Postdoctoral Research Associate - Heterogeneous Catalysis

Date: Nov 9, 2023

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 11832 


As a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national laboratory, ORNL has an extraordinary 80-year history of solving the nation’s biggest problems. We have a dedicated and creative staff of over 6,000 people! Our vision for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) is to cultivate an environment and practices that foster diversity in ideas and in the people across the organization, as well as to ensure ORNL is recognized as a workplace of choice. These elements are critical for enabling the execution of ORNL’s broader mission to accelerate scientific discoveries and their translation into energy, environment, and security solutions for the nation.


We are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate who will focus on catalytic studies of natural gas conversion and plastic deconstruction via electrified approaches. This position resides in the Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (SCC) Group ROUP in the Chemical Transformation Section, Chemical Sciences Division, Physical Sciences Directorate, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  


This position is funded by a DOE Energy EarthShot Research Center (ERRC) - Non-Equilibrium Energy Transfer for Efficient Reactions (NEETER). The goal of this Center is to leverage transient temperature and pressure conditions in non-equilibrium (NE) chemical processes to allow unconventional reaction pathways with high energy and atom efficiency, allowing electrification of processes that currently generate large GHG emissions due to heating. This EERC center will focus on two rapidly emerging NE approaches to achieving electrified heterogeneous catalysis, namely, programmable Joule heating and mechanochemistry. To advance these non-traditional heating approaches, NEETER will study carefully selected prototypical endothermic reactions involving cleavage of C-H and C-C bonds in hydrocarbons including natural gas and polymers. Approaches include both experimental and computational studies of kinetics and reactivity, spectroscopic identification of gas, surface reactants and mechanisms under in situ and operando conditions.


Under general supervision, the Postdoctoral Research Associate will conduct research in the catalytic dehydrogenation of propane and deconstruction of polyolefins under both Joule heating and mechanocatalytic conditions. The incumbent will work in close collaboration with the EERC team members at ORNL and other EERC PIs at university partners and have opportunities to visit members of other EERC institutions including Georgia Tech, Princeton University, University of Houston, University of Delaware State, University of Maryland, and SLAC. 


This research program will take advantage of resources at ORNL including the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) as well as national synchrotron X-ray sources. The environment at ORNL is highly collaborative and crosscutting research exists between the CSD and other Divisions at ORNL.


Major Duties/Responsibilities:  

  • Perform reaction kinetics measurement using Joule heater and mechanocatalysis systems for gas phase and melt phase heterogeneous catalytic reactions including propane dehydrogenation, polyolefin deconstruction.

  • Perform in situ/operando studies including IR, X-ray and neutron spectroscopy of reaction mechanisms and catalyst structural evolution.

  • Responsible for presenting and reporting research results and publishing scientific results in peer-reviewed journals in a timely manner.

  • Participate in user proposal development.

  • Deliver ORNL’s mission by aligning behaviors, priorities, and interactions with our core values of Impact, Integrity, Teamwork, Safety, and Service. Promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility by fostering a respectful workplace – in how we treat one another, work together, and measure success.


Basic Qualifications:

  • A PhD in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Science, or a related field completed within the last 5 years.


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of heterogeneous catalysis, and a demonstrated expertise in studying reaction kinetics and mechanisms of heterogeneous catalytic reactions.

  • Experience in performing in situ/operando spectroscopic study of catalysis including but not limited to IR, Raman, X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

  • Experience in electrification of chemical reactions including but not limited to mechanocatalysis or Joule heating.

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills

  • Motivated self-starter with the ability to work independently and to participate creatively in collaborative teams across the laboratory 

  • Ability to function well in a fast-paced research environment, set priorities to accomplish multiple tasks within deadlines, and adapt to ever changing needs


Applicants cannot have received their Ph.D. more than five years prior to the date of application and must complete all degree requirements before starting their appointment. The appointment length will be for up to 24 months with the potential for extension. Initial appointments and extensions are subject to performance and the availability of funding.


Please submit three letters of reference when applying to this position. You can upload these directly to your application or have them sent to with the position title and number referenced in the subject line.


Instructions to upload documents to your candidate profile:

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  • View Profile

  • Under the My Documents section, select Add a Document


Benefits at ORNL:  

ORNL offers competitive pay and benefits programs to attract and retain talented people. The laboratory offers many employee benefits, including medical and retirement plans and flexible work hours, to help you and your family live happy and healthy. Employee amenities such as on-site fitness, banking, and cafeteria facilities are also provided for convenience.


Other benefits include: Prescription Drug Plan, Dental Plan, Vision Plan, 401(k) Retirement Plan, Life Insurance, Pet Insurance, Generous Vacation and Holidays, Parental Leave, Legal Insurance with Identity Theft Protection, Employee Assistance Plan, Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Wellness Programs, Educational Assistance, Relocation Assistance, and Employee Discounts.


If you have difficulty using the online application system or need an accommodation to apply due to a disability, please email:


This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

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ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

Nearest Major Market: Knoxville