Main research interests
Ellen Backus’ research interest is on understanding the structure and dynamics of water at interfaces. Currently, a main research topic focusses on unravelling the mechanism of the photoinduced water splitting reaction at the interface between water and titaniumdioxide. Another part of the group studies the structure and the energy transfer dynamics at the interface of water with surfactants and at the ice interface. They use the interface specific technique two dimensional and time-resolved sum frequency generation spectroscopy.
Ellen Backus studied chemistry at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Afterwards she joined the group of M. Bonn and A. Kleyn at the Leiden University also in the Netherlands for a PhD project. She worked on dynamics of molecules on surfaces and obtained her degree at the end of 2005. From 2006 to 2008 she worked as a postdoc in the group of P. Hamm at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, funded by a Talent stipend from NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) and a grant from the "Forschungskredit" from the University. She investigated molecular dynamics of small peptides and lipids with 1D and 2D ultrafast laser spectroscopies. From 2008 to the beginning of 2012 she was working at FOM Institute AMOLF with H. Bakker and M. Bonn as an independent postdoc on a VENI fellowship. She studied the vibrational energy transport through model membrane systems. She was also involved in a project that studies the interaction of water with metal surfaces and in projects that use the surface specific technique sum-frequency generation to study monolayers of lipids or polymers on water undergoing light induced reactions or monolayers of lipids interacting with peptides. Since February 2012 she has been working as a project-leader at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in the department of M. Bonn. In 2013 she was awarded an ERC starting grant for the project "Fundamentals of photocatalytic splitting of water". On April 1, 2014 she was appointed to the Minerva Program of the Max Planck Gesellschaft. Her research focuses on studying the structure and dynamics of water at interfaces using (multidimensional) sum-frequency generation spectroscopy.