Christopher Elles

Christopher Elles
  • Professor

Contact Info

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


Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.S. in Chemistry, Colorado State University


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

Selected Publications

Ramamurthy, V., Sen, P., and Elles, C.G., Ultrafast Excited State Dynamics of Spatially Confined Organic Molecules, 2022. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpca.2c03276

Singh, M., Gaskins, B., Johnson, D.R., Elles, C.G., and Boskovic, Z., Synthesis of Cycloheptatriene-Containing Azetidine Lactones. Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2022. DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.2c00367

Otolski, C.J., et al., Spatial confinement alters the ultrafast photoisomerization dynamics of azobenzenes. Chemical Science, 2020. 11(35): p. 9513-9523.

Henke, W.C., et al., Ultrafast Spectroscopy of Mn(CO)(3) Complexes: Tuning the Kinetics of Light-Driven CO Release and Solvent Binding. Inorganic Chemistry, 2020. 59(4): p. 2178-2187.

Burns, K.H., P. Srivastava, and C.G. Elles, Absolute Cross Sections of Liquids from Broadband Stimulated Raman Scattering with Femtosecond and Picosecond Pulses. Analytical Chemistry, 2020. 92(15): p. 10686-10692.

Barclay, M.S., C.G. Elles, and M. Caricato, Benchmark Study of Ground-State Raman Spectra in Conjugated Molecules. Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, 2020. 16(1): p. 612-620.

Barclay, M.S., C.G. Elles, and M. Caricato, On the Discrepancy between Experimental and Calculated Raman Intensities for Conjugated Phenyl and Thiophene Derivatives. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2020. 124(23): p. 4678-4689.

Otolski, C.J., et al., Ultrafast trans -> cis Photoisomerization Dynamics of Alkyl-Substituted Stilbenes in a Supramolecular Capsule. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2019. 123(24): p. 5061-5071.

Otolski, C.J., et al., Ultrafast Dynamics of Encapsulated Molecules Reveals New Insight on the Photoisomerization Mechanism for Azobenzenes. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2019. 10(1): p. 121-127.

Bhattacharyya, D., et al., Electronic Structure of Liquid Methanol and Ethanol from Polarization-Dependent Two-Photon Absorption Spectroscopy. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2019. 123(27): p. 5789-5804.

Barclay, M.S., M. Caricato, and C.G. Elles, Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Scattering from Triplet Electronic States: Experimental and Theoretical Study of Resonance Enhancements. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2019. 123(36): p. 7720-7732.

Quincy, T.J., et al., Probing Dynamics in Higher-Lying Electronic States with Resonance-Enhanced Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy. Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2018. 122(42): p. 8308-8319.

Awards & Honors

2012 - 2017

Finalist, Honor for an Outstanding Progressive Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award, University of Kansas

J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award, KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kansas NSF EPSCoR First Award
2011 - 2012

Visiting Professorship, University of Rome "La Sapienza"