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Personal profile

Personal profile

Prof. Prashant Jain grew up in Bombay where he completed his undergraduate education in polymer engineering at the Institute of Chemical Technology. Because of his strong interest in physics and chemistry, he switched disciplines when he started graduate school at Georgia Tech. With M. A. El-Sayed at Georgia Tech, Prof. Jain studied the nature of energy and carrier relaxation in photoexcited metal nanoparticles using ultrafast spectroscopy and theoretical electrodynamics. He also developed now well-known scaling rules for nanoscale electromagnetic interactions. Following his PhD, Prof. Jain moved to Harvard as the very first postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Adam E. Cohen. At Harvard, he learned single-molecule microscopy and helped launch a research program on magneto-optical and chiro-optical phenomena. An offer of a prestigious Miller Research Fellowship took Prof. Jain to UC Berkeley, where he was hosted by A. P. Alivisatos. In the Alivisatos group, he established the topotactic nature of cation exchange reactions in ionic nanocrystals and uncovered the plasmonic origin of optical resonances induced in semiconductor nanocrystals upon doping. Prof. Jain now directs a research laboratory on nanoscale light-matter interactions at UIUC, where he is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Materials Research Lab, and the Beckman Institute and an affiliate faculty member of Physics and Illinois Quantum Information Science and Engineering (IQUIST). 

His lab is best known for using concentrated photons for artificial photosynthesis, inducing emergent chemical reactivity, and for probing the molecular-level functioning of catalysts. His lab has also discovered new solid-state phases and expanded the phenomenon of plasmon resonances beyond metal nanostructures. Prof. Jain teaches graduate & undergraduate physical chemistry for which he has received recognition, including the School of Chemical Sciences Faculty Teaching Award and a mention on UIUC's Teachers Ranked as Excellent list for every course he has taught. He is a current member of the IDA/DARPA Defense Science Study Group, and the lead developer of nanoDDSCAT & nanoDDSCAT+, an open-source computational toolkit for nano-optics and photonics, which has been used to launch over 800,000 simulations by users across the world. Prof. Jain has served as Associate Head of Major Projects in the Department of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemical Physics PhD program. He currently serves on the faculty hiring and promotion committee and as the Diversity Advocate for the department. Prof. Jain has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and given over 100 invited/award/keynote/plenary lectures. His research has been cited ~29,000 times and featured in the science media. 

Research Interests

energy conversion; light-matter interactions; artificial photosynthesis; multielectron catalysis; sustainable manufacturing; imaging catalytic reactions; novel condensed matter phases and phenomena in nanostructured solids; photophysics and photochemistry; plasmonics, photonics, and nano-optics

Professional Information

Light-matter interactions are central in nature, life, and in technology. There are three aspects of the light-matter interface that we study using spectroscopy, microscopy, and theory:
i) We employ the rich interplay between visible light and metal catalysts for selective formation of chemical bonds, catalyzing multielectron chemistry, and manufacturing fuels and energetic chemicals.
ii) We image with unprecedented resolution chemical reactions on surfaces or in nanoparticles and uncover their mechanistic pathways.
iii) We design materials and coax them into exhibiting non-natural optical or optoelectronic phenomena.
In summary, we are learning how to control and harness light as a source of energy and as a means to control the attributes and function of advanced materials.

We are a diverse team with interest and expertise in catalysis, spectroscopy, materials science, and condensed matter physics. The tools we use include photonics, nanochemistry, single-molecule spectroscopy, nanofabrication, high-resolution electron microscopy, plasmonics, and theory. The systems we investigate range from artificial photosynthetic systems to nanophotonic switches. Specific research areas include:

Photosynthesis and Energy Conversion: Driving multielectron fuel-forming reactions by plasmonic light excitation.

Catalysis: Discovering active sites and reaction pathways of catalysts by super-resolution imaging.

Nanoscience: Unconventional excitations, phases, and transport in nanocrystals.

Prospective postdoctoral researchers, graduate students who have been admitted to a program at UIUC, undergraduate students at UIUC, and collaborators interested in the above research projects are welcome to contact us.

Honors & Awards

Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (2022)
Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2022)
University Scholar (2022)
Center for Advanced Studies Associate (2022)

Leo Hendrik Baekeland Medal, American Chemical Society, North Jersey Section (2021)
Kavli Fellow, National Academy of Sciences (2021)
Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists Finalist Medal (2020&21)
Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2020)
Science News Magazine Ten Scientists to Watch, SN10 (2020)
Alumni Research Scholar (2020)
Campus Distinguished Promotion Award (2020)
Defense Science Study Group (2020-22)
Beilby Medal and Prize (2019)
Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (2019)
Discovery Fund Award, Department of Chemistry (2018)
Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2018)
Highly Cited Researcher, Clarivate Analytics (2018)
Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar (2018-)
American Vacuum Society Prairie Chapter Early Career Award (2017)
Campus Distinguished Promotion Award, UIUC (2017)
Center for Advanced Studies Beckman Fellow (2017)
I. C. Gunsalus Scholar (2017-18)
Kavli Emerging Leader in Chemistry and Lectureship, ACS (2017)
Most Cited Researchers in ChemE as per Elsevier Scopus (2016)
3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2015)
Journal of Physical Chemistry C Lectureship (2015)
National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015)
School of Chemical Sciences Faculty Teaching Award (2015)
Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2014)
American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award (2014)
Arnold and Mabel O. Beckman Young Investigator Award (2014)
Dupont Young Professor Award (2013)
Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students (Fall 12, 15, 16, 19; Spring 14, 15, 18, 20, 21)

Office Address

Department of Chemistry
University of Illinois
A224 CLSL, Box 16-6
600 South Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone


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