Greg Engel Professor

Greg Engel

Greg Engel
Professor at The University of Chicago

Miller Fellow, UC Berkeley 2005-2007
Ph.D., Harvard University, 2004
A.M., Harvard University, 2001
A.B., Princeton University, 1999

929 East 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637 USA

Chemistry Department Page
Biophysical Sciences Page
Molecular Engineering Page

Research in the Engel Group focuses on excited state reactivity including excitonic transport, non-radiative relaxation to photochemical products, and new methods to image excited state dynamics. Excited states in the condensed phase have an extremely high chemical potential thereby making them highly reactive and difficult to control. Our control strategy involves exploiting coherent response of the environment to the excitation event. In particular, we develop methodologies to manipulate two fundamental components of excited state dynamics: exciton migration and non-radiative relaxation.

Our approach is inspired by biological systems optimized by evolution to exploit manifestly quantum mechanical phenomena to drive coherent energy transfer, to steer trajectories through conical intersections and to protect long-lived quantum coherence. Currently, we are focusing on four key scientific efforts: (1) new techniques to image excited state dynamics, (2) understanding mechanisms of quantum transport in photosynthesis, (3) dynamics of conical intersections in the condensed phase, and (4) engineering quantum dynamics in new classes of synthetic materials.

The Engel Group program explores the interface between biology and quantum mechanics by creating new tools to explore design principles of coherent processes in proteins. Photosynthetic light harvesting and photoenzymatic dynamics exploit coherent protein motions for chemical control in a way that we do not yet fully understand. For example, Photosynthetic antenna complexes operate with near perfect quantum efficiency and steer excitonic motion with exquisite precision. These complexes exploit both incoherent (Förster) energy transfer along with coherent (wavelike) motion of energy in a process called Environmentally Assisted Quantum Transport that offers quantum efficiency superior to either mechanism alone. The Engel group seeks to isolate and copy the microscopic details of this process. In particular, we want to know if the process is a result of evolutionary fine-tuning and, regardless, how we can enable coherent energy transfer in synthetic systems for light harvesting, sensing, and communications.

To probe these systems, we design new femtosecond spectrometers to observe how electronic states couple to one another much the way COSY NMR explores nuclear spin coupling. Exploiting this analogy, we recently developed the first optical analog to MRI for rapid detection electronic couplings. The Engel group is strongly interdisciplinary; graduate students matriculate through Chemistry and the Biophysical Sciences while postdoctoral scholars have PhDs in Chemistry or Physics. The group contains pure theorists, organic chemists, inorganic chemists, physical chemists, physicists, and biophysicists. Engel and his lab members collaborate with physicists, biologists, engineers, and corporate partners to develop new technologies and new science.

Born: 9/23/1977, West Chester, PA, USA.
Princeton University, A.B., 1999
Harvard University, A.M., 2001
Harvard University, Ph.D., 2004
Harvard University, Postdoctoral Scholar, 2004-2005
University of California, Berkeley, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2005-2007
University of Chicago, Professor, 2007-

  • 2017 World Economic Forum Young Scientist
  • 2016-2017 Chair, ACS Physical Chemistry (PHYS) Division
  • 2016 Vannevar Bush Fellow (DoD)
  • 2014 DoD NSSEFF Award
  • 2013 FACSS Innovation Award
  • 2013 Defense Science Study Group Member for 2014-2015
  • 2012 Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Undergraduate Teaching
  • 2012 Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
  • 2012 Sloan Research Fellowship
  • 2012 Coblentz Award
  • 2010 DTRA Young Investigator Award
  • 2010 DARPA Young Faculty Award
  • 2009 PECASE Recipient
  • 2009 Searle Scholar
  • 2008 AFOSR Young Investigator Program
  • 2007 Scientific American Top 50 Leaders in Research
  • 2007 Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award
  • 2005-2007 Miller Research Fellow
  • 2003-2004 EPA STAR Fellow
  • 1999-2002 NSF Graduate Research Fellow
  • 1994 Eagle Scout

G.D. Scholes, G.R. Fleming, L.X. Chen, A. Aspuru-Guzik, A. Buchleitner, D.F. Coker, G.S. Engel, R. van Grondelle, A. Ishizaki, D.M. Jonas, J.S. Lundeen, J.K. McCusker, S. Mukamel, J.P. Ogilvie, A. Olaya-Castro, M.A. Ratner, F.C. Spano, K.B. Whaley, and X.Y. Zhu, "Using coherence to enhance function in chemical and biophysical systems Nature 543, 647–656 2017.

Y. Zhang, A. Wirthwein, F.H. Alharbi, G.S. Engel, and S. Kais., "Dark states enhance the photocell power via phononic dissipation Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 18, 31845-31849 2016.

Sara SohailPete DahlbergMarco AllodiSara MasseyPo-Chieh Ting

Paper Accepted 9/15/2017

Congratulations to Sara Sohail, Pete Dahlberg, Marco Allodi, Sara Massey, Po-Chieh Ting and our collaborators in the Hunter Group on having their paper entitled, "Broad Manifold of Excitonic States in Light-Harvesting Complex 1 Promotes Efficient Unidirectional Energy Transfer in vivo", accepted to JCP as a Communication.


New Chemist in the Family 9/10/2017

Madeleine Engel arrived on 9/10/2017 (3220 g, 533 mm) and is ready to get to work.

Greg Engel

World Economic Forum 6/28/2017

Greg Engel participates in World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of New Champions 2017 in Dalian, China.

Greg Engel

Elected to College Council 6/7/2017

Greg Engel has been elected to The College Council at the University of Chicago

Greg Engel

World Economic Forum Young Scientist Award 3/16/2017

Greg Engel named one of the World Economic Forum's 50 Young Scientists for 2017.

Lili WangGraham GriffinAlice ZhangNick Williams

Paper Published 2/21/2017

Congratulations to Lili Wang, Graham Griffin, Alice Zhang, Nick Williams, and our collaborators in the Jordan Group on having their paper, entitled "Controlling quantum-beating signals in 2D electronic spectra by packing synthetic heterodimers on single-walled carbon nanotubes" published in Nature Chemistry.

Lili WangNick WilliamsJohn OttoDugan HayesRyan Wood

Paper Accepted 2/15/2017

Congratulations to Lili Wang, Nick Williams, John Otto, Dugan Hayes, and Ryan Wood along with our collaborators in the Guyot-Sionnest Group on having their paper entitled, "Scalable Ligand-Mediated Transport Synthesis of Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Perovskite Nanocrystals with Resolved Electronic Structure and Ultrafast Dynamics," accepted to ACS Nano.

Cheng Moira FlanaganRyan McGillicuddyHaibin ZhengRuvim Ginzburg

Paper Published 11/15/2016

Congratulations to Wave Wang, Moira Flanagan, Ryan McGillicuddy, Haibin Zheng, and Ruvim Ginzburg on their paper, entitled "Bacteriophytochrome Photoisomerization Proceeds Homogeneously Despite Heterogeneity in Ground State", publishing in Biophysical Journal. Thanks also to our collaborators, Profs. Keith Moffat and Xiaojing Yang.

Marco AllodiPete DahlbergRichard MazuskiHunter DavisJohn Otto

Paper Published 11/8/2016

Congratulations to Marco Allodi, Pete Dahlberg, Richard Mazuski, Hunter Davis and John Otto on having their paper entitled, "Optical resonance imaging: An optical analog to MRI with sub-diffraction-limited capabilities" published in ACS Photonics

Greg Engel

Chair of the PHYS Division of ACS 8/27/2016

Greg Engel is now the Chair of the Physical Chemistry (PHYS) Division of the American Chemical Society.