Christopher Elles

Christopher Elles
  • Professor

Contact Info

3119 ISB (CDS1)
1567 Irving Hill Rd
Lawrence, KS 66045


B.S. in Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI


The primary focus of our work is to better understand the reaction dynamics of molecules in solution. We use ultrafast spectroscopy to monitor chemical reactions on the time scale of atomic motion and look for new ways to probe the dynamics in order to learn more about the fundamental physical processes that govern chemistry.

For example, we are interested in the excited state dynamics of "molecular photoswitches" that will be used in the next generation of data storage. Reversible opening and closing of a 6-member ring at the heart of these photochromic (color-changing) molecules enables them to store information based on the different absorption and refraction properties of each state. From a fundamental standpoint, these color changing reactions are fascinating because they involve dynamics on several different potential energy surfaces. Non-adiabatic transitions, vibrational relaxation, and solvent-solute interactions all play a role as the system moves along the reaction coordinate. We examine each of these, and try to exploit what we learn to control the outcome of the reaction.

Research Interests

  • Condensed-phase chemical reaction dynamics
  • Excited-state dynamics of photochromic molecular switches
  • Photo-triggers
  • And photoactive materials
  • Nanoplasmon-mediated photochemistry
  • Ultrafast laser spectroscopy