Jose Rodriguez named American V fellow

image: José Rodriguez is researching catalysts to improve clean energy production and control environmental pollution.
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Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

UPTON, NY — José Rodriguez, a chemist in the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and assistant professor in the departments of chemistry and materials science and chemical engineering at Stony Brook University, has been appointed a 2021 member of the ‘American Vacuum Society (AVS). The award recognizes AVS members who have made sustained and outstanding technical contributions throughout their careers in areas of interest to society.

This honor recognizes Rodriguez for his contributions in the field of catalysis.

Catalysis is the study and design of chemicals that facilitate molecular interactions in chemical reactions. Catalysts help bring reacting molecules together and often reduce the energy required to break and reform chemical bonds. They usually speed up reactions, making them more effective.

The study of materials and catalytic processes under vacuum conditions, that is to say in the absence of other materials or molecules, is important to evaluate and improve their performance.

More specifically, AVS cites Rodriguez for his “fundamental contributions to the understanding of reactions associated with desulfurization and C1 chemistry on the surfaces of metals, oxides, carbides and sulfides”. These reactions are important for producing clean, efficient and renewable fuels and for controlling environmental pollution.

“It’s a great honor for me,” said Rodriguez. “Since the start of space exploration in the 1960s, when it became possible to study surface reactions in vacuum or ultra-vacuum conditions, characterization techniques have evolved and we now have tools powerful ones that can help us design better catalysts.

Early in his career, Rodriguez pursued a very productive research program in hydrodesulfurization catalysis. He developed a process to remove sulfur from petroleum raw materials in order to control pollution and produce cleaner fuels. His most recent work focuses on “C1 chemistry”. These reactions involve molecules with a single carbon atom (C). They include the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2), and the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH) or hydrogen. One of the goals of these reactions is to transform powerful greenhouse gases into fuels and other useful chemicals.

During his 30-year career at Brookhaven, Rodriguez has developed extensive expertise and served as a mentor and collaborator. It has hosted undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists from other national laboratories and universities. It helps guide the design of experimental tools and techniques for “in situ” studies, experiments that follow catalytic reactions as they occur. He is also an expert in using theoretical approaches that transform experimental data into molecular models, and in using theory and modeling to uncover precise reaction mechanisms. Through this interaction between experience and theory, Rodriguez and his collaborators identified bottlenecks and barriers to reactions, as well as ways to rationally refine the design of catalysts to improve their performance.

“This honor is a wonderful recognition of the wide impact of José’s work,” said Alex Harris, Director of the Department of Energy Sciences and Acting Chair of the Chemistry Division at Brookhaven Lab. “He has shown leadership in the application of advanced methods, in particular synchrotron X-ray techniques to light sources such as the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab, to study reaction processes and use the knowledge gained from these experiences to develop better catalysts.

Born and raised in Venezuela, Rodriguez obtained undergraduate degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering from Simon Bolivar University in Caracas (1981, 1982) and a doctorate. in Physical Chemistry from Indiana University (1988). After pursuing postdoctoral studies in chemistry at Texas A&M University, he joined the Brookhaven Lab in 1991. He currently leads the Catalysis: Reactivity and Structure group in the Chemistry division and co-leads the synchrotron catalysis consortium that operates at NSLS -II. He was named Distinguished Scientist of the DOE Office of Science in 2019, received the Brookhaven Lab Science and Technology Award in 2011, and a 2007 Award for Technical Achievement from Great Minds in STEM ™, an organization for non-profit that focuses on education awareness and recognition. programs for Hispanics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Rodriguez’s work at Brookhaven is funded primarily by the DOE Office of Science (BES). NSLS-II is a user installation of the DOE Office of Science.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information visit

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