Bert F. Sels (1972), currently full professor at KU Leuven, obtained his Ph.D. in 2000 in the field of heterogeneous oxidation catalysis under the guidance of professor Pierre Jacobs. He was awarded the DSM Chemistry Award in 2000, the Incentive Award by the Belgian Chemical Society in 2005, and the Green Chemistry Award in La Rochelle in 2015. He is currently director of the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (COK, 2015-2018).
His research activities encompass the design of heterogeneous catalysts for the future challenges in industrial organic and environmental catalysis. He has about 300 peer reviewed papers with an h index of 72, more than 17 350 citations (google scholar), and he wrote 28 patents. His expertise includes heterogeneous catalysis in bio-refineries and factories, the design of hierarchically structured zeolites and carbons, and spectroscopy and kinetics for the identification of catalytically active sites for small molecule activation.
He is appointed active member of the Research Council of the University. He is co-chair of the Catalysis Commission of the International Zeolite Association (IZA) and co-founder of the European Research Institute of Catalysis (ERIC). He is member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, visiting professor in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, board member of the international advisory board of ChemSusChem (Wiley), ChemCatChem (Wiley), and he is currently associate editor of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (ACS).
You can discover more details of his research at http://www.sels-group.eu/
Industrial research manager
Dr. Bert Lagrain (M) holds a PhD in Bioscience Engineering since 2007 in the field of cereal chemistry and food science. In 2009 and 2012 he was a visiting researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
He joined the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis of the KU Leuven in 2013 as an Industrial Research Manager in the domain of the catalytic and chemical engineering technology for the biorefinery. He authored more than 55 peer-reviewed papers (ISI) in the domain of (applied) chemistry with an h-index of 22. He is responsible for the translation of academic research toward industrial applications and coordinates the national and international funding applications of the group and the technology transfer. In this regard Bert successfully acquired research funding from the EU programmes H2020 and Interreg; from different regional funding sources and through bilateral agreements with multiple companies. Currently, Bert is deputy member of the Board of Catalisti, the Flemish spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics, and board member of the Leuven Institute for Material Research (L-MRC).
Ekaterina obtained her PhD degree in 2007 in the frame of a cooperation agreement (“Co-tutelle”) between Moscow State University (Laboratory of Kinetics and Catalysis) and Littoral University (Laboratory of Catalysis and Environment) on the topic of oxidation of methanol and VOCs using supported oxide catalysts. Since 2010 she is working in the Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (COK) at KU Leuven in the group of Prof. Bert Sels on synthesis of the important drop-in chemicals and polymer building blocks from biomass-derived feedstock.
Shaotao Bai, born in Shaanxi, obtained his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and master’s degree in chemical biology with honors in 2013 and 2015, respectively, at Peking University. Afterward, he got a PhD scholarship from Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) and part funding from the University of Amsterdam to join the group of prof. Joost Reek to expand his expertise in the context of supramolecular transition metal catalysis. As demonstrated by the outcome of the efforts made to the end of his PhD research, he gained fundamental knowledge and advanced training in (homogeneous) catalysis, spectroscopy, supramolecular chemistry, DFT calculations and kinetic studies in the context of many (applied) processes, such as hydroformylation, hydrogenation and CH activations. He has published five papers in Chemical Science, Angewandte Chemie, Chemical communications and four more papers in preparation. Also, he has given many oral and poster presentations in (inter)national conferences. After obtaining his PhD in December 2019, he moved to heterogeneous catalysis as a postdoctoral researcher focusing on CO2 capture and utilization with prof. Bert Sels in the Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (COK) at KU Leuven. His research interests across multidisciplinary fields of materials science, (bio-inspired) homo- & heterogeneous catalysis, supramolecular chemistry, spectroscopy, bio-renewable chemicals, computational catalysis, CO2 transformation, direct CH functionalization, kinetics, and electro- and photo-chemistry. Besides chemistry, he enjoys running, reading, and hiking, and organizing trips for family and friends.
Steven-Friso Koelewijn obtained his PhD degree in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2019. During his PhD, under the guidance of prof. Bert F. Sels, he investigated the safety-driven molecular design of benign bisphenols from biomass, by implementing a concept of ‘safety by natural design’. As a postdoctoral researcher, he currently explores the full potential of the newly developed platform of bio-renewable and safer bisphenols, in strong collaboration with companies. His research interests include green chemistry, catalysis, biomass, and toxicological and polymer chemistry.
Yuhe Liao obtained his MSc in Engineering at University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2014. He did his master’s thesis at Guangzhou institute of Energy Conversion where he explored catalytic conversion of cellulose into polyols. He is currently in the progress of finishing his PhD degree under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels. His general interest focuses on catalytic conversion of lignocellulose into base chemicals with highest degree of fundamental understanding.
Guillaume Pomalaza is from Montreal, Canada. He obtained his BSc in chemistry for the University of Montreal (2014). He obtained his MSc from the Ecole Centrale of Lille in the field of catalysis and process design (2015). During a 6-month stay in the University of Hokkaido, he studied the synthesis of silica-alumina-phosphate catalysts for the conversion of ethanol to propylene under the supervision of Pr. Kenichi Shimizu. Later, Guillaume received his PhD from the University of Lille (2019) under the supervision of Pr. Franck Dumeignil and Dr. Mickaël Capron. His doctoral thesis centered on the development of new heterogeneous catalysts of the ethanol-to-butadiene reaction. As a postdoctoral researcher in Pr. Bert Sels’ group, he focuses on the conversion of methyl lactate to lactide.
Gert Preegel obtained his PhD degree in organic chemistry (organocatalysis) at Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia) in 2016. During his PhD he investigated different asymmetric organocatalytic methods in the valorization of biomass derived molecules. After his PhD, he worked 3 years as a head of industrial chemistry laboratory on an industry-related project on the topic of selective oxidation of oil shale. As a postdoctoral researcher, he now explores the recyclability of biomass derived polycarbonates and their derivates. In his spare time, he enjoys music, dance, and hiking in nature.
José Luis Santos Muñoz
José Luis Santos did his end-of-degree work in Professor Odriozola's laboratories in Seville (2013), on obtaining highly active mixed laminated oxides (hydrotalcites) for cleaning hydrogen streams for its uses in fuel cells. After this, he did his master's degree (2013-2014) in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. In particular, focused on the development of biochars coming from organic wastes as eco-friendly catalyst for low carbon energy processes.During his doctoral thesis (2015-2019), Jose Luis focused on relevant reactions such as the Water Gas Shift Reaction (WGSR), the selectivity of formic acid dehydrogenation, the upgrading of bio-oils via hydrodeoxygenation reactions (HDO) as well as catalytic conversion of sugar to added value alcohols.In 2020 he landed in Professor Bert Sels' group, where he is currently dedicating his research to gas-phase reactions of industrial interest.
In his spare time, he likes to play basketball, spent time with family and friends, enjoys listening to Cadiz´carnival and walk around the countryside breathing clean air.
Ivan obtained his MSc in Organic Chemistry at University of Florence, Italy (2013). He then moved to France, where he obtained his PhD degree in 2018. He was engaged in a cooperation agreement between University of Poitiers and Solvay centred on the synthesis of renewable meta‐aromatics from biomass‐derived furanic compounds. In 2019 he joined the group of Bert Sels, where he is currently working on the conversion of sugar-based streams to new chemicals.
Ruiyan Sun, received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2016 in the field of catalytic valorization of cellulose to polyols. From 2016 to 2019, he performed the postdoctoral research at RWTH Aachen with Prof. Regina Palkovits on the development of bifunctional catalysts for the catalytic upgrading of methanol to clean synthetic-fuels. Since November 2019, he moved to the group of Prof. Bert Sels as a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven engaging in developing new materials and routes for heterogeneous reduction of CO2.
Joost Van Aelst
Joost Van Aelst obtained his PhD degree in Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven in 2016, under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels. During his PhD, he studied the hierarchization of USY zeolites with NH4OH and its effect on catalysis for biomass conversions. In 2017, he was granted a KU Leuven Postdoctoral Mandate on the integration of zeolite catalysis in oleochemical refinery processes. Since 2018 he is holding an Innovation Mandate from VLAIO (Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship) on RCF-biorefining of lignocellulosic biomass. He coordinates the BioCon upscaling facility and all industrial collaborations, technology & business developments towards a novel biorefinery in Flanders.
Sander Van den Bosch
Sander Van den Bosch obtained a PhD in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic technology) in 2017 at KU Leuven.
During his PhD, under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels, he investigated the reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) of lignocellulosic biomass, with an emphasis on lignin valorisation.
As a post-doctoral researcher, he is currently occupied with the development and promotion of the RCF-biorefinery as a future route towards bio-based aromatics in Flanders.
Max received his B.S. and M.S. in bioscience engineering at the KU Leuven in 2015, doing his master’s thesis on the identification of the active site in iron zeolites for methane activation. Upon graduation, he started a Ph.D. with Prof. Bert Sels on the synthesis, kinetics, and spectroscopic characterization of transition metal active sites in zeolites, funded by FWO. This research runs in close collaboration with researchers in KU Leuven's computational coordination chemistry group and Stanford University's chemistry department. Besides his broad interests in science and engineering Max enjoys music - playing in the university's big band, participates in youth work as a volunteer and, on occasion, likes to explore the inner workings of bars inside and outside Leuven.
Roos has a MSc in Chemical Engineering Technology. She completed her master thesis in the group of Prof. Sels where she investigated the pretreatment of cellulose. This triggered her curiosity and after graduation at group T in 2009, she joined the team as technical staff. Apart from working out some research projects concerning biomass conversion, she makes sure that the analytical equipment functions and she tries to make the lab a safe working place. Next to her scientific interests, she likes to explore biomass outside by walking, hiking or climbing. When not enjoying outdoor sports, she participates a yoga session or works out a knitting project.
Cheng Zhou received his BSc degree from the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China in 2016. He made his master thesis on hydrogenation of syngas and carbon dioxides into aromatics in Prof. Ye Wang's group at Xiamen University, China. Now he is pursuing his PhD in KU Leuven under the guidance of Prof. Bert
Sels focusing on CO2 capture and utilization. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with friends and discovering the local foods and drinks
Bert Boekaerts obtained his MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2015 with a major in Catalytic Technology and a minor in Bionanotechnology. He completed his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels, where he investigated the conversion of oleochemical biomass to green fuels. As a FWO-funded fellow, he is currently doing a PhD in the same research group. In general, his project focuses on the valorization of (waste stream) oleochemical biomass towards renewable chemicals via heterogeneous catalysis. More specifically his expertise lies in (bio)lubricants. He is also involved in the BIOWAX project, a FISCH-ICON research collaboration (IWT) with several industrial partners. Outside of scientific activities, a large part of his leisure time consists of futsal, swimming, running and going out for dinner/drinks. He also loves going to (foreign) music festivals.
Dorien Kerstens obtained her MSc in Bio-Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2015. She did her master’s thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of prof Bert F. Sels, where she explored the use of zeolites for the valorization of oils and fats. She is currently doing a PhD in the same research group on the role of zeolites in the oleo chemistry. Next to her scientific work, she is a musician in a concert band and likes to embroider.
Gil Van den Bossche
Gil obtained his MSc in Bio-Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2015. During his master thesis, he investigated the demethoxylation of lignin derived compounds over nickel catalysts, under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels. This is where he started his PhD, funded by the Catalisti SBO ‘MAIA’ project, in collaboration with several industrial partners. His current research focuses on the catalysis and process conditions, necessary for large-scale lignin valorization from raw materials. Which ought to close the gap between fundamental research and lignocellulose biorefineries. Apart from chemistry, he likes cycling, hiking abroad and music.
Thijs Vangeel obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU
Leuven in 2016. He did his master thesis in the group of prof. Bert F. Sels, where he explored reductive catalytic fractionation as a biorefinery concept. As a FWO-SB funded fellow, he is currently doing his PhD on exploring alternative biomass sources for the reductive catalytic fractionation. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, surfing (whenever possible) and playing ultimate Frisbee.
After his BSc. in chemistry at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sergio worked as patent adviser in the private sector from 2010 until 2013. Later he obtained his MSc. in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at KU Leuven in 2015. The same year he joined imec as process engineer where he was involved in the development of chemical processes for manufacturing micro and nano-electronic devices with novel materials for future logic technologies. In 2018 he moved from imec to the group of Prof. Sels where he is doing a PhD investigating the catalytic conversion of saccharides into sulfide derivatives. In addition to science and technology, he likes reading novels, walking and cycling in the countryside, drinking beer and wine, cooking and traveling."
Tim received his MSc of Biochemical Engineering Technology degree from KU Leuven in 2016. Before pursuing his research-interests, he followed his interests in teaching by completing an academic teacher training course in natural sciences. (KU Leuven, 2017)
He did his master thesis on the development of a photobioreactor for the production of algal biochemicals under the guidance of Dr. Abhishek Dutta and Prof. Bikem Övez. His knowledge on green technologies is further advanced through his current research on the fractionation of lignin-derived monomers, which is supervised by Prof. Bart Van der Bruggen and Prof. Bert Sels. For this research, he has obtained fellowship-funding from FWO.
Tim has also secured Erasmus+ funding multiple times, allowing him to study and do research not only in Belgium, but also in Finland and Turkey. (Oulun yliopisto and Ege University). These experiences led him to become an active member of the Intercultural Meeting Centre of the KU Leuven.
His research interests include hybrid separation processes, biomimicry and holistic environmental impact assessments and reductions, while his other interests are outdoor teaching, outdoor sports and dancing.
Elise Peeters obtained her MSc in Bioscience Engineering (master Catalytic Technology) at the KU Leuven in 2017. Under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels, she made her master thesis on the catalytic conversion of biomass into short alkanes. As an FWO-funded fellow, she started her PhD in the same research group. Her research topic focuses on the efficient conversion of biomass-derived molecules by Sn-BEA catalysis. Apart from her science-related interest, she loves travelling, running, horseback riding (jumping) and having a good time with friends.
Dieter obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2017. He did his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of prof. Bert Sels, where he investigated the selective oxidation of methane to methanol with Cu- and Fe-exchanged zeolite catalysts. As an FWO-funded fellow, he is currently doing a PhD focusing on the activation of small molecules (like methane, propane…) with metal-exchanged zeolites and other porous materials. In his free time, he likes playing and watching sports (soccer, cycling, rope skipping, chess …) and guiding around Erasmus buddies in the wonderful city of Leuven.
In 2017, Laura Trullemans obtained her MSc in Catalytic Technology (Bioscience Engineering) at the KU Leuven. With great interest for green chemistry, she did her master thesis at the Center of Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels and daily supervision of Steven-Friso Koelewijn. In this master thesis, she collaborated on the catalytic synthesis of sustainable (i.e. renewable and safe) bisphenols. Upon graduation she joined the team of Prof. Sels and started a PhD concerning the exploitation of sustainable bisphenols in high performance materials and the role of zeolite catalysis. Next to her research interest, Laura loves to volunteer, dance, cook, eat, laugh and travel.
Korneel Van Aelst obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2017. He did his master’s thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels, where he investigated the reductive amination of lignin derived molecules. He is currently doing a PhD on the valorization of lignin in the same research group, funded by the FWO-SBO BIOWOOD project. Besides his science related interests, he loves a variety of sports, music, nature and a nice day with friends.
Xuejiao Wu obtained her B.Sc. in Chemistry from Xiamen University, China, in 2015. She is now attending a 5-year doctor degree program in the Department of Chemistry at Xiamen University. For her last year of PhD study, she is doing research under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels. Her general interest focuses on the transformations of lignocellulose-derived chemicals by photocatalysis. In her free time, she likes traveling and watching movies.
Elias Cooreman obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (master Catalytic Technology) at the KU Leuven in 2018. He did his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels and daily supervisor Tom Renders, where he investigated a novel biorefinery concept that aimed to convert lignocellulosic biomass into three pure product streams. He is currently doing a PhD where he continues on the foundation of his master thesis. Besides his scientific interests he likes to play sports, travel and generally enjoy life.
Ward Lorenz obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (master Environmental
Technology) at the KU Leuven in 2018. He did his master thesis at the Centre
for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels
and daily supervisor Bert Boekaerts, where he investigated the chemistry and
kinetics behind a coupling reaction of fatty acids by ketonisation using metal
oxide catalysts. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group
focusing on the valorization of glycerol as a waste product of oleochemistry. In
his spare time, he is an outdoor (sports) enthusiast with a big passion for
hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering.
Dieter Ruijten obtained his MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2018. He performed his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels, where he explored the selective synthesis and polymerization of renewable bisphenols. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group on the functionalization of novel platform molecules from lignin-derived phenolics. In his free time, Dieter enjoys sporting (especially swimming), hiking and travelling.
Karel Thielemans obtained his MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering (Food Science and Nutrition) at KU Leuven in 2018. Under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels and Prof. Christophe Courtin, he performed his master thesis about increasing the fermentability of cellulose fibers. Currently, he is doing a PhD on the foundation of his master thesis, about the food grade functionalization of cellulose fibers by partial hydrolysis. His PhD is a close collaboration between the Centre for surface chemistry and catalysis, and the laboratory for food chemistry and biochemistry at KULeuven.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing and teaching volleyball, making music, and drinking a beer with friends.
Aleksei obtained his MSc in Chemistry at the Lomonosov Moscow State University (Laboratory of Kinetics and Catalysis) in 2018. The main topic of his research work was low-temperature activation of methane over metal-supported systems. He participated in the development of a novel one-step butadiene production process from ethanol in collaboration with several industrial partners. Aleksei will study chemocatalytic processing of sugars as a new route towards bio-based polymers in his PhD work.
Besides his scientific interests, he likes cycling, playing sports (table tennis, football, basketball), hiking and making videos.
Jonathan Van Waeyenberg
Jonathan Van Waeyenberg obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2018. He did his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of prof. Bert Sels, where he investigated the catalytic (hydro)cracking of LDPE using hierarchical zeolites. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group on the degradation of recalcitrant plastics under mild conditions. In his free time, he likes hiking, travelling, mountaineering and climbing.
Nadezhda obtained her MSc degree in Bioorganic Chemistry at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2018. Her background is focused on modification and functionalization of polymers for medical use. She was inspired to bring a fresh view into the problem of sustainable chemistry and currently she is doing her PhD research devoted to the chemocatalytic conversion of biomass into platform chemicals. Besides her working hours she enjoys fishing, mushroompicking and wild nature discovery.
Xian Wu obtained his MSc in Applied Chemistry at Shanghai University in 2018. He did master’s thesis at Shanghai Advanced Research Institute (CAS), where he investigated the reaction mechanism of functionalized zeolites on the hydroisomerization of n-paraffin. He is currently doing a Ph.D. under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels. His interest focuses on obtaining platform chemicals from lignocellulose.
Wouter Arts obtained his MSc in Catalysis at KU Leuven in 2018. He investigated a novel synthesis method for desalination membranes under the guidance of Prof. Ivo Vankelecom during his thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis. In 2019, he completed a postgraduate program in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (ICL) which focused on chemical process & product engineering, design, and optimization. During his thesis at ICL, he developed a process model to asses the potential of CO2 adsorbents for CO2 capture and sequestration/utilization (CCSU) under the supervision of Dr. Camille Petit and Dr. David Danaci. His research in our group aims to develop a digital twin of a biomass fractionation process. Besides the daily supervision of Prof. Bert Sels (promotor), Wouter collaborates with PhD researchers from groups of co-promotor Prof. Wim Desmet and Prof. Karel Van Acker at the Faculty of Engineering Science. Wouter enjoys playing the piano, attending music concerts, hiking in the wide-open nature and is a fervent football supporter of the Belgian team Genk.
Brent Smeyers obtained his MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2019. He performed his master thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of Prof. Bert F. Sels and daily supervision of Laura Trullemans, where he explored the role of heterogeneous catalysis in the synthesis of safer bisphenol-A alternatives. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group where he’s performing research on the role of catalysis in the selective depolymerization of plastic waste. Next to his research activities, he spends most of his weekends at teaching hip hop classes and training for dance competitions. In addition, he enjoys being with friends and family, to travel and to hang out at music festivals.
Sofie Van Praet obtained her MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2019. She did her master thesis at the Centre for Sustainable Catalysis and Engineering under the guidance of professor Bert Sels and daily supervisor Dorien Kerstens, where she developed an in-depth analysis protocol for branched fatty acids. She is currently doing a PhD in the same research group, focussing on the reductive amination of carbohydrates using heterogeneous catalysis. Besides her science-related interests, she likes running, travelling and spending time with family and friends.
Benjamin Vermeeren obtained his MSc degree in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2019. In his master thesis, under the guidance of Prof. Bert Sels and daily supervision of Steven-Friso Koelewijn and Laura Trullemans, he investigated methanolysis as a chemical recycling method for bisguaiacol-based polycarbonates. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group where he explores heterogeneous catalysis for the production of bio-based diamines for sustainable applications. In his leisure time, he is a passionate fan of the Great Old and a cycling fanatic. He enjoys being surrounded by close friends and family with drinks, food and music.
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Thesis students 2019-2020
Aerts Michiel - Daily supervisor: Ward Lorenz
Blondeel Arno - Daily supervisor: Vangeel Thijs
Dalle Louise - Daily supervisor: Korneel Van Aelst
Detremmerie Nicolas - Daily supervisor: Jonathan Van Waeyenber
Geerinck Lucas - Daily supervisor: Elias Cooreman
Hendrickx Tessy - Daily supervisor: Laura Trullemans & Steven-Friso Koelewijn
Lafortune Bernd - Daily supervisor: Dorien Kersten
Lamens Sofie - Daily supervisor: Dieter Plessers
Latine Hannes - Dialy supervisor: Dieter Ruijten
Kevin has a MSc in Chemistry (KU Leuven, 2011). He obtained his PhD in Chemistry in 2016 being part of a multidisciplinary team working on improving gluten-based bioplastic. His skillset ranges from organic and polymer synthesis to analysis of biomacromolecules and the evaluation of material properties. In our team, he has been involved in the synthesis of PLA-based polymers for the production of tailored biodegradable packaging.
Apart from his excellent scientific expertise, he is also part of a medal-winning skydiving team, investor in cryptocurrencies (never sell xrp) and enthusiastic cat-lover.
Larisha Cisneros obtained her PhD in Sustainable Chemistry in 2017 under the guiadance of Prof. Avelino Corma at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ITQ, Valencia). During her PhD she worked on Supported Metals for Synthesis of Nitrones and Ethylene Adsorption in Air streams. In 2018 she was working as a post-doctoral researcher in the group of Prof. Johannes Lercher in TU Munich in the project of Synthesis of small pore zeolites for SCR of DeNOx. She moved to the group of Prof. Bert Sels in 2019, where she is studying the catalytic gas-phase production of lactide from renewable alkyl lactates. In her free time she likes travelling, running and reading classic novels.
Martin obtained his Master degree (2013) from the University of Bordeaux where he worked under the supervision of Prof. Astruc on metathesis reaction and the preparation of supported organometallic catalysts. Then, he moved to Nantes University to prepare his PhD (2013-2016) under the supervision of Prof. Felpin and Dr. Le Grognec. During this period he worked on the preparation of paper-based devices with applications in different domains such as anti-counterfeit marking, supported sensors and water decontamination. Late 2016, he switched from organic to inorganic materials and is working in the group of Prof. Sels at the KU Leuven on post-synthetic modification of zeolite and their applications in catalysis. In 2018, he moved to Zeopore Technologies NV (a KU Leuven spin-off) to work as Development Engineer. Zeopore is a start-up company based on IP developed in the group of Prof. Sels and aims to bring highly mesoporous zeolite to the oil refining industry. His research interests are in the field of material modifications (organic & inorganic), catalysis and organic synthesis.
Aron obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic technology) at the KU Leuven in 2014. As an IWT-funded fellow, he obtained his PhD in 2018 under the guidance of Prof. Sels and Prof. Dusselier at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis. His research focused on biomass conversion and especially the catalytic valorization of sugar streams towards drop-in chemicals (5 first-author publications, including one in Nature Energy). As a postdoctoral researcher, Aron aims to develop a new reactor platform for zeolite synthesis.
Paola obtained her MSc in Chemistry at the Universita degli Studi in Milan (2011), after which she moved to Germany to undertake doctoral studies at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (Mülheim an der Ruhr). She Completed her PhD on catalytic upstream biorefining of lignocellulosic biomass in 2016, afterwards she joined the group of Prof. Sels for 2 years. Here she was involved in projects involving the use of commercial or modified zeolites for conversion of biogenic molecules (e.g. zeolite-catalyzed synthesis of bisphenols, Sn-beta materials for Baeyer-Villiger oxidation).
Other than science, her interests involve Sci-Fi and superhero movies, knitting, running, Belgian beer and talk about the beauties of Italy.
Navneet Kumar Gupta
Navneet Kumar Gupta obtained his B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Delhi, India, and then received his dual Master’s degrees from the University of Delhi, India (M.Tech. in Chemical Synthesis & Process Technologies) and from JAIST, Japan (M.S. in Materials Science). He received Ph.D. degree in Chemistry (Catalysis) from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. His experience includes two years of postdoctoral research at the Institute for Catalysis, Hokkaido University, Japan. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium in the group of Professor Bert Sels. His field of study is heterogenous catalysis with an emphasis on materials development for bio-based drop-in chemicals production.
He has received several awards and scholarships, including outstanding M.S. thesis award at JAIST, Japan in 2011.
Cristina Pontes Bittencourt Quitete
Cristina Quitete (Petrobras R&D, Brazil) is visiting our group for six months. She has been working on Petrobras-CENPES since 2002, carrying out studies on renewable energy, focusing on catalyst’s development. Cenpes is the R&D center of Petrobras, it is among in the largest in the world in applied research to the energy industry. Created in 1963, its mission is to provide and anticipate solutions with a vision of innovation and sustainability that support Petrobras System. This short mission will help to advance the development of technologies associated with the low carbon economy, through fostering collaboration, sharing experiences and new techniques.
Tom obtained his PhD degree in Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven in 2018, under the guidance of prof. Bert Sels. During his PhD, he investigated the catalytic biorefining of lignocellulosic biomass according to the lignin-first principle. As a post-doctoral researcher, Tom aims to develop new biomass-to-chemical value chains, with a strong emphasis on lignin valorisation.
Dr. Putla Sudarsanam obtained his PhD in chemistry at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (Hyderabad, India) in 2015. He is a Marie Curie individual post-doc fellow in Prof. Sels’ group, COK centre, KU Leuven, and mainly working on the topic of designing nanostructured metal oxide based catalysts for the reductive fractionation of renewable lignocellulosic biomass to lignin-derived platform chemicals and valorisable carbohydrates. He has contributed over 42 refereed journal articles and 1 book chapter. He has in excess of 1120 citations with an h-index of 22 and an i10-index of 29. His expertise is mainly designing novel nanostructured metal oxide based catalysts for i) selective conversion of organic molecules to useful chemicals; ii) transformation of renewable biomass feedstocks to value-added fine chemicals and bio-fuels and iii) purification of auto-exhaust pollutants (e.g., carbon monoxide, soot particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides).
Danny Verboekend obtained his PhD at ETH Zurich (Switzerland, 2012) on the preparation and exploitation of hierarchical zeolite catalysts. Afterwards, he continued to work at the same university in the context of a post-doctoral stay (2012–2014). He was working at the KULeuven (Belgium) as a FWO-funded post-doctoral fellow (2014-2018) on the application of tailor-made crystalline and amorphous aluminosilicates in biomass conversions. Currently, he is active in Zeopore Technologies NV (a KULeuven spin-off), which aims to commercialize technology developed within the group of Prof. Bert Sels on the synthesis of superior mesoporous zeolites. His general research interest focuses on combining applied and sustainable research with the highest degree of fundamental understanding.
Shengfei Zhou obtained his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA) in 2015, with Prof. Troy Runge being his advisor. His PhD study was focusing on biomass characterization, pretreatment, and conversion by biological methods.
He worked as a Postdoc at the UW-Madison on pulping of genetically modified wood and integrated biorefining of wood for high grade fiber, chemical, and material usage, with Prof. Troy Runge, John Ralph, James Dumesic, and Dr. David Alonso. Later, he worked as a Department Manager in a private company on analysis of bio-based materials and biorefining samples.
Being a Postdoc Fellow at the Sels group, he is focusing on biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) characterization and conversion for valuable products.
In his after work hours, he enjoys rock climbing, skiing, hiking, traveling, playing basketball, tennis, badminton, and so on.
Rik De Clercq
Rik obtained his MSc in Bioscience Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2013. He then started a PhD as an IWT-funded fellow under supervision of Prof. Sels and Prof. Dusselier, which he obtained in November 2017. His research focused on developing new catalytic processes for bio-based polyester building blocks. His results have been published in Angewandte Chemie and have resulted in a patent application. Aside from science, his interests lie in playing squash, hiking and travelling.
After his PhD, Rik moved to Copenhagen and is currently working for one year at Haldor Topsoe as a Research Scientist in the Sustainable Chemicals lab.
Saleh Aghakhani obtained his M.Sc in Chemical Engineering (minor in Catalysis and Reaction Engineering) at University of Tehran (Iran) in 2010. He completed his M.Sc thesis at catalysis and nanostructured research laboratory (CANS) on synthesis and characterization of core/shellzeolite based materials for enhancing of residue FCC catalyst. Afterwards, he worked at CANS as a research assistant and involved in several industrial projects (FCC catalyst scale up, Catalyst-based CO and CH4 gas sensor). He started his PhD at KU Leuven in 2013 under the supervision of Prof. Peter Lievens and Prof. Bert F. Sels. He is currently in the progress of finishing his PhD founded by FWO on structural to opto-chemical properties of few atom Ag
clusters confined in zeolites. His main research interest is atomic-scale structure to property relationship towards advanced materials design by using advanced spectroscopic techniques.
Simon Hallaert obtained his MSc in Chemistry at KU Leuven in 2014. He did his master thesis under the guidance of Prof. Kristine Pierloot (supervisor) and Prof. Bert Sels (co-supervisor), where he explored the spectroscopic features of Fe-ZSM-5 using computational chemistry. He is expanding this research as a PhD student, funded by FWO. The main topic of his thesis covers the computational study of reactivity and spectroscopic features of transition metals in zeolites. Besides computational chemistry and the Schrödinger equation, he likes travelling, board games and Belgian beers.
Evelien Vanleeuw obtained her master’s degree in Catalytic Technology (Bioscience Engineering) at KU Leuven in 2014. Afterwards, she started her PhD in the group of Prof. Sels. Her main research topic is focused on the enzymatic catalysis during the synthesis of lactic acid, the building block of PLA. Besides these enantioselective reactions with lactic acid and other a-hydroxy compounds, she deals with the heterogeneous catalysis during the synthesis of these biopolymers and their functionalization to produce a sustainable biobased plastic with a PLA backbone.Evelien’s interests are not limited to only science related topics, she also loves sewing, walking and cycling in nature, travelling and just a nice chat/drink with friends.
William Faveere obtained his MSc in Bio-Engineering (Catalytic Technology) at KU Leuven in 2014. He did his master’s thesis at the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis under the guidance of prof Bert F. Sels where he explored the adsorption and dynamics in solids via NMR Spectroscopy. He is currently doing a PhD in the same research group, funded by the Catalisti SBO project CARBOLEUM in collaboration with industrial partners. His research focuses on the conversion of sugar-based streams to aminated building blocks for new chemicals in eg. liquid detergents.
Next to his scientific interests, he loves good food, travelling, sports and occasionally participates in running, swimming or bike competitions (as well as triathlon).