Yearly Archives: 2015

Alex Pankiewicz’s Blog Post featured on

Undergraduate student and Tier One Scholar Alexander Pankiewicz participates in the UH Energy Ambassadors program and his blog post "The Paradox Of China -- Rising Standards Of Living, More Pollution" was recently featured on Read more in the Cullen College of Engineering News.

End of Year Celebration and Group Dinner

The group gathered for dinner at KPOP Houston to celebrate a very successful year 2015! There were numerous highlights, but most importantly, Hieu Doan, Byeongjin Baek, Arian Ghorbanpour and Hung Tran Vu graduated with their Ph.D. degrees. We are also welcoming Unmesh Menon and Juan Manuel Arce Ramos as new postdoctoral researchers in the group. Both joined in Novemeber 2015. Other notable events can be found in our News Archive for 2015.

Congratulations, Dr. Ghorbanpour

The third Ph.D. graduate from our group this semester is Arian Ghorbanpour. Congratulations, Arian! Arian was co-advised with Prof. Jeff D. Rimer and his dissertation is titled "Computational Modeling and Advanced Synthesis Techniques for the
Improved Design of Zeolite Catalysts". In his Ph.D. work Arian focused on zeolite ZSM-5, which has many industrial applications, and his results may guide the rational design of better zeolite catalysts in the future.

Congratulations, Dr. Baek!

Byeongjin Baek is the second student successfully graduating with a Ph.D. from our group. Congratulations! Byeongjin defended his thesis entitled "First-principles investigation of Bio-oil hydrodeoxygenation over Ru/TiO2" and is all set to continue his professional career at SABIC. We wish him all the best and a successful future.

Congratulations, Dr. Doan!

We congratulate and celebrate with Hieu A. Doan, who is the first student to graduate from our group. Today, Hieu successfully defended his dissertation titled "Computational Screening of Bifunctional Catalysts for CO and CH4 Oxidation". A large portion of his Ph.D. work was based on productive collaborations with Profs. Bert Chandler and Chris Pursell at Trinity University, and Profs. Stanko Brankovic and Bill Epling at UH. We're very proud of Hieu and wish him the very best for his future career. Since Hieu also received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UH there is only one thing left to say: Go Coogs!

Sashank receives AIChE CRE Travel Award to attend the 2015 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City

Sashank Kasiraju has been selected as recipient of one of the AIChE CRE travel awards this year. The award includes a $400 check and a ticket to the CRE Division Dinner. Congratulations!
Sashank will present his PhD research at this year's AIChE conference in Salt Lake City in the session "Rational Catalyst Design II" on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 1:30 pm. The talk is titled "Towards Common Design Principles Between Hydrotreating Catalysts: A DFT Investigation of Furan Hydrodeoxygenation on Pure and Cobalt-Promoted MoO3(010) and RuO2(110)" and the abstract can be found here. More about his research goals and Sashank's path to chemical engineering is available in our college news section.

Article on CO oxidation over gold catalysts receives Best Fundamental Paper Award from the AIChE South Texas Section

AIChE-STS Best Fundamental Paper Award
The South Texas Section (STS) of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) selected our paper "The critical role of water at the gold-titania interface in catalytic CO oxidation" for the Best Fundamental Paper Award 2014. Hieu Doan and Lars Grabow accepted the award on behalf of all co-authors, which include Johnny Saavedra, Chris Pursell and Bert Chandler, at the monthly AIChE-STS dinner meeting in Galveston, TX. More...

Strong presence and poster award at the 2015 OChEGS Symposium

Our group shows a strong presence at the 2015 Symposium by the Organization of Chemical Engineering Graduate Students (OChEGS) at the University of Houston with a total of 6 presentations and two notable honors. Byeongjin Baek was selected to give the opening presentation on "Experimental and theoretical insights into the hydrogen-efficient direct hydrodeoxygenation mechanism of phenol over Ru/TiO2(110)". Sashank Kasiraju received a Best Poster Award for his work towards answering the question "Is MoO3 a good hydrodeoxygenation catalyst?". Both projects are funded by a DOE Early Career Award.

Why are Ru/TiO2 catalysts so selective for direct deoxygenation?

H2 cleavage on RuTiO2
Graduate student Byeongjin Baek's computational work on elucidating the mechanism of direct deoxygenation of phenolic compounds on Ru/TiO2 catalysts has resulted in a new understanding of the roles of the support and the ruthenium metal nanoparticle. We find that for the selective C-OH cleavage to occur, it is necessary that the support can provide a proton to weaken the C-O bond. In turn, the proton must be regenerated, which can occur by heterolytic H2 splitting across the Ru/TiO2 interface (see figure). Our results were published in ACS Catalysis and are important to further improve deoxygenation catalysts and enable a hydrogen-efficient upgrade of bio-oil into transportation fuel. Byeongjin's DFT work at UH was supported by a DOE Early Career Award.

Novel CO electro-oxidation catalyst makes cover page of Surface Science

Hieu Doan's work on understanding the interplay of electronic and geometric effects governing the CO electro-oxidation activity of Pt-decorated Ru nanoclusters makes the cover of Surface Science. The work is a collaborative effort with the experimental group of Stanko Brankovic (ECE@UH) and is published in a special issue titled "Reactivity Concepts at Surfaces: Coupling Theory with Experiment". No need to say that we're extremely proud that our work was chosen to represent the synergy of coupled theoretical and experimental studies! Read more.