Rui Serra Maia

Graduate Researcher

Rui’s research interests focus on understanding critical energy conversion processes driven by nanomaterials. In his main project he studies what atomic structural and chemical properties promote the outstanding catalytic activity of platinum nanoparticles in the decomposition of H2O2 at different conditions. Among other techniques Rui utilizes transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray scattering techniques (XRD, SAXS), Raman spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and multi-variate rate modeling analysis. Thanks to an accepted research proposal, next month Rui and Dr. F. Marc Michel will go to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to perform in situ TEM characterization of platinum nanocatalysts during the decomposition of H2O2 in liquid real-world conditions.

In parallel research project Rui designed along with Dr. F. Marc Michel a micro-fluidics device to perform real-time crystallization studies of environmental minerals. These devices are used to perform real-time observations of how nanoparticles aggregate and self-assemble to understand low-temperature mineral forming processes. The real-time analysis is performed through in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction (Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago, IL) and complemented with ex situ TEM analysis, XPS and thermogravimetric (TGA) analysis. These micro-fluidic devices are of great interest as they can be used to study crystallization in multiple chemical systems (such as iron oxides, carbonate and phosphate minerals) and be adapted for real-time studies of nanoparticle reactivity.

Research Experience

2013 King’s College London 

Research Assistant – Bioengineering, M.Sc. thesis project (Dr. Khuloud Al-Jamal)

“A rapid method of graphene exfoliation by ball milling to generate graphene-drug nanocomposites”

2012 École Centrale Paris

Research assistant at Microalgae/Biofuel, 6-month Research internship (Dr. Filipa Lopes)

“Influence of Temperature on Chlorella vulgaris physiological properties and growth kinetics”


Rubio N.*, Serra-Maia R.* , Al-Jamal K., et al. (2014) “Production of Water-Soluble Few-Layer Graphene Mesosheets by Dry Milling with Hydrophobic Drug”. Langmuir, vol. 30, pp. 14999-15008. *These two authors contributed equally to this study

Serra-Maia R., Bernard O., Gonçalves A., Bensalem S., Lopes F. (2016) “Influence of temperature on Chlorella vulgaris growth and mortality rates”. Algal Research, vol. 18, pp. 352-359.

In the News

Co-winner (with Karel Kletetschka) of Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Competition 2017 awarded by Virginia Tech Nanoearth program.

Awarded Aubrey and Eula Orange Summer Scholarship 2017

Awarded Geosciences Outstanding Service Award 2015-2016

Awarded College of Science Make-a-Difference Scholarship 2015

Poster Award at the Gordon Research Conference for Environmental Nanotechnology 2015

Featured in a news article at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Facebook page using SEM to study the morphology and chemical signature of coal ash, 09/27/2015

Aubrey and Eula Orange Research Scholarship 2016

Aubrey and Eula Orange Summer Scholarship 2015

Teaching Experience


08/17 – 12/17       Co-teacher pf the course Resources and the Environment with Dr. John Chermak at Virginia Tech

01/16 – 05/16       Graduate Teaching Assistant, Virginia Tech – Resources and the Environment

08/15 – 12/15       Graduate Teaching Assistant, Virginia Tech – Mineralogy

07/12 – 07/12       Laboratory Teacher, Biological Engineering Research Week for High School Students, University of Porto

07/11 – 07/11       Laboratory Teacher, Nanotechnology Research Week for High School Students, University of Porto

Research Areas


Surface Dynamics


In Situ Chemical & Structural Analysis

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Crystal Growth


2018 (anticipated)

Ph.D., Virginia Tech


MSc., University of Porto

Research Internship at King’s College London, UK

Research Internship at École Centrale Paris, France


BSc., University of Porto

Virginia Tech Environmental Nanosciences

Office Address
5057 Derring Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: +1.540-231-3299
Fax: +1.540.231.3386

Mailing Address
1405 Perry Street
4044 Derring Hall (0420)
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© 2016 Virginia Tech Environmental Nanosciences