The Faculty


We explore quantum dynamics in biology with a specific focus on photosynthetic energy transfer and photochemical dynamics.


Born: West Chester, PA, 1977
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 National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship
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

Courses Taught

Quantum Mechanics
Nonlinear Spectroscopy
Experimental Physical Chemistry
General Chemistry

Research Interests

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.

Selected References

(Click here for full list)

A.F. Fidler, V.P. Singh, P.D. Long, P.D. Dahlberg, and G.S. Engel, “Dynamic localization of electronic excitation in photosynthetic complexes revealed with chiral two-dimensional spectroscopy” Nat. Comm. 5, 3286 2014.

P.D. Dahlberg, A.F. Fidler, J.R. Caram, P.D. Long, and G.S. Engel, “Energy Transfer Observed In Live Cells Using Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy” J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 4, 3636-3640 2013.

D. Hayes, G.B. Griffin, and G.S. Engel, “Engineering Coherence Among Excited States in Synthetic Heterodimer Systems” Science 340, 1431 2013.

E. Harel and G.S. Engel, "Quantum Coherence Spectroscopy Reveals Complex Dynamics in Bacterial Light Harvesting Complex 2 (LH2)" PNAS 109(3) 706-711 2012.

K.M. Pelzer, G.R. Griffin, S.K. Gray, and G.S. Engel, "Inhomogeneous Dephasing Masks Coherence Lifetimes In Ensemble Measurements," JCP 136, 164508 2012.

G. Panitchayangkoon, D.V. Voronine, D. Abramavicius, J.R. Caram, N.H.C. Lewis, S. Mukamel, and G.S. Engel, “Direct Evidence of Quantum Transport in Photosynthetic Light-harvesting Complexes." PNAS, 108(52) 20908-20912  2011.

E. Harel, A. Fidler, and G.S. Engel, "Real-time Mapping of Electronic Structure with Single-shot Two-dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy."PNAS, 107:16444-16447 2010.

G. Panitchayangkoon, D. Hayes, K.A. Fransted, J.R. Caram, E. Harel, J. Wen, R.E. Blankenship, and G.S. Engel.  “Long-lived quantum coherence in photosynthetic complexes at physiological temperature.”  PNAS, 107:12766-12770 2010.