Research Interests

My research interests are in the areas of surface and materials chemistry, with an emphasis on the development of new heterogeneous catalysts for the production of clean and renewable fuels, and the selective hydrogenation of alkynes. Current projects are focused on the photothermal catalytic conversion of CO2, the hydroconversion of biomass-derived feedstocks to biofuels, and the selective hydrogenation of phenylacetylene to styrene. Catalyst systems currently under investigation include oxide-supported metal phosphides.

Educational & Professional Experience


  • B.A. Reed College, 1983
  • Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1988
  • NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Ecole Nationale Superieure de Chimie de Paris, 1988-89
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Washington, 1990

Sabbatical and Leave Positions

  • Guest Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH-Zurich), 1997-1998
  • Visiting Professor, Tufts University (Dept. of Chemical Engineering), March-June 2005
  • Visiting Professor, University of British Columbia (Dept. of Chemical Engineering), January-June 2012
  • Director, Science Division, Yale-NUS College (Singapore), 2016-17

Current Position

  • Professor of Chemistry, WWU



Recent Publications

  • Miles, C. E.; Carlson, T. R; Morgan, B. J.; Topalian, P. J.; Schare, J. R.; Bussell, M. E., “Hydrodesulfurization Properties of Nickel Phosphide on Boron-treated Alumina Supports”, ChemCatChem, accepted for publication (DOI: 10.1002/cctc.202000755).
  • Topalian, P. J.; Liyanage, D. R.; Danforth, S. J.; d’Aquino, A. I.; Brock, S. L.; Bussell, M. E. "Effect of Particle Size on the Deep HDS Properties of Ni2P Catalysts", Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2019, 123, 25701-25711 (DOI:10.1021/acs.jpcc.9b07034).
  • Bussell, M. E. “New Methods for the Preparation of Nanoscale Nickel Phosphide Catalysts for Heteroatom Removal Reactions”, RSC Reaction Chemistry and Engineering 2017, 2, 628-635. (DOI:10.1039/C7RE00098G).
  • Danforth, S. J.; Liyanage, D. R.; Hitihami-Mudiyanselage, A.; Ilic, B.; Brock, S. L.; Bussell, M. E. “Probing Hydrodesulfurization over Bimetallic Phosphides Using Monodisperse Ni2-xMxP Nanoparticles Encapsulated in Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles,” Surface Science 2016, 648, 126-135. (Special issue in honor of the 80th birthday of Professor Gabor A. Somorjai) (DOI: 10.1016/j.susc.2015.10.005 ).
  • d’Aquino, A. I.; Danforth, S. J.; Clinkingbeard, T. R.; Ilic, B.; Pullan, L; Reynolds, M. A.; Murray, B. D.; Bussell, M. E., “Highly-Active Nickel Phosphide Hydrotreating Catalysts Prepared In Situ Using Nickel Hypophosphite Precursors”, Journal of Catalysis 2016, 335, 204-214.
  • Liyanage, D. R.; Danforth, S. J.; Liu, Y.; Bussell, M. E.; Brock, S. L. “Simultaneous Control of Composition, Size and Morphology in Discrete Ni2-xCoxP Nanoparticles,” Chemistry of Materials 2015, 27, 4349-4357.
  • Bowker, R. H.; Carrillo, B. A.; Ilic, B.; Reynolds, M. A.; Bussell, M. E. “Carbazole Hydrodenitrogenation over Nickel Phosphide and Ni-rich Bimetallic Phosphide Catalysts,” Applied Catalysis A 2014, 482, 221-230.
  • Savithra, G. H. L.; Bowker, R. H.; Carrillo, B. A.; Bussell, M. E.; Brock, S. L. "Mesoporous Matrix Encapsulation for the Synthesis of Monodisperse Pd5P2 Nanoparticle Hydrodesulfurization Catalysts," ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2013, 5, 5403-5407.
  • Savithra, G. H. L.; Muthuswamy, E.; Bowker, R. H.; Carrillo, B. A.; Bussell, M. E.; Brock, S. L. "Rational Design of Nickel Phosphide Hydrodesulfurization Catalysts: Controlling Particle Size and Preventing Sintering," Chemistry of Materials 2013, 25, 825-833.