My name is Irene Groot and I am associate professor (tenured) at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry in the Netherlands. I am leading a group focusing on investigating heterogeneously catalyzed reactions on model catalysts using operando/in situ microscopy and spectroscopy. Currently, my group consists of 6 PhD students and 4 postdocs.
I studied chemistry in Leiden, however, with a focus on physics. I graduated in molecular astrophysics. During my Master's research projects I got involved in ultrahigh vacuum and surface science and was immediately hooked. Even though the topics that I investigate using surface science have changed from astrophysics and dynamics at surfaces to heterogeneous catalysis, the underlying methods are still the same: complex ultrahigh vacuum equipment, that I partially develop myself, and atomic-scale investigation of surfaces.
At the moment, my research focuses on the atomic-scale understanding of heterogeneous catalysis by investigating the chemical reaction and the accompanying changes to the catalyst surface while it happens. Thereto we make use of dedicated home-developed microscopy and spectroscopy tools that combine an ultrahigh vacuum environment for model catalyst preparation and characterization with new high-pressure surface science techniques such as scanning probe microscopy, optical microscopy, and spectroscopy. Examples of chemical reactions we study are CO oxidation, NO reduction, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, hydrodesulfurization and graphene growth on liquid copper. The ultimate aim of this research is to obtain a full, atomic-scale understanding of catalysis, so that new catalysts can be developed by design instead of via trial-and-error.
I have visited two AVS meetings in the past 5 years. These meetings are a very good platform to meet colleagues in the field, discuss new results and challenges, and to present my work to a specialized audience.