Greg Engel     Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering

Greg Engel

Greg Engel
Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering 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.

Greg enjoys spending time with his family, hiking in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, cross country skiing (he's not any good), and shooting.

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-

  • 2019 Bernstein Lecturer, UCLA
  • 2017 & 2018 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

J.S. Higgins, A.R. Dardia, C.J. Ndife, L.T. Lloyd, E.M. Bain, and G.S. Engel, "Leveraging Dynamical Symmetries in Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectra to Extract Population Transfer Pathways", JPCA (accepted)

P. Navotnaya,* S. Sohoni,* L.T. Lloyd, S. Abdulhadi, P.-C. Ting, J.S. Higgins, and G.S. Engel, "Annihilation of Excess Excitations along Phycocyanin Rods Precedes Downhill Flow to Allophycocyanin Cores in the Phycobilisome of Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942", JPCB 126 23–29 2022.

* These authors contributed equally

J.S. Higgins, W.R. Hollingsworth, L.T. Lloyd, and G.S. Engel, "Quantum Coherence in Chemical and Photobiological Systems", Emerging Trends in Chemical Applications of Lasers, ACS Symposium Series #1398, Edited by M.R. Berman, L. Young, and H.-L. Dai, ACS Books 2021.

Y. Kim, F. Bertagna, E.M. D’Souza, D.J. Heyes, L.O. Johannissen, E.T. Nery, A. Pantelias, A. Sanchez-Pedreño Jimenez, L. Slocombe, M.G. Spencer, J. Al-Khalili, G.S. Engel, S. Hay, S.M. Hingley-Wilson, K. Jeevaratnam, A.R. Jones, D.R. Kattnig, R. Lewis, M. Sacchi, N.S. Scrutton, S.R.P. Silva, and J. McFadden, "Quantum Biology: An Update and Perspective", Quantum Rep. 3, 80-126 2021.

Jake HigginsAnna DardiaChidera NdifeLawson LloydElizabeth Bain

Paper Accepted   5/12/2022

Congratulations to Jake Higgins, Anna Dardia, Chidera Ndife, Lawson Lloyd, and Elizabeth Bain on having their paper entitled, "Leveraging Dynamical Symmetries in Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectra to Extract Population Transfer Pathways" accepted to Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

Greg Engel

Engel appointed in Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering   2/13/2022

Greg Engel has been appointed as a Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. The Engel Group is delighted to work alongside other groups in engineering at UChicago.

Polina NavotnayaSiddhartha SohoniLawson LloydSami AbdulhadiPo-Chieh TingJake Higgins

Paper Accepted   12/16/2021

Congratulations to Polina Navotnaya, Sid Sohoni, Lawson Lloyd, Sami Abdulhadi, Po-Chieh Ting, and Jake Higgins on having their paper entitled, "Annihilation of Excess Excitations along Phycocyanin Rods Precedes Downhill Flow to Allophycocyanin Cores in the Phycobilisome of Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942" accepted at the Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Jake HigginsMarco AllodiLawson LloydJohn OttoSara SohailRyan WoodSara MasseyPo-Chieh Ting

Paper Published   11/30/2021

Congratulations to Jake Higgins, Marco Allodi, Lawson Lloyd, John Otto, Sara Sohail, Ryan Wood, Sara Massey, and Po-Chieh Ting as well as our collaborators in the Blankenship Group on having their paper entitled, "Redox conditions correlated with vibronic coupling modulate quantum beats in photosynthetic pigment-protein complexes" published in PNAS.


In the news...   9/2/2021

The NSF QuBBE QLCI has officially launched! Here is the NSF announcement. and here is an article from UChicago News on NSF QuBBE

Siddhartha Sohoni

Paper Accepted   7/16/2021

Congratulations to Sid Sohoni and our collaborators in the Galli Group on having their paper, entitled "Spatial Patterns of Light-harvesting Antenna Complex Arrangements Tune the Transfer-to-trap Efficiency of Excitons in Purple Bacteria" accepted at JPCL.

Lawson LloydRyan WoodSiddhartha SohoniKaren JiPo-Chieh TingJake Higgins

Paper Published   6/5/2021

Congratulations to Lawson Lloyd, Ryan Wood, Sid Sohoni, Karen Ji, Po-Chieh Ting, Jake Higgins, and our collaborators in the Park Group on having their paper entitled, "Sub-10 fs Intervalley Exciton Coupling in Monolayer MoS2 Revealed by Helicity-Resolved Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy" published in ACS Nano.

Jake Higgins

In the news...   3/11/2021

Jake Higgins's paper has been written up in Science Alert.

Jake Higgins

Popular Press Coverage   3/10/2021

Jake Higgins's paper has been featured in PhysOrg, SciTech Daily and Futurity.

Jake Higgins

In the news...   3/9/2021

Jake Higgins's paper has been highlighted by UChicago News and posted on Eurekalert.