Expert in molecular modeling, heterogeneous catalysis to assume prestigious chair

Rachel Getman, Claugus Chair
Bernice L. Claugus Chair and Professor Rachel Getman

After a long search, the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) is pleased to announce that it has hired Professor Rachel Getman as the Bernice L. Claugus Endowed Chair. She begins her Ohio State appointment on August 1, 2023.

Professor Getman was previously a Murdoch Family Endowed Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a Dean's Faculty Fellow at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. She was the first woman to be tenured (in 2017) as well as the first to be promoted to full professor (in 2022) in her department in its 100+ year history.

Getman is enthusiastic about this new chapter in her life and career. "Since my family and I were content at Clemson, I wasn't really looking to take new opportunities, but I had recently decided that if the right offer came along, I would take it. I felt I clicked really well in CBE and my family and I found that Ohio State and Columbus have a lot to offer all of us. I am super excited!" she said.

"We are thrilled that Professor Getman has decided to join our ranks," said Department Chair and University Distinguished Professor Umit S. Ozkan. "She brings a stellar reputation in computational catalysis, a deep compassion for students, and a collaborative approach to research."

Professor Getman conducts computational research to create more efficient, more effective and less expensive catalysts. This involves using quantum and classical chemical modeling to understand chemical reaction pathways on solid catalysts. Specific areas of interest include understanding catalyst function, deriving reaction mechanisms, and optimizing catalyst composition using high throughput screening. She is especially interested in catalysts that employ transition metal active sites, such as extended metal surfaces, metal nanoparticles, and biomimetic metal-containing systems.

Getman and her team use molecular modeling to understand how these materials catalyze specific reactions and then derive catalyst-property relationships in order to predict optimal catalyst designs. Current research focuses on understanding both gas and aqueous phase catalysis. Getman is also interested in developing catalysts for biomass reforming, water purification, exhaust gas treatment, and other applications.

Getman's approach to teaching is to encourage her students to work hard in order to maximize their own potential. "I like to see people succeed. I like to see people reach their potential. I get to work with really great people," she said. "It's really awesome to see your students work so hard and have their visions for what they want to do. I know how highly I think of them, and then it's another step to getting other people to recognize how amazing these people are. It's great to see them get recognition," she said.

Students seem to value the approach. "I think the trust that built between me and her really helped me to succeed in my program," said Xiaohong Zhang, a doctoral student who won major awards as Getman's student at Clemson. Zhang also valued the computational aspect of her research due to its broad and varying learning opportunities. "You can learn a lot of techniques, a lot of stuff, like writing code, analyzing data," she said. 

A great admirer of Marie Curie, Getman named her research group's computer laboratory and filesystem at Clemson "Curium Corner." A favorite Curie quote reads, "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of it? We must have perseverance, and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be obtained."

Getman obtained her doctoral degree in 2009 from the University of Notre Dame under the tutelage of William Schneider, and completed her postdoctoral research fellowship with Randall Snurr at Northwestern University. She also holds dual bachelor of science degrees in chemical engineering and business administration from Michigan Technological University. 

Professor Getman holds a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her project on studying the effect of water structure on aqueous phase catalysis, a Clemson University Board of Trustees Award for Excellence, and a Professor of Affordable Learning Award from the South Carolina Affordable Learning Group for her efforts to integrate affordable learning resources into her courses. Professor Getman is passionate about improving inclusion and equity in education and the academic profession.

She has served as the co-leader for the Multiscale Modeling and Computational Core Thrust for the Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina (MADE in SC) initiative, which is a multimillion-dollar NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 award. In addition, she has served as the Catalysis Division Programming Chair for the American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and as a member-at-large for the CATL Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS).



About the Claugus Chair

The Bernice L. Claugus Chair was created by CBE alumnus Edward Wilson Claugus ('81 BS), a native of Belmont County, Ohio. Claugus worked for a series of large companies such as Valero, Enron, and BP before settling in Nevada, where he started a hedge fund and became exceptionally successful as an investor. He had a sense of loyalty, commitment and support to those he loved and never hesitated to do anything in his power to help them if they needed it. Ed passed away suddenly in 2013. Due to his deep love for Ohio State, in addition to the Claugus Chair, he had created a number of scholarships that have since supported 45 students a year. At the time of his death, he was survived by his life partner, Jennifer Rains, and two of his brothers, Thomas E. Claugus ('73 BS) of Marietta, GA, and Bruce Claugus of New York.

Category: Faculty
Tag: Getman