The Goldsmith Lab

First-principles modeling of catalysts and materials

University of Michigan - Department of Chemical Engineering


The Goldsmith Lab performs interdisciplinary research using state-of-the-art electronic-structure theory and molecular simulation, as well as data analytics tools, to understand catalysts and materials under realistic conditions, and to help generate a platform for their design and use in sustainable chemical synthesis, alternative energy, and pollution reduction. See the posters below for more information about our current research thrusts and research highlights.

Ab initio modeling of catalysts and materials

Click the poster below for some information about our research group thrusts, namely: (i) The computational investigation of amorphous and disordered materials for their use as catalysts and catalyst supports for alternative fuel production and pollution reduction; (ii) Understanding nanoclusters and atomically dispersed metal-complexes supported by metal oxides for natural gas conversion; (iii) Homogeneous organometallic catalysis for specialty chemical production, especially for C-H activation of small molecules; and (iv) Using data analytics/machine learning/data mining tools to accelerate discovery of catalysts and materials.

Data analytics to discover materials insights

As part of the Novel Materials Discovery Laboratory, a major goal is to develop data analytics tools to uncover scientific insights from large materials repositories. While at the FHI Theory Department, Dr. Goldsmith applied subgroup discovery to find and describe interesting local patterns in materials-science data. In collaboration with Dr. Boley, two illustrative examples were considered to: (1) discover interpretable models that classify the octet binary materials as either zincblende or rocksalt, and (2) elucidate structure-property relationships of gold clusters in the gas phase. Read here and here.

Understanding gold clusters in the gas phase

With the L. M. Ghiringhelli Group, we are examining the (meta)stable structures of gold clusters present at finite temperature using van der Waals (vdW) corrected density-functional theory and replica-exchange ab initio molecular dynamics. Inclusion of many-body vdW interactions is needed for predicting accurate isomer energetics, and its importance grows as the cluster size increases. Temperature effects are observed to typically stabilize three-dimensional structures over planar structures at finite temperature. Gold cluster structures are assigned using far-IR spectroscopy obtained by the Fieleke Group and theoretical predictions.

Modeling isolated catalyst sites on amorphous supports

Isolated metal ions on amorphous supports are widely used in industrial catalytic processes. Modeling isolated sites on amorphous catalyst supports, however, remains a major challenge. To help address this challenge, a systematic ab initio algorithm was created to model isolated active sites on insulating amorphous supports using small cluster models. Read article here. Efforts are being continued to create more realistic models of amorphous supports and to more deeply understand isolated metal ions on amorphous supports, as well as how the amorphous support impacts catalyst performance (e.g., WOx/SiO2 for olefin metathesis).

Water-catalyzed activation of H2O2 by methyltrioxorhenium

In collaboration with Susannah L. Scott's Group, we conducted a joint computational-experimental study of the reaction of CH3ReO3 (MTO) with H2O2 to understand the origins of large discrepancies in previously reported experimental reaction kinetics and thermodynamics compared with computational results. We also explored MTO-catalyzed olefin epoxidation by H2O2, as it shows strong water acceleration effects, even though no step in the catalytic cycle explicitly consumes water. The main cause of the observed acceleration is the water-dependence of the rates at which the active species are regenerated. Read here and here.

CO and NO-induced nanoparticle disintegration

Reactant-induced structural changes of supported metal nanoparticles (NPs) have been widely reported during heterogeneous catalysis. One common structural change is the reactant-induced disintegration of supported NPs, which can lead to catalyst deactivation or be employed as an effective way to achieve catalyst redispersion. In collaboration with the Wei-Xue Li Group, we conducted an ab initio thermodynamics study to understand the effects of CO and NO reactants on the disintegration of metal-oxide supported Rh, Pd, and Pt NPs into adatom-reactant complexes. Read article here.

[Research Highlights Archive]



Bryan R. Goldsmith
Assistant Professor
Download CV here

Prof. Goldsmith obtained his BS in chemical engineering at the University of California Riverside (2010) and his PhD in chemical engineering with Baron Peters at the University of California Santa Barbara (2015). Before joining Michigan in 2017, he was a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, Germany working with Luca Ghiringhelli and Matthias Scheffler. Prof. Goldsmith's overarching research goals are to use theory and modeling to help understand and design catalysts and materials for sustainable chemistry, pollution reduction and alternative fuel applications. His research interests span catalysis, amorphous materials, data science/machine learning/data mining, quantum chemical modeling, and molecular simulation.
Email: bgoldsm <at>


Frank Doherty
Ph.D Pre-Candidate

Frank Doherty obtained his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Washington University in Saint Louis (2012). Prior to attending the University of Michigan, Frank worked as an environmental engineering consultant in Maryland and gained onsite experience working at a cement manufacturing facility and a coal-fired power plant. In his free time, Frank enjoys reading, cooking, swimming, and singing. Frank's research interests include heterogeneous catalysis, especially for applications in energy and the environment, and machine learning/data science.
Email: fdoherty <at>


Jacques Esterhuizen
Ph.D Pre-Candidate

Jacques completed his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California in 2017. His research interests include heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemical surface science, and data science. In his spare time, Jacques enjoys cooking, live music, and the outdoors. Jacques is co-advised between Prof. Goldsmith and Prof. Linic.
Email: esterhui <at>


Erich Shan

Erich has been studying his B.S. in Computer Science at Michigan since 2017. He graduated from the American International School of Vienna with a US Diploma and through the IB Diploma Program. Erich is currently working on text mining for materials and catalysts.
Email: ershan <at>


Jacob Florian

Jacob is an undergraduate pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at U-M since 2017. He enjoys playing tennis and reading in his spare time. Jacob is currently studying the effects of temperature and van der Waals on the stability of nanoclusters.
Email: florianj <at>


Lynn Chen

Lynn is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S.E in Chemical Engineering at Michigan since 2016. She is an avid scuba diver and enjoy shipwreck and cold water diving. Lynn is studying heterogeneous catalysis by single atoms and their dynamics.
Email: chlynn <at>



✪ We are always looking for excellent graduate students interested in computational catalysis and materials, and/or data science. We are building a diverse and active research group that is involved in collaborations around the world. If interested, send your resume and a short statement of intent to bgoldsm(at)



1/27/2018: Goldsmith will give a seminar at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside on Feb. 9th. He will also present an educational outreach talk to the local AIChE and EWB Chapters.

1/25/2018: Goldsmith will be a Session Co-Chair for “New Developments in Computational Catalysis I” at the 2018 AIChE Annual Meeting. Goldsmith also will be a Symposium Organizer for “Understanding Catalytic Sites on Amorphous and Disordered Materials” at the ACS 256th Fall Meeting.

11/2/2017: The sophomore ChE students in my class presented posters on chemical processes to middle schoolers from Detroit. Check out the poster gallery to learn about chemical engineering in everyday life!

7/1/2017: What's your favorite molecule? One of Dr. Goldsmith's favorites is ammonia. See why, as well as many Nobel Laureate's favorite molecules too.

6/15/2017: Goldsmith and colleagues had their research highlighted by the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

6/01/2017: I am thrilled to join University of Michigan - Ann Arbor in September as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering!

2/28/2017: Goldsmith was selected to attend the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry!

2/27/2017: Awarded a DAAD Travel Grant to attend the APS March Meeting in New Orleans! Thank you DAAD!

2/7/2017: Attended a NOMAD Industry Outreach meeting in Hamburg. See info on NOMAD here.

[ News Archive ]


Current and Past Sponsors

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Catalysis Science Initiative of the DOE, Basic Energy Sciences
National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation
National Science Foundation Partnership for International Research
International Center For Materials Research, NSF


Bryan R. Goldsmith
[Faculty webpage]
☎    (734) 764-3627
      University of Michigan
Department of Chemical Engineering
B28-2044W North Campus Research Complex
2800 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor
Michigan, 48109-2136