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Penn State professor awarded $110,000 research grant from the American Chemical Society

Petroleum Research Grant will support Danielle Reifsnyder Hickey's work on atomic-scale catalysis
30 May 2024
Danielle Hickey

Danielle Reifsnyder Hickey, assistant professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at Penn State, has been awarded an American Chemical Society (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) Doctoral New Investigator grant for $110,000, to support her research on catalysis — the acceleration of chemical reactions — at the atomic scale. 

Catalysis is essential to many processes used in everyday life, such as the production of energy and materials. Inspired by several recent advances, Hickey and her group plan to develop model systems to provide insights into catalysis using nanomaterials. Specifically, they will create metal–oxide support materials with catalytically active metal atoms on their surfaces at specific locations, which will allow them to investigate atomic configurations relevant to catalysis. They will then use an imaging technique called aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy to study their atomic structures and how they transform when heated or within gaseous environments. Simultaneously controlling the nanocrystal size, shape, and surface chemistry will enable unique insights into the structures and mechanisms relevant for catalysis. 

“This grant is especially meaningful to me because it is the first of my independent career,” said Hickey. “It will give my group the opportunity to apply our expertise of in situ transmission electron microscopy to our strengths in the atomic-resolution study, synthesis, and transformation of nanomaterials. From that we can investigate important scientific problems with applications in daily life and provide critical support for the graduate students working on this project.” 

Before joining Penn State, Hickey received a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her postdoctoral training in chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota. 

“We are thrilled to see Danielle receive this recognition,” added Phil Bevilacqua, distinguished professor and head of chemistry at Penn State. “Her innovative approaches to bringing high resolution microscopy to very thin catalysts and nanomaterials is exciting and will lead to groundbreaking discoveries." 


About the ACS PRF 

The Petroleum Research Fund is an endowed fund, managed by the American Chemical Society, that supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels. 

The goals of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund are: To support fundamental research in the petroleum field and to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through support of advanced scientific education. The Doctoral New Investigator grants program aims to promote the careers of young faculty by supporting research of high scientific caliber and to enhance the career opportunities of their undergraduate/graduate students, and postdoctoral associates through the research experience. 


Media Contacts
Kathryn Harlow
Chemistry Communications Coordinator