Aaron Rury

Aaron Rury

Assistant Professor



Chem 77



Aaron Rury


Research in the Material Structure and Dynamics Laboratory (MSDL) strives to uncover the fundamental physical processes that lead to useful properties in emerging materials. New materials with useful and exotic properties remain necessary for the development of next generation technologies in electronics, photonics, and information science. The discovery of new materials also means the development and use of tools to explore the physical mechanisms from which their properties derive. Student and postdoctoral researchers in the MSDL will use experimental, theoretical, and computational methods to tackle problems that span the fields of chemistry, physics, materials science, and optics to connect physical mechanisms to material properties.

Our approach in the MSDL is founded on understanding material structure-function relationships through the lens of vibrational spectroscopy. In particular, we design, develop, and deploy vibrational spectroscopic techniques based on pulses of laser light whose durations are less than 1 tenth of 1 trillionth of a second (10-13 s). Light pulses this short possess peak intensities that drive multiple photon-material interactions and give rise to the nonlinear optical properties of materials. In the MSDL, we will use these nonlinear optical interactions to produce new wavelengths of light, induce quantum coherent vibrational evolution, and watch the ultrafast dynamics of photo-excited material systems.

Initial projects in the MSDL include:


  • Charge carrier transport in organic semiconductors: Despite their promise to reduce the cost of electronic components, semiconducting materials formed from molecules have not been able to significantly penetrate our daily lives. Much of this fact stems from our lack of a clear physical picture of charge transport in these materials. In the MSDL, we will apply ultrafast vibrational spectroscopic techniques to address this uncertainty and supply new knowledge on how charge moves through these materials.
  • Designing material properties using next generation photochemistry: By confining a resonant electromagnetic fields near a material one can form new states whose nature mixes matter and light. These states provide a novel phase space to pursue the design and characterization of new material properties. We will form these states, determine how they affect material properties, and characterize the physical mechanisms leading to these changes using nonlinear and ultrafast spectroscopic techniques.
  • Dynamics near ferroelectric phase transitions: Ferroelectric materials possess the propensity to replace conventional magnetic memory at a substantially reduced cost in energy. Despite this promise, it remains unclear how to drive such materials between ferro- and paraelectric phases for memory storage and readout. We will develop novel coherent Raman pump-THz probe spectroscopic techniques to understand how specific vibrational excitations can be used to drive these transitions.


  • B.S. Physics (minor in Chemistry), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004
  • Ph.D. Applied Physics, University of Michigan, 2012
  • Caltech Postdoc at JPL, California Institute of Technology, 2012-2014
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Southern California, 2014-2017

Selected publications

  1. "Evidence of Ultrafast Charge Transfer Driven by Coherent Lattice Vibrations", Aaron S. Rury, Shayne Sorenson and Jahan M. Dawlaty, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2017, 8, pp 181-187.
  2. "Solvent Forces Drive Stacking Interactions between Polyaromatic Molecules", Aaron S. Rury, Christine Ferry, Jonathan Ryan Hunt, Myungjin Lee, Dibyendu Mondal, Sean M. O. O'Connell, Ethan N. H. Phan, Zaili Peng, Pavel Pokhilko, Daniel Sylvinson, Yingsheng Zhou, and Chi H. Mak, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2016, 120, pp 23858-23869
  3. "Coherent Vibrational Probes of Hydrogen Bond Structure Following Ultrafast Electron Transfer", Aaron S. Rury, Shayne A. Sorenson and Jahan M. Dawlaty, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2016, 120, pp 21740-21750.
  4. "Resonant interactions between discrete phonons in quinhydrone driven by nonlinear electron-phonon coupling" Aaron S. Rury, Physical Review B, 2016, 93, 214307.
  5. "Intermolecular electron transfer from intramolecular excitation and coherent acoustic phonon generation in a hydrogen-bonded charge-transfer solid", Aaron S. Rury, Shayne Sorenson, and Jahan M. Dawlaty, The Journal of Chemical Physics, 2016, 144, 104701.


Currently teaching

  • CHM 5440 Physical Chemistry 2, 4 credit hours, W2020CHM 5998 Honors Thesis Research in Chemistry, 2-4 credit hours, W2020CHM 5999 Research in Chemistry, 2-4 credit hours, W2020 

Courses taught

CHM 5440 Physical Chemistry 2, 4 credit hours, W2019
CHM 7480 Molecular Spectroscopy, 3 credit hours, W2019