciences Education that discuss the validated analysis of the program outcomes.  The program ended when the USF administration decided that they would contribute funds to sustain it. 


Since 2012 my research focus is exclusively in the area of Discipline Based Education Research or DBER.  Specifically, I am engaged in big data analysis of >25,000 student records to determine true persistence rates for STEM and non-STEM majors and to identify areas within the curriculum that may be modified to promote greater retention and achieve higher learning gains. This research has been used to inform the development of several STEM initiatives and has also been presented at AACU and Society of Toxicology conferences. I am also interested in innovative methods to teach the natural sciences (flipped classrooms, inquiry-based learning, project and research-based high impact practices, science of baking, course-based research, etc.) and the measurement of learning outcomes such as the use of mobile applications and competency-based assessments. Finally, we endeavor to develop robust methods to evaluate cognitive changes in the students who engage in our programs such as increased self-efficacy and sense of community (see CBE publications in 2017 and 2019). Although CMMB does not currently have a biology education track for the PhD, there are several DBER faculty in the SNSM departments and students interested in these or other STEM education research areas should contact me directly to discuss the possibility for graduate work.


I also pursue basic science research in bacteriophages through the SEA PHAGES program and through several independent research projects.  SEA PHAGES is a course based undergraduate research experience that is taught each Fall as a wet lab through Introductory Biology (BSC2010L) and each Spring as a bioinformatics course.  Students who have not taken Biology I are eligible for the Fall sections and should contact Dr. Pollenz directly for information about enrollment.