People in the NRT

The Internet of Catalysis NRT program consist of faculty, Ph.D. students, Master’s students, staff, and partners. We also work with external advisory boards that offer guidance from across disciplines that affect chemicals manufacturing, catalysis, and data science.
The faculty participating in the NRT seated around a table in a meeting


The Internet of Catalysis program features mentors who have vibrant research initiatives and a strong track record of collaboration across disciplinary boundaries.

NRT Faculty


James Blakemore 

broadly focuses on preparation and study of tailored inorganic and organometallic compounds that can provide insight into energy conversion. A portion of this work is aimed at developing new media for conversion of carbon dioxide in collaboration with Profs. Kevin Leonard and Bala Subramaniam at the KU Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. In 2018, James was named a recipient of a US DOE Early Career Award and a US NSF EPSCoR Research Fellowship.

Michael Branicky 

focuses his research on robotics and control cyber-physical systems, motion planning, networked control systems and hybrid systems.  He was KU's Dean of Engineering from 2013 to 2018. Professor Branicky was also elected IEEE Fellow in 2016 for contributions to switched and hybrid control systems.  

Marco Caricato

 uses theoretical and computational chemistry as well as quantum mechanics to explore various molecular interactions. His group simulates UV/Vis absorption and various other spectra of molecules in solution.  Professor Caricato also evaluates electron transfer couplings from chromophores to organic crystals and explores catalysis on surfaces and in zeolites.  He frequently collaborates with experimental groups.

Timothy Jackson

focuses on unraveling the reactivity of manganese-dependent enzymes that catalyze oxidative degradation reactions using molecular oxygen or hydrogen peroxide as oxidants. His group uses a three-pronged approach to reveal insights into how nature uses molecular oxygen and manganese to oxidize substrates, which can be used to shed light on how to design transition metal complexes that can perform "green" oxidation reactions.

Prasad Kulkarni 

seeks to improve performance and trust-worthiness of software, servers, and cloud computing domains. His research applies concepts in compilers, computer architecture, operating systems, virtual machines, and software engineering. Projects typically focus on building new system tools or modifying existing compiler-based or runtime systems to improve the speed, code-size, security, and programmability characteristics of software.  Professor Kulkarni also serves as the Laboratory Director for the Computer Systems Design Laboratory at KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

Kevin Leonard 

seeks to reduce human-kind’s impact on the environment by developing new catalysts to improve the efficiency of and reduce emissions associated with the production of fuels and chemicals. By gaining fundamental insights of electrocatalysts and electrocatalytic media, he aims to design new electrocatalytic systems to facilitate renewable chemistry reactions for the benefit of society. His laboratory is located at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.  Professor Leonard has been awarded an Innovation Corps grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the NSF.

Fengjun Li 

studies a broad area of security and privacy for distributed information systems, cyber-physical systems and communication networks. She is especially interested in investigating how to build secure and privacy-preserving machine learning, IoT, cyber-physical systems, and social networks.  Professor Li is also affiliated with KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

Bo Luo 

conducts has a broad interest in scientific research and education. His recent works mostly lie in the intersection of data science and privacy and security. In particular, he is interested in information security and privacy, especially in the context of Web and social networks; smart grid and IoT/CPS security; blockchain; information retrieval and social media, etc. He leads the Jayhawk SFS: CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program at KU, and is also a co-founder of CANSec: Central Area Networking and Security Workshop (formerly KanSec: The Greater Kansas Area Security Workshop).  Professor Luo is also affiliated with KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

Bala Subramaniam 

develops solutions for catalysis and reaction engineering challenges. For example, his work seeks to harness unconventional solvents, such as supercritical fluids and gas-expanded liquids, in multiphase catalysis to develop resource-efficient technologies with reduced environmental footprint. Bala also directs the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) and collaborates with numerous industry partners. Professor Subramaniam has won numerous awards, and he is a Fellow of the AIChE, the ACS Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division, and the National Academy of Inventors.

Ward Thompson 

focuses on the development and application of theoretical methods for describing reaction dynamics, energy transfer, and spectroscopy in condensed phase systems. Specifically, he aims to develop accurate theoretical and computational approaches that can be feasibly applied to complex chemical problems, including reactions in liquids and nanostructured environments.  Professor Thompson is affiliated with KU's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC), and he collaborates frequently with experimentalists and industry partners.

Jon Tunge 

focuses on developing mild, waste-free, catalytic methods that facilitate the synthesis of useful small molecules.  He also engages in detailed mechanistic studies of catalytic processes with the goal of advancing the fundamental knowledge of the chemical sciences.  His work spans several traditional disciplines to uncover catalysis for biologically active small molecules as well as large-scale production of fine chemicals. Professor Tunge is affiliated with KU's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.

NRT seminar group 2021


Meet the students, past and current, in the NRT program.

2020 NRT Trainees


  • *Giordano Castro

    • Master’s Student, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • *Andrew Jenny

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • *Joseph Karnes

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemistry
  • *Emily Mikeska

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemistry
  • Isaac Moore

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemistry
  • *Matthew Stalcup

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • Anoop Uchagawkar

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

2021 NRT Trainees


  • Dinu Rajapakse

    • Master’s Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • Bri Ferris

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • Christian Niles

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemistry
  • Jane Wang

    • Master’s Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • Tevin Niang-Trost

    • Master’s Student, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Brandon Kinn

    • Master's Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • Steffan Green

    • Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering


*Students pursuing the optional second year of study, advancing from “proficient” to “enterprising” trainee status.


The Internet of Catalysis NRT is led by electrocatalysis expert Kevin Leonard, with assistance from other faculty who represent the disciplinary breadth of the program, external advisory committees, and nonacademic partners.

Management Team

  • Kevin Leonard, PI
  • James Blakemore, Co-PI
  • Bo Luo, Co-PI
  • Bala Subramaniam, Co-PI
  • Michael Branicky, Co-PI
  • Cindi Dunn, Evaluator

Advisory Boards

This NRT will leverage the existing advisory boards associated with KU's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, including:

  • Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) comprised of one designated representative from each member company. IAB members participate in semi-annual board meetings and conduct formal project evaluations each spring. IAB members also interact with students and postdoctoral researchers, sharing insights on how R&D is conducted in the private sector.
  • Science Advisory Board (SAB) provides an independent assessment of the scientific importance and integrity of the research program. The SAB also assists with formal project evaluations each spring. The board is composed of a mixture of distinguished faculty from chemistry and chemical engineering, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of CEBC's research program.

Industry and Science Advisory Boards meet with KU researchers in the fall and the spring, with formal project evaluations taking place at the spring meeting. All NRT trainers and trainees are invited to attend and present at these meetings.