Christopher L.

Executive Director of Alabama EPSCoR
Director of the Alabama Graduate Research Scholars Program
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Physics Office: Campbell Hall 421C
EPSCoR Office: AB770Q
(205) 975-5059

Research and Teaching Interests: General Physics, Optics, Nonlinear Optics, Nonlinear Optics, Optical Sensing, Fiber Optics

Office Hours:

Physics Office: T/Th 1:00-2:00 pm or by appointment
EPSCoR Office: T/W/Th 9:00 am-12:00 pm; and by appointment


  • B.S., Oklahoma State University, Physics
  • M.S., University of Colorado, Physics
  • Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Physics


Dr. Christopher Lawson is a full Professor of Physics. He teaches College Physics I and II and Geometric Optics, Physical Optics, Optical System Design, and Nonlinear Optics. His research interests are in nonlinear optics and optical sensors. His research specialty is optical sensing and nonlinear optics and he has published over 70 journal articles and 10 books or book chapters in these areas. At UAB, Dr. Lawson has been Principal Investigator (PI) for numerous research grants awarded from the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, Army Research Labs, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, NASA, and the State of Alabama.

Dr. Lawson has served as Executive Director of the Alabama Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ALEPSCoR) since 2010. ALEPSCoR ( is dedicated to the advancement of economic development via scientific and engineering research through a collaborative effort among the State’s eight Ph.D. granting institutions, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Commission for Higher Education (ACHE) and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA). Overall, ALEPSCoR has brought in 268 federal EPSCoR grants for $165M from 2010-2020, with $17.1M of new research grants and an estimated $16M of research expenditures in FY 2020 alone. Dr. Lawson also serves as the Director of the State funded Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP), designed to increase the pool of highly trained graduates available to Alabama industry. As of December 2020, GRSP support has resulted in 221 Ph.D. and 73 Master’s degrees in high technology EPSCoR research areas. Finally, from 2016-2021 Dr. Lawson served as the Chair of the Coalition of EPSCoR/IDEA States, which assumes a leadership role in coordinating national EPSCoR activities. He testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on behalf of the EPSCoR Coalition in 2012 and 2013 and provided written expert witness testimony to the “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments” full U.S. Senate Hearings in April 2014 and the House Appropriations Committee in 2019.

  • Research Interests

    In nonlinear optics, Dr. Lawson’s research interests are directed toward the development and characterization of nonlinear optical (NLO) materials for optical switching and power limiting applications using wavelength tunable Z-scan, degenerate four wave mixing (DFWM), power limiting spectroscopy, and flash photolysis. The focus of this work is to study the relationship between excited state absorption, linear absorption and molecular structure in metal organics using computational modeling supported by a full suite of experimental measurements. His group has demonstrated that unsymmetrical phosphine-substituted bithiophenes exhibit the highest solubility and best blue sensor protection of any material that has been studied in the literature to date. As part of this research, his group has recently developed methods for functionalizing unsymmetrical phosphine-substituted bithiophenes, that will allow it to be incorporated into polymer films and attached to nanoparticles.

    In addition, Dr. Lawson is also currently investigating a new class of symmetric and asymmetric oligothiophenes for blue organic light emitting diodes (LED’s) that might be used in flat panel displays. These compounds exhibit strong fluorescence, and can be attached to polymers for use in applications needing thin films.

  • Recent Courses
    • PH 201/202: Introductory Physics I and II
  • Select Publications
    • J. Freeman, J. Martin, T. Totsch, F. Nia, J. Wang, Y. Zhang, B. Yancey, J. Atkinson, C. Lawson, G. Gray, “Synthesis, thermal analysis, and linear and nonlinear optical characterization of substituted polyphosphonates derived from 1, 12- dodecanediol," Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 54, 3663-3674 (2016).
    • Yuanli Zhang, Jianwei Wang, Qun Zhao, Gary Gray, Christopher Lawson, “Five-energy level computer model for fitting Z-scan measurements in disubstituted chalcogenidodiphenylphosphino bithiophenes”, Proceedings of Nonlinear Optics (NLO) 2015, July 26-31, 2015, Lihue, Hawaii.
    • J. Freeman, Q. Zhao, J. Wang, Y. Zhang, C. Lawson, G. Gray, “Synthesis, Linear and Nonlinear Optical Properties of Phosphonato-Substituted Bithiophenes Derived from 2,2’-Biphenol”, Dalton Transactions, 42, 14281-14297 (2013).
    • Q. Zhao, Y. Zhang, J. Freeman, J. Wang, C. Lawson and G. Gray, “Syntheses, X-ray crystal structures and optical, fluorescence and nonlinear optical characterizations of diphenylphosphino-substituted bithiophenes”, Inorganic Chemistry, 51, 2016-2030 (2012).
    • J. Wang, C. M. Lawson, Q. Zhao and G. M. Gray, “Strong nonlinear optical absorption in the blue spectral region by phosphine-substituted bithiophenes”, Optics Communications, 284, 390-394 (2011).
    • Q. Zhao, J. Wang, J. Freeman, M. Murphy-Jolly, A. Wright, D. Scardino, N. Hammer, C. Lawson, and G. Gray, “Syntheses, and Optical, Fluorescence, and Nonlinear Optical Characterization of Phosphine-Substituted Terthiophenes”, Inorganic Chemistry, 50, 2015-2027 (2011).
    Books (Edited) and Book Chapters:
    • Coherence Gated Holograms, D. Brown and C. Lawson, in Holography for the New Millennium, H.J. Caulfield, J.E. Ludman, and J.R. Riccobono eds., Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., New York, NY, pp. 101-119 (2002), ISBN 0-387-95334-5.
    • Power Limiting Materials and Devices, C.M. Lawson (Editor), published by International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 3798, 178 pages (1999).
    • Nonlinear Optical Liquids for Power Limiting and Imaging, C.M. Lawson (Editor), published by International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 3472, 180 pages (1998).
    • Nonlinear Optical Liquids and Power Limiters, C.M. Lawson (Editor), published by International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 3146, 188 pages (1997).
  • Academic Distinctions
    • Elected as Chair of the Coalition of EPSCoR / IDeA States, 2016
    • Selected by the Alabama Commerce Department to run the Alabama Innovation Fund (AIF) selection/review process which awarded $5M for high tech job creation, 2015
    • Elected by the Coalition of EPSCoR States to be Coalition Vice Chair, 2012
    • Received UAB Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP) Award for Outstanding Professor, 2012
    • Elected to the Board of Directors for the Coalition of EPSCoR States, 2010
    • Elected by the Alabama EPSCoR Steering Committee to serve as Executive Director of Alabama EPSCoR, 2010
    • Appointed as Director of the State Funded Graduate Research Scholars Program, 2009