Will Medlin on balcony  overlooking Boulder foilage and mountains
Denver Business Challenge Endowed Professor • Department Chair
Chemical and Biological Engineering • Materials Science and Engineering Program

Office: JSCBB D121
Mailbox: 596 UCB


BS, Chemical Engineering, Clemson University (1996)
PhD, Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware (2001)
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Sandia National Laboratories (2001-2002)


  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2021)
  • Visiting Professorship, Chalmers University of Technology, (2017-2018)
  • Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering Outstanding Service Award (2016)
  • College of Engineering Dean’s Outstanding Research Award (2015)
  • AIChE Himmelblau Award (shared with John Falconer, Janet Degrazia, Garret Nicodemus) (2015)
  • Dept. of Chemical and Biological Eng. Graduate Teaching Award (2012, 2020)
  • Visiting Professorship, ETH-Zurich (2010-2011)
  • College of Engineering Hutchinson Teaching Award, (2010)
  • Boulder Faculty Assembly Teaching Excellence Award, (2009)
  • Provost’s Faculty Achievement Award (2013, 2008)
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science Faculty Development Award (2006)
  • Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Undergraduate Teaching Award (2006, 2009)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2004)
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science Junior Faculty Award (2006)
  • Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2004)

Selected Publications

  • J. Zhang, S. Deo, M.J. Janik, J.W. Medlin*, “Control of molecular bonding strength on metal catalysts with organic monolayers for CO2 reduction”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 142 (2020) 5184-5193; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b12980.
  • L.D. Ellis, S. Parker, J. Hu, M. Dzara, H.H. Funke, C. Sievers, S. Pylypenko, J.L. Falconer, J.W. Medlin*, “Tuning gas adsorption selectivity and diffusion rates in zeolites with phosphonic acid monolayers”, Cell Rep. Phys. Sci. 1 (2020) 100036; DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100036.
  • B. Greydanus, D.K. Schwartz, J.W. Medlin*, “Controlling Catalyst-Phase Selectivity in Complex Mixtures with Amphiphilic Janus Particles”, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 12 (2020) 2338-2345; DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b16957.
  • L.O. Mark, N. Agrawal, A. Román, A. Holewinski, M.J. Janik, J.W. Medlin*, “Insight into the oxidation mechanism of furanic compounds on Pt(111)”, ACS Catalysis, 9 (2019) 11360-11370; DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.9b03983.
  • A.H. Jenkins, C.B. Musgrave, J.W. Medlin*,“Enhancing Au/TiO2 Catalyst Thermostability and Coking Resistance with Alkyl Phosphonic-Acid Self-Assembled Monolayers”, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 11 (2019) 41289-41296. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b13170
  • P.D. Coan, M.B. Griffin, P.N. Ciesielski, J.W. Medlin*, “Phosphonic acid modifiers for enhancing selective hydrodeoxygenation over Pt catalysts: The role of the catalyst support”, Journal of Catalysis, 372 (2019) 311-320; DOI: 10.1016/j.jcat.2019.03.011.
  • J. Zhang, L.D. Ellis, B. Wang, M.J. Dzara, C. Sievers, S. Pylypenko, E. Nikolla, J.W. Medlin* “Control of interfacial acid–metal catalysis with organic monolayers”, Nature Catalysis, 1 (2018) 148-155; DOI: 10.1038/s41929-017-0019-8.
  • P. Hao, D.K. Schwartz, J.W. Medlin, “Effect of Surface Hydrophobicity of Pd/Al2O3 on Vanillin Hydrodeoxygenation in a Water/Oil System”,ACS Catalysis, 8 (2018) 11165-11173; DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.8b03141.
  • J. Zhang, B. Wang, E. Nikolla*, J.W. Medlin*, “Directing Reaction Pathways through Controlled Reactant Binding at Pd–TiO2 Interfaces”, Angewandte Chemie, 129 (2017) 6694-6698; DOI: 10.1002/ange.201703669.

Research Interests

Our group investigates reactions at solid surfaces for renewable and sustainable energy applications. We are particularly focused on interfacial chemistry important in the conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals. Biomass-derived carbohydrates and lipids contain a high degree of oxygenate functionality, and it is a major challenge to develop new catalysts capable of selective conversions of the oxygenates to useful fuel and chemical products. A major focus of our group is to design such catalysts based on a molecular-scale understanding of the oxygenate-catalyst interaction.

Our efforts to research various applications are united by a common theme: a variety of experimental and computational tools are employed to obtain a detailed understanding of chemical and physical phenomena at solid surfaces. Having this understanding in hand allows us to design improved catalysts that we can screen under realistic conditions in chemical reactors.

Our research focuses on the following main areas:

  • Surface reactivity and catalyst design for conversion of biomass-derived oxygenates to chemicals
  • Model studies of electrocatalytic interfaces
  • Designing artificial “binding pockets” on metal catalysts
  • Catalysts for conversion of waste plastics to fuels and chemicals
  • Fundamental investigations of metal – metal oxide – organic interfaces

Other Program Associations

Materials Science and Engineering Program