The Utz group uses surface science techniques and supersonic molecular beams to investigate the molecular mechanics of heterogeneous catalysis in model systems. Of particular interest to the group is the steam reforming of methane. This process accounts for most of the world’s hydrogen production which is used in several other commercial processes. However, methane steam reforming is a slow and harsh process. The rate-limiting step is the dissociation of CH4 to CH3 and H adsorbed on nickel. Industrial conditions exceeding 1000 K and 15 bar still provide low efficiency for product evolution. Replicating this high energy environment at controlled lab conditions helps us to understand minute details of this catalytic reaction. We systematically vary the rotational, vibrational, and translational energy of the gas and surface and measure reaction probability as a function of the system’s energy. This tunability allows us to directly test mechanistic hypotheses which will reveal new insights to current models and improve catalytic design.

We have recently implemented a Reflection Absorption Infrared Spectroscopy (RAIRS) system that allows for real-time studies of gaseous interactions on metal surfaces. We will explore preliminary data on state-resolved methane reactions on a class of reactive, isolated bi-metallic alloys known as single atom alloys to investigate further their function as a new generation of catalysts.

Group News


FEB 2021 | We just launched our new website. Hooray!


NOV 2020 | The group welcomes two new first-year graduate students. Welcome, Yuxuan and Molly!

OCT 2020 | The group attends a virtual AVS Symposium online!

JULY 2020 | Dan attends the virtual Alpha Chi Sigma 55th Biennial Online Conclave hosted by Michigan State University’s chapter!

JUNE 2020 | We’re back! University labs open back up with rigid social distancing guidelines.

MAY 2020 | Sally graduates with her M.S. Congratulations, Sally Shepardson-Fungairino, M.S.!

MAR 2020 | All university research shuts down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


NOV 2019 | Eric H. successfully defends his thesis. Congratulations, Dr. High!

OCT 2019 | Laurin, Dan, and Eric H. receive the Graduate Student Travel Award and head to AVS 66th in Columbus, Ohio. Laurin presents a poster, and Dan and Eric H. give talks.

JULY 2019 | Laurin, Dan, and Eric H. present posters at the GRC Dynamics at Surfaces conference in Newport, Rhode Island. Congrats to Eric H. for winning first place in a 3-way tie for Best Student Poster Presentation!

Sally has a baby! Welcome to the world, Eddy!

SPRING 2019 | The new main chamber for Chamber 2 arrives!


NOV 2018 | The group welcomes a new first-year graduate student. Welcome, Laurin!

OCT 2018 | Eric H. goes to the AVS 65th International Symposium and earns the Morton M. Traum Surface Science Student Award for his presentation titled “Probing the effects of surface structure on the dissociative chemisorption of methane”. Congrats!

AUG 2018 | Eric P. successfully defends his thesis. Congratulations, Dr. Peterson!

JULY 2018 | Eric H. attends the PARADIM Summer School at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY


OCT 2017 | Eric H. gives a talk at AVS 64th International Symposium and Exhibition in Tampa, FL

Eric H. gives a talk titled “State-resolved measurements of methane reactivity on metal single crystal catalysts” at the Condensed Matter Seminar for the Department of Physics and Astronomy

AUG 2017 | Eric D. successfully defends his thesis. Congratulations, Dr. Dombrowski!

JULY 2017 | Sally, Eric, and Dan receive the Graduate Student Travel Award to present their research at the Gordon Research Seminar and Gordon Research Conference for Dynamics at Surfaces

JUNE 2017 | Eric H. receives the Graduate Institute for Teaching (GIFT) Fellowship and presents a talk titled “Introduction to Quantum Mechanics: Wave-particle duality of light” at the GIFT Lecture Series

SUMMER 2017 | Will and Alec, undergraduates from Stonehill College, join the lab for the summer to learn about our surface science experiments. Welcome!


NOV 2016 | The group welcomes two new first-year graduate students. Welcome, Daniel and Sally!

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