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.

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-

  • 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

E.M. Janke*, N.E. Williams*, C. She, D. Zherebetskyy, M. Hudson, L. Wang, D.J. Gosztola, R.D. Schaller, B. Lee, C. Sun, G.S. Engel, D.V. Talapin, "The origin of broad emission spectra in InP quantum dots: contributions from structural and electronic disorder", JACS 140, 15791–15803 2018.

B.S. Rolczynski, H. Zheng, V.P. Singh, P. Navotnaya, A.R. Ginzburg, J.R. Caram, K. Ashraf, A.T. Gardiner, S.-H. Yeh, S. Kais, R.J. Cogdell, and G.S. Engel, "Correlated Protein Environments Drive Quantum Coherence Lifetimes in Photosynthetic Pigment-Protein Complexes", Chem 4, 138–149 2018.

***Highlighted with a preview written by Dr. Margherita Maiuri and Prof. Greg Scholes.***

L. Wang, N.P. Brawand, M. Vörös, P.D. Dahlberg, J.P. Otto, N.E. Williams, D.M. Tiede, G. Galli, and G.S. Engel, "Excitations Partition into Two Distinct Populations in Bulk Perovskites", Adv. Opt. Mat. 1700975 2018.

Lili WangMarco Allodi

Paper Published   6/25/2019

Congratulations to Lili Wang and Marco Allodi on having their paper entitled, "Quantum coherences reveal excited state dynamics in biophysical systems", published in Nature Reviews Chemistry.

Sara MasseyPo-Chieh TingShu-Hao YehPete DahlbergSara SohailMarco Allodi

Paper Published   1/1/2019

Congratulations to Sara Massey, Po-Chieh Ting, Shu-Hao Yeh, Pete Dahlberg, Sara Sohail, Marco Allodi, and our collaborators in the Kais group and Hunter Group on having their paper entitled, "Orientational Dynamics of Transition Dipoles and Exciton Relaxation in LH2 from Ultrafast Two-Dimensional Anisotropy", published online in JPCL.


Paper Accepted   11/22/2018

Congratulations to Andrew Hu and our other collaborators in the Kais group on having our paper entitled, "Double-excitation manifold’s effect on exciton transfer dynamics and the efficiency of coherent light harvesting" accepted to PCCP.

Nick WilliamsLili Wang

Paper Accepted   10/4/2018

Congratulations to Nick Williams and Lili Wang as well as our collaborators in the Talapin and Schaller Groups on having their paper entitled, "The origin of broad emission spectra in InP quantum dots: contributions from structural and electronic disorder", accepted to JACS.

Shu-Hao YehMarco Allodi

Paper Published   8/9/2018

Congratulations to Shu-Hao Yeh, Marco Allodi and our collaborators in the Kais group on having their paper entitled,"Elucidation of near-resonance vibronic coherence lifetimes by nonadiabatic electronic-vibrational state character mixing" published in PNAS.


Paper Accepted   5/16/2018

Our paper in collaboration with the Kais group entitled "Connecting bright and dark states through accidental degeneracy caused by lack of symmetry" has been accepted to JCP.

John OttoLili Wang

Paper Published   3/15/2018

Congratulations to John Otto, Lili Wang and our many collaborators in the Aspuru-Guzik, Bao, and Chiu groups on having their paper entitled, "Disentanglement of Excited-State Dynamics with Implications for FRET Measurements: Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy of a BODIPY-Functionalized Cavitand" published in Chemical Science.


Paper Accepted   1/25/2018

Our paper in collaboration with Kais and Al-Harbi groups entitled "Dark states and delocalization: competing effects of quantum coherence on the efficiency of light harvesting systems" has been accepted to JCP.

Brian RolczynskiHaibin ZhengVed SinghPolina NavotnayaRuvim GinzburgJustin CaramShu-Hao Yeh

Paper Published   1/11/2018

Congratulations to Brian Rolczynski, Haibin Zheng, Ved Singh, Polina Navotnaya, Ruvim Ginzburg, Justin Caram, and Shu-Hao Yeh as well as our collaborators in the Kais and Cogdell Groups on having their paper published to Chem. Thanks to Margherita Maiuri and Greg Scholes for writing a nice Preview piece highlighting this work.

Lili WangPete DahlbergJohn OttoNick Williams

Paper Published   1/10/2018

Congratulations to Lili Wang, Pete Dahlberg, John Otto, Nick Williams as well as our collaborators in the Galli and Tiede groups on having their paper entitled, "Excitations Partition into Two Distinct Populations in Bulk Perovskites", published in Advanced Optical Materials.