Frequently Asked Questions

Everything is quantum mechanical -- including biology. Quantum biology is the study of those niches in biology where manifestly quantum dynamics matter. Examples include tunnelling, coherent energy transport, photoenzymes, etc. In our group, we study quantum biology primarily in photosynthesis and photoenzymes.
Chemistry is abstract because molecules are incredibly small and they move quickly. To see what they are doing, we need extremely fast techniques that capture electronic motions, nuclear motions, and chemical reactions on the molecule's natural timescale. We use extremely short pulses of light to capture these dynamics in our spectroscopy. The laser pulses that we use are about as long a the time it takes light to travel a fraction of the width of a human hair. By exciting the molecules with a series of these pulse, we are able to watch reaction dynamics and electronic energy transfer occur.
A femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second. It is the natural timescale for electronic states to move, relax, and react. It is the timescale of molecular vibrations.
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.
No. You just have to be willing to learn. We can teach you all of the skills that you need to succeed in our field. What we can't teach is creativity, bravery, determination, and boldness. Those qualities are prerequisites.
We work hard at our science, but it's great fun. The group is driven, collaborative, and team-oriented. We do whatever work is required to test our ideas. Some days, you are a chemist; some days, you are a physicist, a spectroscopist, a computer scientist, a biologist, on an engineers. Some days, you are the janitor keeping dust of the optics. This variety is fun, and it helps us to train complete scientists who are ready to solve big problems.
The group is not an assembly line. Students learn and master all aspects of their project. Put differently, we produce papers, and we produce people -- and we take both duties seriously. This approach helps to produce well-rounded and broad scientists. Typically, students prepare their own samples, build the instruments, take the data, and write the paper. As students guide their own projects, they enlist help and support from others. Science is a team sport, and this approach requires people to work together in teams both because one almost never has all the expertise needed, but also because it is more efficient to share common tasks. For this reason, most of our papers have long author lists.
YES! We work with research groups around the world to address issues at the forefront of science.
We are always looking for bold, creative, and driven scientists.
  • For potential postdoctoral applicants, you should email your CV and interests to Greg Engel. It's also always helpful if your adviser contacts Greg as well.
  • For potential graduate students, please apply through the Chemistry Department, the Program in Biophysical Sciences, the Physics Department or the Institute for Molecular Engineering. We regret that we cannot accept graduate students directly into the laboratory; you must first gain admission to one of these programs.
  • For current graduate students, please come to the lab, meet us and start coming to our group meetings.
  • For UChicago undergraduates, please contact Greg directly to make an appointment.
  • For prospective undergraduates, please apply through the College. We regret that we cannot accept undergraduates directly into the laboratory until you enroll at UChicago.
For more information and links to applications, please look here.