Leanne Chen

Headshot of Leanne Chen
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 ext. 53936
MACN 340/340A
Available positions for grads/undergrads/postdoctoral fellows: 


Digital Research Alliance of Canada Advanced Research Computing.

Vienna Ab initio Simulation Package.

Education and Employment Background

Prof. Leanne Chen received her PhD in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University, where she focused on unravelling the discharge mechanisms of batteries and the second-order effects of electrolyte in catalysis under the tutelage of Jens K. Nørskov. She then moved to the California Institute of Technology for her Postdoctoral Scholarship and further augmented her training in the group of Thomas F. Miller III. Prof. Chen joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Guelph as an Assistant Professor in 2020.

Research Themes

Prof. Chen is the lead for the Computational Electrochemistry Laboratory (CEL@Guelph) where her research program focuses on using renewably-generated electricity to drive chemical processes for energy storage that could reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide release from energy sources. Key research themes include:

  1. Ab initio computational methods to model reactions occurring at the electrode-electrolyte double-layer. The electrode-electrolyte double layer is arguably the most important component in an electrochemical cell. Gaining atomic-scale insight at this interface will have an immense impact on the rational design of fuel cells, batteries, and other clean-energy applications.
  2. Ammonia oxidation. Oxidizing ammonia to oxygenated species, such as nitrite and nitrate, has applications in the agricultural industry. Selectivity in particular is an issue, as gaseous products, such as nitrogen and nitric oxide, can also form alongside nitrite and nitrate. Using density functional theory calculations, we are able to identify the crucial intermediates that lead to nitrite and nitrate and apply strategies to increase their proportion relative to that of other products.
  3. Urea oxidation. Electrochemical treatment of urea-enriched water harnesses the chemical energy from urea in addition to reducing the harmful effects of urea on the ecosystem. We use first-principles simulations to understand the stepwise mechanisms in the electrochemical oxidation of urea and how certain products are linked together by a common intermediate.
  4. Carbon dioxide reduction. Solvated ions have recently been proven to be essential in the electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide in aqueous media. This provides a means to activate the carbon dioxide reactant and allows us to tune the activity using different ions with an improved description of their effects.


  • Member of the Editorial Advisory Board, Electrochemical Science Advances, 2020
  • Gordon Research Seminar in Catalysis Presentation Award, 2018
  • North American Catalysis Society Kokes Award, 2017
  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS-D3), 2013

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