Davis Lab

Find out more about our research team.

Research Projects

Learn more about the research that goes on in the Davis Lab.


See a list of the most recent publications we have produced.


Check out this riveting reaction engineering textbook!

Featured Research

AIChE Journal Wilhelm Award Perspective.

Recent News

6/2020: Congratulations to Gordon Brezicki for successfully defending his doctoral dissertation!

5/2020: Congratulations to Undergraduate Researcher Jonathan Zheng for receiving UVA Engineering's highest honor, the UVA Engineering Outstanding Student Award! (UVA TODAY)

4/2020: Congratulations to Gordon Brezicki for winning the Elmer L. Gaden Jr award for excellence in doctoral study!

4/2020: Congratulations to Naomi Miyake for winning the People's Choice Award for a podium presentation at the University of Virignia Engineering Research Symposium!

10/2019: Congratulations to Undergraduate Researcher Jonathan Zheng for being honored by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation! (UVA TODAY)

5/2019: Congratulations to Undergraduate Researcher Jonathan Zheng for winning the prestigious Goldwater Scholarhsip! (UVA TODAY)

1/2019: Congratulations to James Kammert for successfully defending his doctoral dissertation!

5/2018: Undergraduate student Jonathan Zheng and graduate student Gordon Brezicki and were awarded a Double Hoo research grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research at UVA to study the selective oxidation of methane to methanol.

Chemical & Engineering News (April 30, 2018, pages 18-20) featured Davis lab research on the catalytic cracking of endothermic fuels for hypersonic vehicles. A paper authored by former graduate student Ben Huang (AIAA J. 2017) together with collaborators Professor Harsha Chelliah of the MAE department and former graduate student Ujuma Shrestha was mentioned in the article.

10/2017: Professor Davis wins prestigious Wilhelm Award at AIChE annual meeting!

7/2017: Congratulations to Zachary Young for receiving his PhD!

4/2017: Congratulations to Benjamin Huang for receiving his PhD!

12/2016: Congratulations to Kehua Yin for receiving his PhD!

6/2016: Congratulations to Sabra Hanspal for receiving her PhD!

11/2015: New publications: Reactivity and Stability of Supported Pd Nanoparticles during the Liquid-Phase and Gas-Phase Decarbonylation of Heptanoic Acid

Restructuring of Supported PtSn Bimetallic Catalysts during Aqueous Phase Oxidation of 1,6-Hexanediol

Sabra Hanspal and Kehua Yin presented excellent talks at AIChE in Salt Lake City, UT!

8/2015: Congratulations to Derek Falcone for receiving his PhD!

2/2015: New publication: Multiproduct Steady-State Isotopic Transient Kinetic Analysis of the Ethanol Coupling Reaction over Hydroxyapatite and Magnesia

Congratulations to Sabra Hanspal on the Eastman Chemical Award and Kokes Award!

Congratulations to Kehua Yin on the Kokes Award!

11/2014: Welcome Gordon Brezicki, newest member of Davis Lab!

10/2014: Davis delivers Xingda Lecture at Peking University

Congratulations to Juan Lopez-Ruiz for receiving his PhD!

6/2014: Good luck to Kehua Yin on his internship at Dow Chemical!

3/2014: Derek Falcone wins Eastman Chemical travel grant!

1/2014: New publication: On the deactivation of supported platinum catalysts for selective oxidation of alcohols

11/2013: Welcome Jiahan Xie, Nick Kaylor, and James Kammert, newest members of Davis lab!

New publication: The Important Role of Hydroxyl on Oxidation Catalysis by Gold Nanoparticles

10/2013: Congratulations to Matt Ide for receiving his PhD!

Research Goals

The Davis laboratory is a research group at the University of Virginia interested in developing new or improved catalytic materials by studying how the structure of a catalyst affects its performance in a chemical reaction.

Heterogeneous catalysts prepared in our laboratory are often composed of small metal particles supported on an oxide carrier. Since the metal particles expose a significant fraction of their atoms to the surface, the interface between the underlying support and the particle is expected to contribute to the overall rate and selectivity of a catalytic reaction.

A wide variety of analytical techniques are used to examine the metal particles and metal-support interface. These include adsorption of simple gases, temperature programmed desorption, transmission electron microscopy, FT-IR spectroscopy, laser Raman spectroscopy, UV-vis spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. Additionally, x-ray absorption spectroscopy using synchrotron radiation is an important tool for examining catalysts. Analysis of the extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) and the x-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) provides information on the atomic and electronic structure of catalyst components.

Detailed kinetic studies of selected probe reactions are also carried out over catalysts in laboratory microreactors. The combination of physical and chemical methods allows for new relationships between catalyst structure and chemical reactivity to be discovered.