Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
From the NIU Newsroom, 10/2022
Professor Tao Li has been awarded two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants totaling $565,000 for energy-related research. Read more about these NSF-supported projects.
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
Weihai is my hometown. It is the closest city in China facing Korea. I live in Naperville, Illinois, now.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I earned my bachelor's degree in material science from East China University of Science and Technology located in Shanghai, China. I came to the University of South Carolina to earn my Ph.D. in chemistry.
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
What do you like about working at NIU?
Fortunately, I have several excellent undergraduates and graduates in my group. Another beautiful part of NIU is that it is close to Argonne National Laboratory, where I hold a joint position. Students will be able to use state-of-the-art resources there to facilitate their research, and it is also a perfect place for the students to get exposed to research because of its world-leading research atmosphere.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Plan to perform research in a professor's lab through the Research Rookies program. Try to find the opportunity to do an internship in a national lab or other big company near Chicago.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am leading several DOE and NSF funded projects on the development of high-performance catalysts and electrolytes. One project is to design the catalyst for converting waste gases containing methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into simple gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) that can be further processed to a wide range of chemicals and fuels. I aim to elucidate the catalyst structure-activity-stability relationships through operando studies of metal valence, nanoparticle size and overcoat pore structure changes utilizing in situ X-ray scattering, X-ray diffraction and X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Laboratory.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope students will be able to use the knowledge they learned to solve problems they face in the future.
What is your favorite campus event?
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
When I've helped students successfully publish research papers in high-impact journals, obtain competitive awards and obtain offers from outstanding universities.
Who has influenced your professional path?
My parents always encouraged me to follow my interests.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
When I was young, my dream was to become a scientist who helps people by discovering new products. I am very happy that my dream came true.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of the American Chemical Society, the Materials Research Society and the Chicago Catalysis Club. I am organizing several symposiums at the American Chemical Society. By becoming a member of these societies and organizing a symposium, I can introduce NIU to undergraduates and graduates, which can help attract them to join NIU. I can also show other scientists that NIU is a wonderful place for research.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I enjoy watching movies with my family and playing basketball.