Ward H Thompson

Ward Thompson
  • Professor

Contact Info

3189B ISB (CDS1)
1567 Irving Hill Rd
Lawrence, KS 66045


B.S., Oklahoma State University, 1991
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1996
Postdoctoral Fellow 1997-2000, University of Colorado


Theoretical Chemical Dynamics in Liquids and Nanostructured Materials


Theoretical Physical Chemistry, chemical dynamics, vibrational spectroscopy, solvation, nanostructured and porous materials.

Our research focuses on the development and application of theoretical methods for describing chemical dynamics and spectroscopy in condensed phase systems. The emphasis is on understanding at a molecular level the fundamental behavior of interesting chemical systems and phenomena. The goal of our work is to develop accurate theoretical and computational approaches that can be feasibly applied to complex chemical problems including reactions in liquids and nanostructured environments. Some of the specific problems we are addressing are outlined below and more details are provided on our group website linked above.

Fluctuation Theory for Dynamics.  We have recently developed an approach by which the activation energy for a rate constant or molecular timescale, which is a measure of how it changes with temperature, can be obtained from simulations at a single temperature. This is an improvement over the traditional way to calculate the activation energy from an Arrhenius plot of ln(k) versus 1/T. This method also allows the activation energy to be rigorously decomposed into the contributions from the kinetic energy and various interactions present in the system, thereby providing mechanistic information that is not available in any other way.  We have shown that this approach can be implemented in classical or quantum mechanical simulations and is applicable to any dynamical timescale.  We have demonstrated it by calculating the activation energies (or activation volumes) for reaction rate constants, diffusion coefficients, reorientational timescales, and viscosities.  

Reactions and Spectroscopy in Nanostructured Porous Materials. Nanometer-sized cavities and pores can now be routinely generated in sol-gels, supramolecular assemblies, reverse micelles, zeolites, and even proteins, giving strong impetus to improving our understanding of chemistry in confined solvents.These cavities and pores can serve as nanoscale reaction vessels in which a chemical reaction takes place in the small pool of solvent allowed in the restricted space. However, there is currently little understanding about how these properties affect chemical dynamics.  We are investigating both nanoscale silica pores and organic supramolecular assemblies as confining frameworks with a focus on understanding how the properties of the confining framework (as well as the species present) affect the structure (liquid layering and orientational ordering) and the dynamics (diffusion, reorientation, reactivity) of the confined liquid.  In addition, it is often challenging to interpret measurements on these systems because many of the assumptions used for bulk liquids do not apply.  Thus, we have developed simulations of (linear and nonlinear) vibrational spectra that can be directly compared to measurements to assist in extracting molecular-level information.

Catalysis. We frequently collaborate with experimentalists and other theorists interested in developing improved catalysts.  In some of these studies, we investigate the reaction mechanisms in order to derive design principles that guide the development of improved catalysts.  In others, we are focused on understanding the role of an amorphous support on the catalysis, particularly how the disorder of the material is manifested in the overall reaction kinetics.  

Selected Publications

Zeke A. Piskulich, Oluwaseun O. Mesele, and Ward H. Thompson, "Activation Energies and Beyond," J. Phys. Chem. A 123, 7185-7194 (2019).

Ankita Katiyar, Julia C. Freire-Sovierzoski, Paul B. Calio, Anthony A. Vartia, and Ward H. Thompson, "Water Plays a Diverse Role in a Hydrogen-Bonded, Hexameric Supramolecular Assembly," Chem. Commun. 55, 6591-6594 (2019).

Ward H. Thompson, “Perspective:  Dynamics of Confined Liquids,” J. Chem. Phys. 149, 170901 (2018).

Paul C. Burris, Damien Laage, and Ward H. Thompson, "Simulations of the Infrared, Raman, and 2D-IR Photon Echo Spectra of Water in Nanoscale Silica Pores," J. Chem. Phys. 144, 194709 (2016).

Manoj Kumar, Daryle H. Busch, Bala Subramaniam, and Ward H. Thompson, "Barrierless Tautomerization of Criegee Intermediates via Acid Catalysis," Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 16, 22968-22973 (2014). 

Damien Laage and Ward H. Thompson, “Reorientation Dynamics of Nanoconfined Water:  Power-Law Decay, Hydrogen-Bond Jumps, and Test of a Two-State Model,” J. Chem. Phys. 136, 044513 (2012).

Ward H. Thompson, ``Solvation Dynamics and Proton Transfer in Nanoconfined Liquids,” Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 62, 599-619 (2011).

Brian B. Laird and Ward H. Thompson, “On the Connection between Gaussian Statistics and Excited-State Linear Response for Time- Dependent Fluorescence,” J. Chem. Phys. 126, 211104 (2007).