Profile photo of John Fourkas
Contact Info
Office: CHM 2341
Phone: 301-405-7996
John Fourkas
Millard Alexander Professor


  • B.S., Chemistry, 1986, California Institute of Technology
  • M.S., Chemistry, 1986, California Institute of Technology
  • Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, 1991, Stanford University (NSF Graduate Fellow with Michael Fayer)
  • Postdoctoral, 1991, University of Texas, Austin (NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Mark Berg)
  • Postdoctoral, 1993, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Keith Nelson)

Professional Experience

  • Millard Alexander Professor of Chemistry, 2005-present
  • Professor, Department of Chemistry, Boston College, 2001-2005
  • Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Boston College, 2000-2001
  • Assistant Professor, Boston College, 1994-2000
  • Visiting Fellow, JILA, Boulder, Colorado, 2001-2002

Research Interests

Ultrafast nonlinear optical spectroscopy of liquids; dynamics of nanoconfined liquids; nonlinear optical microscopy; nontraditional approaches to micro- and nanofabrication; dynamics of single molecules and single nanoparticles; nonlinear absorption; nonlinear plasmonics; cellular biophysics.

Professional Societies

  • American Chemical Society (ACS); American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow; American Physical Society (APS) Fellow; Materials Research Society (MRS); Optical Society of America (OSA) Fellow; Sigma Xi (ΣΞ); SPIE Senior Member.

Major Recognitions and Honors

  • Regents Faculty Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (2012)
  • Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1999);.
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (1998);
  • Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award (1997);
  • Beckman Young Investigator Award (1997);
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (1995);
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award (1994);
  • National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow (1992);
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow (1987)

Significant Professional Service and Activities

Frontiers in Nanotechnology: Specialty Chief Editor for Nanofabrication (2020-). American Chemical Society: Associate Editor, Journal of Physical Chemistry (2002-2019). American Physical Society: Secretary/treasurer, APS Division of Laser Science (2005-2008); Division of Laser Science Chair line (2011-2015); Division of Laser Science Councilor (2019-); APS Council Steering Committee (2020-2022). Telluride Scientific Research Center Board of Directors (2009-2011). Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation: Beckman Scholars Advisory Panel (2004-2005); Beckman Young Investigator Advisory Panel (2005-2009); Scientific Advisory Council (2009-present); Beckman Young Investigator Executive Committee (2011-2013). National Research Council: NRC postdoc advisory council (2007-2013). National Institutes of Health: Nanotechnology study section member (2008-2009). National Academy of Sciences: Frontiers in Science participant (1998); Frontiers in Science session organizer (2001); International Conference on NanoPhotonics: Technical Committee (2007-present).

Students Mentored

The Fourkas group has produced 23 PhDs and 10 MS degrees since 1994, and there are currently eight doctoral students and three postdoctoral fellows in the group. The group has also had over 40 undergraduates, the majority of whom have published in major journals while in the group.

Spectroscopy, materials, nanofabrication

Research in the Fourkas group lies at the intersection of physical chemistry, optical physics, materials science and nanotechnology. Our research focuses on the use of ultrafast lasers and nonlinear optical techniques to probe, control and fashion condensed matter. Specific areas of interest include:

Nonlinear optical spectroscopy of liquids

Chemical and physical processes in liquids are governed by an intricate interplay between intermolecular structure and dynamics. This interplay becomes all the more important for processes that occur at liquid/solid interfaces, such as heterogeneous catalysis, lubrication, and separations. Our group uses nonlinear optical spectroscopy to study the relationship between structure and dynamics in bulk liquids, confined liquids, and interfacial liquids. (See Int. Rev. Phys. Chem. 2011 30, 409-443) We are developing new spectroscopic tools for probing interface-specific dynamics of liquids, with a particular interest in understanding behavior at liquid/silica interfaces. We are also working on theoretical techniques to extract maximum information from experimental data from nonlinear optical techniques.

Nonlinear plasmonics

Noble-metal nanostructures can lead to large enhancements of optical fields, allowing nonlinear optical phenomena to be driven at low light intensities. We are studying the relationships among different field-enhanced phenomena, such as multiphoton-absorption-induced luminescence and metal-enhanced multiphoton absorption polymerization (See: J. Phys. Chem. C 2010, 114, 7774-7779). We are also exploring how to control the efficiency of these processes with optical pulse shaping. Our goal is to harness these phenomena for applications such as nanofabrication and lithography.

 Large enhancement of optical fields

New optical imaging technologies

Nonlinear optics offers exciting opportunities for optical imaging with higher resolution, sectioning capabilities, and novel contrast mechanisms. Our efforts in this area are two-fold. First, we are exploring the use of nonlinear optical techniques that have not been used widely for imaging, but that promise to provide increased resolution and contrast. Second, we are developing new, high-visibility probes for use in nonlinear optical microscopy that allow single particles to be visualized over long time periods. There are many potential applications of these technologies in biological samples.

Laser-based, 3-D fabrication technologies

The same three-dimensional confinement of nonlinear optical techniques that is used in optical imaging can be harnessed for 3-D fabrication. For example, in multiphoton absorption polymerization (MAP), a prepolymer resin is hardened selectively at the focal point of a laser beam that has been focused through a microscope objective. By moving the sample relative to the focal point, it is possible to fabricate arbitrarily complex, 3-D objects with feature sizes on the order of 100 nm. (See: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed2007, 46, 6238-6258.) Examples of structures created in our lab with this technique are shown at right. We are currently working on a number of facets of this technology, including the selective incorporation of materials other than polymers (e.g., metals, inorganics, and biomolecules), the replication of complex structures via soft lithography, and the improvement of resolution down to the 10 nm scale (See: Science 2009, 324, 910-913; Nature Chem. 2011 3, 223-227). We are also working on specific applications in optical logic, microfluidics, electronics, and cell biology.