My PhD work is focused on what happens with the surface of a catalytic material, while a chemical reaction takes place on the surface. In more technical terms, surface science applied to heterogeneous catalysis. Specifically, our group studies ultra-thin (atomically thin) oxide films on top of metal surfaces, their properties, and how they might affect the catalytic reaction. I focus on using operando spectroscopy techniques to study these films, such as near ambient pressure xray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP-XPS) and xray absorption near edge structure (XANES). With those techniques we can study the surfaces in action, while the reactions are taking place, which is challenging but very helpful for understanding the material system under realistic conditions. My work is done in the group led by Lindsay Merte.