Christopher Elles

Christopher Elles
  • Associate Professor

Contact Info

3119 ISB (CDS1)
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

Barclay, M. S., Quincy, T. J., Williams-Young, D. B., Caricato, M. & Elles, C. G. (2017). Accurate Assignments of Excited-State Resonance Raman Spectra: A Benchmark Study Combining Experiment and Theory. Journal of Physical Chemistry A121, 7937. DOI:10.1021/acs.jpca.7b09467

de Wergifosse, M. Elles, C. G., & Krylov, A. I. (2017). Two-photon absorption spectroscopy of stilbene and phenanthrene: Excited-state analysis and comparison with ethylene and toluene. Journal of Chemical Physics146, 174102.

de Wergifosse, M. Houk, A. L., Krylov, A. I., & Elles, C. G. (2017). Two-photon absorption spectroscopy of trans-stilbene, cis-stilbene, and phenanthrene: Theory and experiment. Journal of Chemical Physics146, 144305.

Houk, A. L., Givens, R. S., & Elles, C. G. (2016). Two-Photon Activation of p-Hydroxyphenacyl Phototriggers: Toward Spatially Controlled Release of Diethyl Phosphate and ATP. Journal of Physical Chemistry B120, 3178. DOI:10.1021/acs.jpcb.5b12150

Batignani, G. Pontecorvo, E. Ferrante, C. Aschi, M. Elles, C. G., & Scopigno, T. (2016). Visualizing excited-state dynamics of a diaryl thiophene: Femtosecond stimulated Raman scattering as a probe of conjugated molecules. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters7, 2981.

Houk, A. L., Zheldakov, I. L., Tommey, T. A., & Elles, C. G. (2015). Two-photon excitation of trans-stilbene: Spectroscopy and dynamics of electronically excited states above S1. Journal of Physical Chemistry B119, 9335-44. DOI:10.1021/jp509959n

Ward, C. L., & Elles, C. G. (2014). Cycloreversion dynamics of a photochromic molecular switch via one-photon and sequential two-photon excitation. Journal of Physical Chemistry A118, 10011.

Pontecorvo, E. Ferrante, C. Elles, C. G., & Scopigno, T. (2014). Structural rearrangement accompanying the ultrafast electrocyclization reaction of a photochromic molecular switch. Journal of Physical Chemistry B118, 6915.

Sarkany, L. Wasylenko, J. M., Roy, S. Higgins, D. A., Elles, C. G., & Chikan, V. (2013). Investigation of fluorescence emission from CdSe nanorods in PMMA and P3HT/PMMA films. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 117, 18818.

Pontecorvo, E. Ferrante, C. Elles, C. G., & Scopigno, T. (2013). Optimally shaped narrowband pulses for femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy in the range 330-750 nm. Optics Express21, 6866.

Ward, C. L., & Elles, C. G. (2012). Controlling the excited-state reaction dynamics of a photochromic molecular switch with sequential two-photon excitation. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters3, 2995.

Zheldakov, I. L., Wasylenko, J. M., & Elles, C. G. (2012). Excited-state dynamics and efficient triplet formation in phenylthiophene compounds. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics14, 6211.

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"