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Energy and Environment Directorate

Nicholas Nelson

Nicholas Nelson

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
PO Box 999
Richland, WA 99352
(509) 375-6908


Dr. Nicholas C. Nelson is a staff scientist in the Advanced Energy Systems group of the Energy and Environment Directorate. His research focuses on the development of heterogeneous catalysts for commercial deployment in automotive emission applications. Dr. Nelson has extensive experience developing catalysts through mechanistic understanding using an array of techniques which include operando spectroscopies and kinetic analyses. He is interested in developing atomically precise, durable materials to meet the energy demands of the 21st century.

Nick received his B.S. degree in Chemistry in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. He was employed as a quality control chemist with Nestlé in Eau Claire from 2008 to 2010. He received his M.S. in Chemistry in 2013 from Iowa State University under the supervision of Dr. Javier Vela and his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2016 from Iowa State University under the guidance of Dr. Igor Slowing. Nick joined PNNL in 2016 as a postdoctoral research associate working with Janos Szanyi on C-O bond activation chemistry. He was employed as Senior Research Chemist with Clariant in Louisville from 2019 to 2020 developing selective hydrogenation catalysts for the purification of ethylene streams for petrochemical applications. He joined PNNL as a staff scientist in 2020.

Research Interests

  • Catalysis science, kinetics, and reaction mechanisms
  • Synthesis of well-defined catalyst structures
  • Elucidating structure-performance relationships in catalytic materials
  • Technological deployment to commercial partners

Education and Credentials

  • Ph.D. in Chemistry, Iowa State University, 2013 - 2016
  • M.S. in Chemistry, Iowa State University, 2010 - 2013
  • B.S. in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, 2004 - 2008

Affiliations and Professional Service

  • American Chemical Society

Awards and Recognitions

  • ACS Postdoc to Faculty Workshop, ACS - 2018
  • Noble Hines Endowed Fellowship, Iowa State University - 2015
  • Professional Advancement Grant, Iowa State University - 2014
  • Krause, Marie & Floyd Memorial Scholarship, UW-Eau Claire - 2008

PNNL Publications


  • Nelson N.C., and J. Szanyi. 2020. "Heterolytic hydrogen activation: Understanding support effects in water-gas shift, hydrodeoxygenation, and CO oxidation catalysis." ACS Catalysis 10, no. 10:5663-5671. PNNL-SA-148219. doi:10.1021/acscatal.0c01059
  • Nelson N.C., L. Chen, D. Meira, L. Kovarik, and J. Szanyi. 2020. "In Situ Dispersion of Palladium on TiO2 During Reverse Water-Gas Shift Reaction: Formation of Atomically Dispersed Palladium." Angewandte Chemie International Edition 132, no. 40:17810-17816. PNNL-SA-154002. doi:10.1002/ange.202007576


  • Nelson N.C., M. Nguyen, V. Glezakou, R.J. Rousseau, and J. Szanyi. 2019. "Carboxyl intermediate formation via an in situ-generated metastable active site during water-gas shift catalysis." Nature Catalysis 2, no. 10:916-924. PNNL-SA-141247. doi:10.1038/s41929-019-0343-2

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas