2005 JR Macdonald Lab
Departmental Newsletter Article

Note that no attempt has been made to maintain the links in older newsletters.


James R. Macdonald Laboratory (JRML)
Lew Cocke

This has been a year of major transitions and events.  After leading the James R. Macdonald laboratory as Principal Investigator and/or director for nearly three decades and guiding it through a major upgrade in the late eighties and early nineties, Pat Richard stepped down as director in February.  Do not think of this as a “retirement” however.  Pat remains a very active member of the James R. Macdonald group, doing research on nanotubes using the new Kansas Light Source in the James R. Macdonald Laboratory.  The directorship and PI duties have fallen to yours truly, who has a very hard act to follow.  The Department of Energy three year grant’ “Structure and Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Surfaces”, was renewed at $2.5M per year in February of 2004, through February of 2007.

The evolution of the laboratory from pure accelerator-based dynamics to laser-based work continues.  The target rooms which were served by the Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator have now been entirely converted for laser-related work.  The old “long room” houses the Kansas Light Source (KLS) which is the central Ti:Sapphire laser system of the laboratory.  This facility, built and operated by Zenghu Chang and Bing Shan, delivers up to 4 mJ / 35 fs  pulses of 800 nm radiation at 1 to 2 kHz, and feeds five experimental areas outside the KLS as well as numerous experiments inside.  It runs nearly 24 hours a day and often seven days a week, serving typically two to three users in parallel.  With the recent addition of two fiber installations, it can deliver pulse lengths as short as 8 fs.  Also in the “long room” area is the MOTRIMS (Magneto Optical Trap Recoil Ion Momentum Spectroscopy) setup of Brett DePaola.  Brett is using a MOT (Magneto Optical Trap) as a very cold target for studying both collisions and for using the collisions to follow the time evolution of the MOT.  The old “square room” now houses a COLTRIMS (Cold Target Recoil Ion Momentum Spectroscopy) chamber with which Igor Litvinyuk and I are studying the dynamics of small molecules exposed to intense laser pulses from the KLS.  It also houses the new LUMOS (Lasers for Ultrafast Metrology and Optical Spectroscopy) laboratory of Kristan Corwin.  Kristan is doing laser-metrology, using a laser “clock” to determine frequency references which are of use to, for example, the communications industry.  This effort will be strengthened by the addition in the fall of 2005 of a new faculty member in this area, Brian Washburn.  Brian received his Ph.D. degree from Georgia Tech and has been working as a post doc on fiber lasers at NIST in Boulder, Colorado.

Stand-alone operation of the accelerators continues in the LINAC and EBIS areas.  Steve Lundeen (Colorado State University) continues to use the EBIS regularly, and Theo Zouros (University of Crete) returns often to use the fast ion beams.  The ECR ion source is being used by Itzik Ben-Itzhak to study the ionization of small molecular ions by interaction with the intense laser pulses from the KLS, while Charles Fehrenbach is constructing a MOTRIMS setup on the EBIS whenever he is not taking care of the EBIS and the ECR.  A new project, directed by Kevin Carnes, has just been initiated on the Tandem to use the KLS beams to generate picosecond pulses of energetic ion beams.  This will serve as yet another tool with which to probe the real-time evolution of matter on a picosecond time scale.

The theoretical program has also continued to evolve over the past year, supporting and to a considerable extent driving the changes in the experimental program.  Chii Dong Lin, Uwe Thumm, Brett Esry and Xiao-Min Tong are all working in various areas of intense laser work, often in close collaboration with the experimental programs.  The productivity of the laboratory remains very high.  During the past calendar year we have published about fifty articles in refereed journals, of which eleven were in Physical Review Letters.  Some of these have been selected for special citing in Physics Today (Search and Discovery, September 2003), Physics Focus (http://focus.aps.org/story/v14/st12) the Advanced Light Source Newsletter (http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/CSD-molecular-movement.html, http://www-als.lbl.gov/als/science/sci_archive/90electron_emission.html).  The study of the dynamics of ions, atoms, molecules and clusters fills the air with both lasers and accelerators humming.  It is an exciting time in the JRM laboratory.

Cocke Recognized with Research Award from KU

C. Lewis Cocke, a K-State distinguished professor of physics, was honored with the Olin Petefish Award in basic sciences from the University of Kansas for his internationally recognized work in ion-atom collisions and intense short laser pulses. Cocke received the honor in October at a reception at KU.


The Olin Petefish Research Award is given in recognition of research achievement in the basic sciences that has had substantial impact and national and/or international interest.  The Petefish award is one of four Higuchi/Endowment Research Achievement Awards established in 1981 by the late Takeru Higuchi, KU distinguished professor of chemistry, along with his wife, Aya.  They stipulated that faculty members at all Kansas regents institutions be eligible.

Undergraduate Student Studies Single and Double Ionization of Water

The Developing Scholars Program is in its fifth year on campus.  DSP is an undergraduate research opportunity program targeting underrepresented populations (students of color and first generation college students).  DSP matches selected students with faculty research mentors who provide an early introduction to a student’s field of study as well as providing academic, social, and financial support.  In this way, DSP hopes to open many opportunities for students and help prepare them for graduate work and professional schools.  Students can be in the program up to three years during which time they are paid a stipend.  Summers are free so they can participate in other programs such as McNair Scholars and Pathways, among others.

The aim of DSP is to foster students’ active participation, alongside a faculty mentor, in the discovery and creation of new knowledge at KSU and to increase the pool of bright, well-prepared students from underrepresented backgrounds for graduate studies.  Matt Leonard, junior in physics and undergraduate assistant of Dr. Itzik Ben-Itzhak, is in his final year of eligibility with the Developing Scholars Program.  Matt’s work has been on the Isotopic Dependence of Bond-Rearrangement in Single and Double Ionization of Water.

The Kansas NSF EPSCoR Summer Research Program coordinates with the McNair Scholars programs in Kansas.  Six students from groups underrepresented in the sciences are supported for a summer research internship at K-State, KU, or Wichita State University.  Last summer, Matt was one of three EPSCoR undergraduate researchers at K-State.  As an EPSCoR participant, Matt also received instruction in preparation for the GRE, wrote a report of his research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Itzik Ben Itzhak and Dr. Kevin Carnes, and presented that research at the Heartland McNair Research Conference in Kansas City last September. 

The McNair Scholars Program at K-State, now in its tenth year, is designed to prepare students for doctoral study.  This fall, Matt began participation in the McNair Scholars Program at K-State.  Initially, McNair participants attend a Colloquium on Research and Graduate Education.  For each subsequent semester of the two-year McNair Scholars Program, participants attend a weekly McNair Seminar class.  They also receive support to attend research conferences and to visit graduate programs of interest to them.  Participants in the McNair Scholars Program are K-State students either from families with limited incomes and where neither parent has a four-year college degree or are members of groups that are underrepresented in graduate education. 

A major component is the McNair Summer Research Internship where participants will conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.  Next summer, Matt will again be able to conduct research in Physics and continue extending his knowledge and developing his expertise in the field that he finds fascinating.


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