Professor, Department of Physics

Executive Director, Alabama Experimental Program to Stimulate Competive Research (ALEPSCoR)

Director, Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies (COSS)

University of Alabama/Birmingham (UAB)
PHONE: (205) 975-5059, E-Mail:
mailto:lawson@phy.uab.edu, WEB: http://www.phy.uab.edu/~lawson/



Nonlinear Optics and Optical Sensing/Imaging

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. The UAB Research Foundation has submitted a provisional patent application to the US Patent office for this work.  

Administrative Duties / Links:

·         Alabama EPSCoR is a consortium of academic, government and industry organizations established in 1985.  Seven Ph.D. granting institutions constitute the EPSCoR program in Alabama include:  Alabama A&M University, Auburn University,   Tuskegee University, University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the University of South Alabama.  The primary goal of the consortium is to establish the infrastructure, capacity and capability needed to increase sustained national science and technology research competitiveness. 

·         Alabama’s investment in the ALEPSCoR program (averaging 470K/year since 2006) has led to $ 24M in new federal awards in calendar year 2008 being brought into the state.  These new awards include: 

·         A new NSF Research Infrastructure Improvement Cooperative Agreement was awarded in September 2008 for a total of $ 15 million for five years; 

·         A total of $6.5 M in new Co-funding awards ($3.2 M in direct NSF EPSCoR Co-funding, supplemented by $ 3.3 M in NSF Directive funding);

·         Two new DoE EPSCoR federal-state partnership awards for a total of $ 900K;

·         Six new NASA Seed Grant RID (Research Infrastructure Development) totaling $ 180K; and

·         Three new USDA EPSCoR projects totaling $1.5. Click the link for more information.

  • Director, UAB Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies (COSS)  (click the link for more information on COSS)
    • The purpose of the Multi-Institutional “Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies” is to develop laser and fiber optic spectroscopic sensors for detection of explosives and chemical and biological toxins.  These sensors for toxins could have important environmental monitoring applications to help improve the safety and quality of local ground water supplies.  More importantly, when incorporated in airport screening systems, such optical sensors for explosives and chemical and biological toxins could have important Counter-Terrorism applications to help prevent import of explosives and dangerous chemical and biological agents. 



  • Regularly teaches a two semester undergraduate College Physics sequence and also teaches an Applications of Optics graduate/undergraduate course sequence.
  • Class Lecture Notes. (PH201/202)

Selected Recent Journal Articles

  • “Nonlinear Optical Absorption and Fluorescence of Phosphine-Substituted Bithiophenes in the Violet-Blue Spectral Region”, J. Wang, C. Lawson, Q. Zhao, and G. Gray, Optics Communications, Vol. 284, pp. 3090-3094 (2011).
  • “Syntheses, and Optical, Fluorescence and Nonlinear Optical Characterization of Phosphine-Substituted Terthiophenes”, Q. Zhao, J. Wang, J. Freeman, M. Murphy-Jolly, A. Wright, D. Scardino, N.  Hammer, C. Lawson, and G. Gray, Inorganic Chemistry, Vol. 50, pp. 2015-2027 (2011).
  •  “Syntheses, Crystal Structures and Photophysical Measurements of Phosphite-Substituted Schiff Base and Azobenzene Ligands”, M. Murphy-Jolly, S. Owens Jr., J. Freeman, G. Gray, C. Lawson, and David P. Shelton, European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, Vol 2010, Vol. 33, pp. 5263-5271 (2010).
  • “Syntheses, Characterizations and X-ray Crystal Structures of 5,5’-Bis(Diphenylphosphino)2,2’-bithiophene Derivatives,  Ph2(X)P(C4H2S)2P(X)Ph2 (X = O,  S and CH3+ I-)”, Q. Zhao, S. B. Owens Jr., G. M. Gray, J. Wang and C. M. Lawson,” Main Group Chemistry Vol. 6, 2150229 (2007).
  • “Synthesis and Characterization of Transition Metal Systems Containing Phosphino-Oligothiophene Ligands for Nonlinear Optical Materials”, D. Myrex, G. Gray, A. VanEngen Spivey, C. Lawson, Organometallics Vol. 25, pp. 5045-5050 (2006).
  • Higher-Order Triplet-Triplet Interaction in Energy-Level Modeling of Excited-State Absorption for an Expanded Porphyrin Cadmium Complex”, M. McKerns, W. Sun, C. Lawson, and G. Gray, Journal of the Optical Society of America B, Vol. 22, pp. 852-861 (2005).
  • “Amplification of narrow line LiF:F2+** color center laser oscillation”, VanEngen Spivey, V. Fedorov, M. McKerns, C. Lawson, and S. Mirov, Optics Communications, Vol. 254, pp. 290-298 (2005).
  • “Synthesis, X-ray Crystal Structures and Linear and Nonlinear Optical Characterization of a Series of Nickel(II) and Copper(II) Salicylaldiminato Complexes”, M. Floyd, G. Gray, A. VanEngen Spivey, C. Lawson,  T. Pritchett, M. Ferry, R. Hoffman, and A. Mott, Inorganica Chimica Acta, Vol. 358, pp. 3773-3785 (2005). 
  • “Excited State Lifetime and Intersystem Crossing Rate of Asymmetric Pentaazadentate Porphyrin-Like Metal Complexes”, C. Byeon, M. McKerns, W. Sun, T. Nordlund, C. Lawson, and G. Gray, “Applied Physics Letters Vol. 84, pp. 5174-5176 (2004).
  • “Degenerate Four-Wave Mixing and Z-Scan Measurements of Stilbazolium Derivatives”, W. Sun, C. Lawson, G. Gray, C. Zhan, D. Wang, Applied Physics Letters Vol. 78, pp. 1817-1819 (2001).
  • “Third-Order Nonlinear Optical Properties of an Expanded Porphyrin Cadmium Complex”, W. Sun, C. Byeon, C. Lawson, G. Gray, D. Wang, Applied Physics Letters Vol. 77, pp. 1759-1761 (2000).
  • “Third Order Nonlinearity and Optical Limiting of Dichloromethane Solutions of cis-Mo(CO)4(PPh3)2, W. Sun, C. Lawson, and G. Gray, Optics Communications Vol. 180, pp. 361-366 (2000).

Recent Books:

  • T. Yeates, K. Belfield, F. Kajzar, and C. Lawson (Co-Editors), Nonlinear Optical Transmission and Multiphoton Processes in Organics, published by International Society for Optical Engineering, Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 5211, 148 pages (2003).
  • 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.
  • Multiphoton Absorption and Nonlinear Transmission Processes: Materials, Theory, and Applications, K. Belfield, S. Caracci, F. Kajzar, C. Lawson, and A. Yeates (Co-Editors), SPIE Vol. 4797, 320 pages (2002).
  • Nonlinear Optical Transmission Processes and Organic Photorefractive Materials, C. Lawson and K. Meerholz (Co-Editors), published by the International Society for Optical Engineering, Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 4462, 228 pages (2001).
  • Linear, Nonlinear, and Power Limiting Organics, CM. Eich, M. Kuzyk, and C. Lawson, (Co-Editors), International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 4106, 418 pages (2000).
  • 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).
  • Structure-Property Relationships In Transition Metal-Organic Third-Order Nonlinear Optical Materials, G. Gray and C. Lawson, pp. 1-27, Chapter I of Opto-Electronic Properties of Inorganic Compounds, edited by M. Roundhill & J. Fackler (Plenum Publishing Co., N.Y., N.Y., 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).
  • Nonlinear Optical Liquids, C.M. Lawson (Editor), published by International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 2853, 210 pages (1996).