Research in the Kulik group

Research in the Kulik group leverages computational modeling to aid the discovery of new materials and mechanisms. Our group uses first-principles modeling to unearth fundamental aspects of structure-property relationships in catalysts and materials. By taking a computational approach, we carry out studies that allow us to make connections across a wide range of catalytic systems from biological enzymes to emerging heterogeneous single-atom catalysts. We develop computational software and machine learning models that accelerate the discovery of new materials and design rules. This approach enables the prediction of new materials properties in seconds, the exploration of million-compound design spaces, and the identification of design rules and exceptions that go beyond intuition. To ensure the predictive power of our approach, our group develops new methods to increase the accuracy of density functional theory especially for materials with challenging electronic structure such as transition metal complexes and solids.

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DFT density delocalization error on the PES

For approximate density functional theory (DFT) to be useful in catalytic applications of transition metal complexes, modeling strategies must simultaneously address electronic, geometric, and energetic properties of the relevant species. We show that for representative transition metal triatomics (MO2, where M = Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, or Ni) and related diatomics the incorporation of Hartree–Fock (HF) exchange in most cases improves the properties of the Born–Oppenheimer potential energy surface (PES) with respect to accurate experimental or CCSD(T) references.

Improving DFT descriptions of surface chemistry

Approximate, semi-local density functional theory (DFT) suffers from delocalization error that can lead to a paradoxical model of catalytic surfaces that both overbind adsorbates yet are also too stable. We investigate the effect of two widely applied approaches for delocalization error correction, i) affordable DFT+U (i.e., semi-local DFT augmented with a Hubbard U) and ii) hybrid functionals with an admixture of Hartree-Fock (HF) exchange, on surface and adsorbate energies across a range of rutile transition metal oxides widely studied for their promise as water splitting catalysts.

Machine learning spin-state-dependent catalysis

Metal–oxo moieties are important catalytic intermediates in the selective partial oxidation of hydrocarbons and in water splitting. Stable metal–oxo species have reactive properties that vary depending on the spin state of the metal, complicating the development of structure–property relationships. To overcome these challenges, we train machine-learning (ML) models capable of predicting metal–oxo formation energies across a range of first-row metals, oxidation states, and spin states.


About Us

The Kulik group focuses on the development and application of new electronic structure methods and atomistic simulations tools in the broad area of catalysis.

Our Interests

We are interested in transition metal chemistry, with applications from biological systems (i.e. enzymes) to nonbiological applications in surface science and molecular catalysis.

Our Focus

A key focus of our group is to understand mechanistic features of complex catalysts and to facilitate and develop tools for computationally driven design.

Contact Us

Questions or comments? Let us know! Contact Dr. Kulik: