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Current understanding of the dynamical evolution of excited electronic states formed by photoexcitation of DNA is summarized with emphasis on the dynamical events that occur between the instant of excitation and deactivation to either the ground state or a photoproduct. Although singlet excited states of individual nucleobases generally decay nonradiatively in less than 1 ps, excited state relaxation in DNA strands extends over a wide range of timescales and can occur orders of magnitude more slowly due to electronic coupling between adjacent nucleobases. The high time resolution of femtosecond laser spectroscopy has been essential for uncovering the dynamics of excited states. Despite orders of magnitude higher excitation rates, measurements made with coherent, high-intensity laser sources can accurately capture the same underlying events initiated by sunlight. To close, some outstanding questions and opportunities for future research into DNA excited states are presented.

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