Professor, Department of Physics

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

Director, Alabama EPSCoR Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP)

Vice Chair, Coalition of EPSCoR States

University of Alabama/Birmingham (UAB)
PHONE: (205) 975-5059, E-Mail:, WEB:



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.

Administrative Duties / Links:

1. Executive Director, Alabama EPSCoR (   (click the link for more information on Alabama EPSCoR)

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. 


1.    New NSF EPSCoR federal awards of $7.1M

2.    EPSCoR Research Expenditures of $17.9M

3.    Alabama researchers received $5.6M of NSF EPSCoR Co-Funded awards

4.    Continuation of  DOE EPSCoR Implementation grant for Alabama EPSCoR

5.    Five USDA EPSCoR awards for $1.2M

6.    New NASA EPSCoR awards for $0.25M

7.    Dr. Lawson worked with Alabama Dept. of Commerce to supervise award process for Governor Bentley’s Alabama Innovation Fund, with $3.92M of awards being funded.

2. Director of Alabama Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP) ( (click the link for more information on the Alabama GRSP Program)

Graduate students who represent the next generation of researchers and innovators are critical to the advancement of Alabama’s high-tech human resource capacity. To assist our institutions of higher education in training this next generation of scientists and engineers investments are required to attract the brightest and best scholars who will contribute to the state’s vision of economic growth and prosperity.  In 2013, the Alabama Legislature continued the appropriation to ALEPSCoR through the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) for the purpose of funding the Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP), which provides graduate research scholarships to graduate students performing EPSCoR related research. Since its inception in 2006, the program has funded more than 187 exceptional graduate students. Round Eight began in the Fall of 2013 funding 43 students with 21 new recipients. Students are selected competitively by a team consisting of one campus coordinator from each of the Ph.D. granting institutions in the ALEPSCoR Program.

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3. Vice Chair, Coalition of EPSCoR States ( (click the link for more information on the EPSCoR Foundation and Coalition)

Dr. Lawson serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Coalition of EPSCoR States, which coordinates all national EPSCoR activities. As Vice Chair, Dr. Lawson is providing leadership for the EPSCoR program on a national level. As part of his Coalition activities, he has made numerous trips to the Alabama US Senate and Congressional Offices since 1999 to advocate funding for research generally and EPSCoR research specifically. Dr. Lawson was ask to testify in front of Congress on behalf of the EPSCoR Coalition in support of the NSF EPSCoR and NASA EPSCoR budgets to the U.S. Congress House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in March of 2012 (see: and again in March of 2013 (see:  He also provided written expert witness testimony to the "Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments” full U.S. Senate Hearings in April of 2014.





Refereed Journal Articles (2000-present)

  1. “Synthesis, Linear and Nonlinear Optical Properties of Phosphonato-Substituted Bithiophenes Derived from 2,2’-Biphenol”, J. Freeman, Q. Zhao, J. Wang, Y. Zhang, C. Lawson and G. Gray, Dalton Transactions 42, 14281-14297 (2013).
  2. “Syntheses, X-ray crystal structures and optical, fluorescence and nonlinear optical characterizations of diphenylphosphino-substituted bithiophenes”, Q. Zhao, Y. Zhang, J. Freeman, J. Wang, C. Lawson and G. Gray, Inorganic Chemistry Vol. 51, pp. 2016-2030 (2012).
  3. “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).
  4. “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).
  5.  “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).
  6. “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).
  7. “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).
  8. 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).
  9. “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).
  10. “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). 
  11. “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).
  12. “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).
  13. “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).
  14. “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).


  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. 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).
  7. 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).
  8. 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).
  9. 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).
  10. Nonlinear Optical Liquids, C.M. Lawson (Editor), published by International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), Bellingham, Washington, SPIE Vol. 2853, 210 pages (1996).