Chemical Engineering Professor Robert Davis Honored by North American Catalysis Society for 'Pioneering Contributions'

Dec. 20, 2006 -- Robert J. Davis, professor and chair of the chemical engineering department at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been awarded the 2007 Paul H. Emmett Award by the North American Catalysis Society in recognition of his contributions in the field of catalysis.

Davis’s selection marks the first time that the NACS has honored faculty from the same university with back-to-back awards. The Emmet Award is presented every other year, and Matthew Neurock, professor of chemical engineering at U.Va., won the award in 2005.

Davis has made numerous lasting contributions to the fundamental science of heterogeneous catalysis with exceptional advances in acid, base, bifunctional acid/base, and base-promoted metal catalysis. Davis received the Emmett Award for “his pioneering contributions to the use of in-situ spectroscopic methods coupled with both steady-state and transient kinetic methods to elucidate how oxide supports and basic promoters alter the active catalytic sites for a variety of reactions, including the selective oxidation of hydrocarbons, acid/base conversions, and ammonia synthesis.

A distinguishing characteristic of Davis's research is its integration of multiple experimental techniques for characterizing heterogeneous catalysts and the kinetics of reactions occurring on their surfaces. Davis has employed a comprehensive set of spectroscopic tools including extended X-ray absorption fine structure, X-ray absorption near-edge structure, infrared, Raman, nuclear magnetic and electron spin resonance, adsorption microcalorimetry, electron microscopy together with steady state as well as transient kinetic analyses to determine the local electronic and geometric structure of the active site(s), the influence local environment, and the reactivity of novel supported catalysts under working conditions. This wide array of tools has enabled him to discover the fundamental features that control a wide range of important catalytic systems.

Davis is co-author of "Fundamentals of Chemical Reaction Engineering," a textbook that introduces the quantitative treatment of chemical reaction engineering. His leadership has also been well recognized by the field as Bob has chosen to lead the programming efforts for Catalysis in the Division of Catalysis and Reaction Engineering of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and currently serves as a Division Director. He has also organized and participated in a number of workshops to promote catalysis in Asia, South America and Africa for the National Science Foundation. He is one of the founders as well as the past President of the Southeastern Catalysis Society. He also recently chaired the 2006 Gordon Conference on Catalysis.

He has received the National Science Foundation’s Young Investigator Award, Union Carbide’s Innovation Recognition Award and DuPont’s Young Professor Award. His professional memberships include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, the International X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure Society and the American Society for Engineering Education.

Davis will give a plenary lecture and be recognized at the North American Catalysis Society meeting in Houston in June 2007.