John Kirtley

Associate Professor

Montana Tech Research Thrust: Renewable Energy, Biomaterials & Nanomaterials, Energy Storage, Conversion & Conservation Materials, Materials Synthesis, Processing, & Fabrication.

Dr. Kirtley’s research group focuses on finding direct insights into high-temperature chemistry, with a goal of optimizing materials/processes that support environmental sustainability. Early on at MTech, both undergraduate and graduate students investigated biochar (a product of biomass pyrolysis) as a tunable platform for adsorbing aqueous pollutants.  More recently, the group has pivoted into the arena of alternative energy, focusing on high-temperature ceramic fuel cells.

Dr. John Kirtley earned his B.S. in Mathematics Teaching (2009) and Ph.D. in Chemistry (2015) at Montana State University. His dissertation research focused on implementing operando Raman, thermal imaging, infrared emission, and electrochemical techniques to study high-temperature chemistry of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). In 2015, Dr. Kirtley continued his SOFC research at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. after being awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship. There, he focused mainly on poisoning and reforming mechanisms associated with biofuels. Dr. Kirtley then accepted a postdoctoral position with Washington State University in Spokane, WA. There he investigated Raman spectroscopy as a remote sensing technique for high-temperature combustion processes. In 2018, he took a Visiting Assistant Professor position at Whitworth University in Spokane. Finally, in fall 2019, he joined the Department of Chemistry/Geochemistry at Montana Tech.

Curriculum Vitae

2015     Ph.D., Chemistry, Montana State University 

2009     B.S., Mathematics Teaching, Montana State University 

2023-Present       Associate Professor, Montana Tech

2019-2023           Assistant Professor, Montana Tech

2018-2019           Visiting Assistant Professor, Whitworth University

2016-2018           Postdoctoral Research Associate, Applied Sciences Laboratory, Washington State University

2015-2016           National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate, US Naval Laboratory

Research Interests

Dr. Kirtley investigates hard-to-see high-temperature chemical processes, with a goal of finding answers that ultimately support environmental sustainability. Dr. Kirtley’s laboratory is especially interested in alternative energy conversion technologies, focusing on high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). Why fuel cells? These remarkable devices generate clean electricity from a wide variety of fuels—renewables and traditional—that can otherwise be difficult to efficiently process using traditional technologies.

Research Expertise

Dr. Kirtley earned his B.S. in Mathematics and Chemistry Teaching at Montana State University, and also received his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the same institution under Prof. Rob Walker. Dr. Kirtley was subsequently awarded a National Research Council fellowship to serve at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Dr. Kirtley later worked as a postdoc at the Applied Sciences Laboratory (Washington State University) and as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whitworth University before joining the Montana Technological University faculty in 2019. Dr.  Kirtley has received over $0.5 million in research funds through MTU’s Army Research Laboratory cooperative agreement that has led to several journal articles, as well as support for graduate students participating in the Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. program, and undergraduates. 

Highlighted skillsets include:

  • Materials fabrication
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Electrochemical analysis
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy
  • SOFC construction and testing
  • Integration of optical spectroscopy with operando and in situ analysis of high-temperature processes

  • Army Research Lab Cooperative Agreement, Yr 1, Yr 2, Yr 3, John Kirtley, PI: Ron White.
  • Army Research Lab Cooperative Agreement, Yr 5, Yr 6, John Kirtley, PI: Ron White.

Google Scholar Profile 


  • Hadi, A.S.; Morrow, F.; Kirtley, J.D. Examination of Morphological and Chemical Properties of NiBZY Anodes and Their Influence upon Methane Reactivity and Electrochemical Performance of Protonic Ceramic Fuel Cells. ECS Transactions, 2023, 111(6):2171 (2023).
  • Pomeroy, E.D.; Steinhurst, D.; Tsoi, S.; Kirtley, J.D.; Eigenbrodt, B.; Owrutsky, J.; Maza, W.A.;
    Walker, R.A. Spatially Heterogeneous Chemistry Observed using NIRTI on SOFC Anodes.
    ECS Transactions, 111(6):1709 (2023).
  • Muretta, J.E.; Prieto-Centurion, D.; LaDouceur, R.; and Kirtley, J.D.  “Unique chemistry and structure of pyrolyzed bovine bone for enhanced aqueous metals adsorption.” Waste Biomass Valorization, 2022, Early Access.
  • Goettlich, Daniel.; Hadi, Abdul-Sommed; McEnaney, Kelsi; and Kirtley, John. “Investigations of biochar as a tunable platform for aqueous malathion adsorption and decomposition.” MRS Advances, 2021, 6 (32), 759-763.
  • Kirtley, J.; Leichner, V.; Anderson, B.R.; Eilers, H. “A comparison of pulsed and continuous lasers for high-temperature Raman measurements of anhydrite.” J. Raman Spectrosc., 2018, 49 (5), 862-871.
  • Kirtley, J.D.; Qadri, S.N.; Steinhurst, D.A.; Owrutsky, J.C., “In operando, simultaneous observation of infrared molecular emission spectra and thermal images from solid oxide fuel cell electrodes.” J. Power Sources, 2016, 336, 54-62.

2023       Alumni Panelist, Office of Naval Research NURP review meeting 

2023       Rose and Anna Busch Faculty Achievement Award Nominee

​2022       Rose and Anna Busch Faculty Achievement Award Nominee

2016       Awarded competitive National Research Council Fellowship

American Chemical Society

Electrochemical Society

Dr. Kirtley is thankful to share life with his wife, and four children, especially in the Montana outdoors. Some of his interests include:

  • Long distance running
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
Connect with Dr. Kirtley.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Chemistry & Biology Building 214
Montana Tech
(406) 496-4247