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John Keith

University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2007

John Keith received his B.A. in Chemistry from Wesleyan University and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from California Institute of Technology. After a post doctoral position at the University of Ulm in Germany and then at Princeton, he joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 as a an assistant professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. He also acts as the Graduate student recruiting coordinator for his department. He has received several awards, including the Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship for his post doctoral appointment at Ulm, and was on the list of the Pittsburgh Business Times Who's Who in Energy in 2014.


The Keith group applies and develops computational chemistry to study and discover solutions to problems at the interface of engineering and basic science.  They are currently focused on modeling chemical reaction mechanisms and the atomic scale of materials to help develop renewable energy and sustainability technologies.
The group uses quantum chemistry-based multiscale modeling to predict and study the atomic scale of materials and chemical reactions. With electronic structure and atomistic methods, they can investigate fundamental reaction steps at different time- and length-scales that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to investigate with experiment. 
Notably, their studies are entirely carried out in silico (on a computer) and almost entirely free from artificial biases that are present when using experimental inputs. Whether doing so alone or in collaboration with experimentalists, the group provides deep perspective on the atomic-scale of catalytic environments to understand how they work and how to further improve them.
The 'ground-up' multiscale modeling approach uses appropriate levels of quantum chemistry (QC) theory (typically on up to ca. 200 atoms) to model reaction energies, barrier heights, pKas, and standard redox potentials. Using data obtained from QC theory, they can also develop analytic reactive forcefields, which are capable of modeling reaction dynamics on systems on the order of 100,000 atoms. Reactive forcefield data in turn can be used to generate rate constant libraries for kinetic Monte Carlo (kMC) simulations to model larger time-scale and length-scale phenomena such a nanoparticle/material growth and ripening.


Title Position Email
Yasemin Basdogan Graduate Student
Brian Gentry Undergraduate Student
Charles Griego Graduate Student
Charles Griego Graduate Student
Mitchell Groenenboom Graduate Student
Ethan Henderson Undergraduate Student
Angela Leo Undergraduate Student
Alex Maldonando Graduate Student
Karthikeyan Saravanan Graduate Student
Lingyan Zhao Graduate Student
Most Cited Publications

"Water Oxidation on Pure and Doped Hematite (0001) Surfaces: Prediction of Co and Ni as Effective Dopants for Electrocatalysis," Peilin Liao, John A. Keith, and Emily A. Carter, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 134, 13296 (2012)
"The Mechanism of the Wacker Reaction: A Tale of Two Hydroxypalladations," John A. Keith, Patrick M. Henry, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 48, 9038 (2009)
"Theoretical Investigations of the Oxygen Reduction Reaction on Pt(111)," John A. Keith, Gregory Jerkiewicz, Timo Jacob, ChemPhysChem 11, 2779 (2010)
"Elucidation of the selectivity of proton-dependent electrocatalytic CO2 reduction by fac-Re (bpy)(CO) 3CI," JA Keith, KA Grice, CP Kubiak, and EA Carter.  Journal of the American Chemical Society 135.42 (2013)
"Theoretical Studies of Potential-Dependent and Competing Mechanisms of the Electrocatalytic Oxygen Reduction Reaction on Pt(111)," John A. Keith, Timo Jacob, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 49, 9521 (2010)

Recent Publications

"Machine Learning Guided Approach for Studying Solvation Environments,"  Y Basdogan, MC Groenenboom, E Henderson, S De, S Rempe, and J Keith.  ChemRxiv (2019)
"Free Standing Nanoporous Palladium Alloys as CO Poisoning Tolerant Electrocatalysts for the Electrochemical Reduction of CO2 to Formate," S Chatterjee, CD Griego, J Hart, Y Li, M Taheri, J Keith, and J Snyder.  ACS Catalysis 9.6 (2019)
"Benchmarking Computational Alchemy for Carbide, Nitride, and Oxide Catalysts." Griego, Charles D., Karthikeyan Saravanan, and John A. Keith. Advanced Theory and Simulations (2018): 1800142.
"Mechanism of Isobutylene Polymerization: Quantum Chemical Insight into AlCl3/H2O‑Catalyzed Reactions," Minh Nguyen Vo, Yasemin Basdogan, Bridget S. Derksen, Nico Proust, G. Adam Cox, Cliff Kowall, John A. Keith, and J. Karl Johnson, ACS Catal., 8, 8006 (2018)
"Oligomer Hydrate Crystallization Improves Carbon Nanotube Memory," Michael T. Chido, Peter Koronaios, Karthikeyan Saravanan, Alexander P. Adams, Steven J. Geib, Qiang Zhu, Hari B Sunkara, Sachin S. Velankar, Robert M. Enick, John A. Keith, and Alexander Star, Chemistry of Materials (2018).