Curriculum Vitae

RNDr. Štefan VAJDA CSc., Dr.habil. - Curriculum Vitae

Current positions

since 2021

Member of the Academy Council, Czech Academy of Sciences

since 2019

ERA Chair and Head of Department, Department of Nanocatalysis, J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague

since 2019 Associate, External Consultant, Argonne National Laboratory

Work experience


Detailee, US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, on detail assignment from Argonne National Laboratory; co-managing the university grant portfolio of the Separation Science Program of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences Division of Basic Energy Sciences

2013 – 2018

Fellow, Institute for Molecular Engineering, The University of Chicago

2011 – 2018

Senior Chemist, Argonne National Laboratory

2007 – 2013

Adjunct Full Professor, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering & Applied Science, Yale University

2006 – 2016

Joint with the Center for Nanoscale Materials (now Nanoscience and Technology Division), Argonne National Laboratory

2010 – 2011

Chemist, Materials Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory

2007 – 2010

Chemist, Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division, Argonne

2002 – 2007

Chemist, Chemistry Division, Argonne National Laboratory

1997 – 2002

Research project co-leader and subgroup leader, Free University Berlin

2000 – 2002

University Senior Assistant (C1), Institute of Physics, Free University Berlin

1995 – 2000

Researcher at the Institute of Physics, Free University Berlin

1994 – 1995

Researcher at the Department of Chemical Physics, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague

1992 – 1994

Researcher at the Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University

1991 – 1992

Fulbright Fellow at the Department of Chemistry, The University of Chicago


Visiting scholar at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Universität Göttingen

1989 – 1991

Research assistant at the Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University

Professional preparation


Habilitation in Experimental Physics, Free University Berlin, Germany - University teaching qualification (Lehrbefähigung) in Experimental Physics. Topic of the Habilitation: “Reactivity and Ultrafast Dynamics of Small Clusters and Molecules: From Analysis to Control”


PhD in Chemistry (CSc), Charles University, Prague, Czechoslovakia Title of the Ph.D. thesis:
“Sub-Nanosecond Spectroscopy and Dynamics of Molecular Systems”


RNDr (Rerum Naturalium Doctoris in Disciplina Chemia Physica - Doctor of Natural Sciences in Physical Chemistry), Charles University


MSc (University Diploma with Highest Distinction) in Physical Chemistry, Charles University. Title of the diploma thesis: “Relaxation of Molecules: The Use of Iterative Convolution Method in Data Analysis”



Undergraduate and graduate advisor: Vlastimil Fidler (Charles University, now Brown University)

Postdoctoral advisor: Graham R. Fleming (University of Chicago, now University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Habilitation advisor: Ludger Wöste (Free University Berlin)


Awards & honors

  • ERIC a.i.s.b.l. Award on Nanocatalysis, received at the EuropaCat 2017 conference, awarded for Vajda’s contributions in the field of nanocatalysis (2017).
  • Recipient of a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Award to participate in the Special Information Program: “Chemistry Research and Higher Education in Germany: Today’s Endeavor towards Green Chemistry” (2010).
  • Cluster studies selected by Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Science, Department of Energy, as highlight in President’s Budget Request to Congress, 2010.
  • U.S.I.A / Fulbright Fellowship to support a research stay in the group of Prof. Graham Fleming at the University of Chicago (1990).


Current research interests

  • Synthesis of nanomaterials
          - clusters with atomic precision control of size and composition as models of the active site
          - cluster-assembled materials
  • Study of the size/shape/composition & function relationship at the sub-nanometer and nanometer scale in heterogeneous  catalysis.
  • Synchrotron-based characterization of clusters and nanoparticles, including in situ / operando, in heterogeneous catalytic reactions under realistic reaction conditions.


Other areas of research expertise

  • Reactivity of free size-selected clusters in the gas phase.
  • Femtosecond and picosecond dynamics of gas-phase clusters and organometallic compounds.
  • Coherent control of ultrafast laser-induced processes in clusters and molecules, laser pulse shaping.
  • Ultrafast (fs, ps, ns) time-resolved spectroscopy of solvents and solvated systems.
  • Steady state UV-VIS absorption, fluorescence and anisotropy spectroscopy.


Selected research highlights

  • Size-preselected sub-nanometer Pt cluster based catalysts as highly active and selective catalysts for the oxidative dehydrogenation of propane; demonstration of the stability of sub-nanometer clusters under realistic reaction conditions.
  • Highly active sub-nanometer gold and sub-nanometer to nanometer size silver clusters for the epoxidation of propylene, with control of selectivity.
  • Development of experimental approaches allowing in situ studies of supported size-and composition-preselected clusters under realistic reaction conditions of temperature and pressure by combining synchrotron X-ray scattering, X-ray absorption and mass-spectrometry.
  • Demonstration, through collaborative studies, of the use of size-preselected sub-nanometer clusters in water splitting and Li-O2 electrochemistry; dramatic effect cluster size on performance and product morphology, respectively.
  • Performing and understanding coherent laser control in small molecules and clusters by combining optimal control, pump & probe spectroscopy and theory.
  • Control of ultrafast photoinduced processes in free clusters and molecules by shaped laser pulses.
  • Ultrafast studies of solvent shell relaxation (water) in a nano-confined space.


Supervision and co-supervision of Master students, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, service on PhD panels

  • Advisor of 11 Postdocs: 7 at Argonne, 2 at Yale/Argonne and 2 at Free University Berlin.
    Currently advised at J. Heyrovsky Institute: 3
  • Co-advisor of 11 PhD students: 6 at Argonne (students from the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain and USA), 5 at the Free University Berlin and 1 at Charles University.
    Currently advised at J. Heyrovsky Institute: 1
  • Co-advisor of 11 Master students: 8 at the Free University Berlin, 3 at Charles University.
    Currently advised at J. Heyrovsky Institute: 1
  • External expert on PhD panels: The MS University of Baroda, India (2021); Strasbourg University, France (2020); Technical University of Denmark (2017); Chalmers University, Sweden (2014); Rostock University, Germany (2011).


Membership in conference organizing committees

  • Lead Organizer of the Cluster Meeting 2021 in Prague (with Alessandro Fortunelli and Armin Kleibert), 2021.
  • Co-organizer, Symposium NM1: Nanomaterials and Devices by Cluster Beam Deposition, Materials Research Society 2018 Spring Meeting (with Mukhles Sowwan, Paolo Milani and Joseph Kioseoglou), 2018.
  • Lead organizer, Symposium EC3: Catalytic Materials for Energy and Sustainibility, Materials Research Society 2016 Fall Meeting (co-organizers: Selim Alayoglu, Zdenek Dohnalek,and Robert Rioux) 2016.
  • Organizer (with Scott Anderson) and conference chair, The 2016 Cluster-Surface Interactions Workshop – 2016 CIS, 2016.
  • Lead organizer Symposium QQ: Catalytic Materials for Energy, Materials Research Society 2015 Fall Meeting (co-organizers: De-en Jiang, Carl Mesters, and Dunwei Wang), 2015.
  • Discussion Symposium co-organizer and co-chair (with Axel Knop-Gericke), XIth European Congress on Catalysis -EuropaCat 2013, 2013.
  • Co-organizer with Susannah Scott, 2008 NSF PIRE International Workshop on Grand Challenges for Catalysis, Santa Barbara, 2008.
  • Co-organizer (with Ludger Wöste), SFB 450 International Workshop on “Analysis and Control of Ultrafast Photoinduced Reactions“, Berlin, Germany, 2001.


Other selected professional activities

Reviewer: Member of the Proposal Study Panel, Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2009-2018

Reviewer of research programs:
  • Review panel, US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Separation Science Program, 2017
  • Review panel, US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Catalysis Science Program, 2011
Review panel on grant applications:
  • Review panel, Austrian Science Fund, 2017
  • Review panel, US National Science Foundation Panel on Catalysis, 2008 and 2011

Reviewer of proposals for:

ACS Petroleum Research Fund, Advanced Light Source Berkeley, Argonne Center for Nanoscale Materials, Austrian Science Fund, European Synchrotron Research Facility, Stanford Light Source, Swiss Light Source, FWO Flanders Belgium, German Science Foundation, US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, US Army Research Office, US Department of Energy, US Department of State, US National Science Foundation

Guest Editor, with Núria López and Charles Campbell, Journal of Chemical Physics, Special Issue "Catalytic Properties of Model Supported Nanoparticles" (2020)

Guest Editor, with Alesandro Fortunelli, Catalysis Science and Technology, Topical Issue “Nanocatalysis” (2016)

Guest Editor, with Jeroen van Bokhoven, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., Topical Issue “Size Selected Clusters and Particles: From Physical Chemistry to Catalysis”, 2014

Discussion leader, Gordon Research Conference, Custers & Nanostructures: Building Complex Systems with Clusters and Nanostructures”, 2017

Discussion leader, Gordon Research Conference, Gaseous Ions: Structures, Energetics and Reactions, session “From Ions to Nanomaterials”, 2013

Discussion Symposium organizer and chair, XIth European Congress on Catalysis (EuropaCat 2013), with Axel Knop-Gericke 2013