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The JRM stories from the 2011 Physics department newsletter.

Lasers in the James R. Macdonald Laboratory

Atomic Physics Research News

Itzik Ben-Itzhak

The J.R. Macdonald Laboratory continues at the forefront of AMO (Atomic, Molecular and Optical) ultrafast laser physics research and AMO in general. Hosting the 2nd international conference on Attosecond Physics at the K-State Alumni Center in July 2009 has helped us establish this theme. Another big step in this will be the addition of PULSAR – a high repetition rate laser system that will complement our existing laser systems, provide ample beam time, and open new research opportunities for our experimental group. The PULSAR will occupy space that once housed the linear accelerator (LINAC) installed in JRML in the late 1980’s.

The Kansas Light Source (KLS) continues to serve as our main workhorse, now scheduled essentially 24 hours per day 7 days per week. This laser delivers 25 fs, 800 nm pulses with 2 mJ of energy at 2.0 kilohertz. The pulse can be shortened to 6 fs and the phase of the “carrier” of the laser relative to the pulse “envelope” can be stabilized. In spite of the efficient use of KLS beam time, lack of laser time has been the main limiting factor on our experimental program. As mentioned above, we expect that the DOE funded PULSAR (~1.3 million dollar) laser system will alleviate this problem. We plan to have this new laser system operational before the fall of 2011.

In the meantime, Zenghu Chang’s group has kept up with the high demand for laser time, while continuously developing new capabilities such as isolated sub 100 attosecond (<10-16 s) laser pulses. Lew Cocke’s group is conducting cutting-edge attosecond physics experiments, in which a short train of attosecond pulses is generated and used to probe atoms and molecules. In addition, Lew continues his collaborative research on the interaction of light with simple molecules at the ALS as well as COLTRIMS and VMI studies of laser interaction with simple molecules locally, the latter in collaboration with Matthias Kling. Vinod Kumarappan continues to align and orient complex molecules in space and images them using VMI tomography or a recently developed optical method. A “Dazzler”, a device capable of generating “designer” pulses by cutting out or modifying user-chosen slices of the wavelength range of the pulse, has been used by Brett DePaola’s group and by Eric Wells, from Augustana College, to control reaction dynamics of atoms and molecules. The ECR ion source has been used heavily by Steve Lundeen, from Colorado State Univ., to study uranium and thorium ions, and by Itzik Ben-Itzhak’s group to study fragmentation of molecular ions including unique molecular system, such as vibrationally cold CO2+, in intense ultrashort laser pulses.

The JRML theory effort has paralleled our experimental work. For example, Chii-Dong Lin’s group has employed their quantitative rescattering (QRS) theory to image a chemical reaction, Uwe Thumm’s group investigated the dissociation dynamics of molecules in ultrashort laser pulses and attosecond time resolved electron emission from atoms and metal surfaces by XUV pulses, and Brett Esry’s group studied the behavior of simple benchmark atoms and molecules in ultrashort, intense laser pulses. In addition, Brett’s research on cold collisions and Efimov physics has intensified since the approval of the MURI grant to the multi-university group he is part of.

We are especially proud to report that distinguished professor Chii-Dong Lin has received the 2010 Olin Petefish Award in Basic Science from the Higuchi Endowment Association. The Higuchi awards recognize accomplishments of researchers at Kansas Board of Regents institutions.

The groups of Kristan Corwin and Brian Washburn specialize in nonlinear optics and molecular spectroscopy in photonic crystal fibers (PCF) for metrology and laser physics. Recently, they demonstrated a new type of laser, in which molecular gases like acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, inside PCF, form a laser in the infrared (funded by the Department of Defense). In addition, their group continues to use phase-stabilized fiber lasers as frequency combs to perform precision spectroscopy on gases inside PCF, and to improve portable near-infrared frequency references.

Changes of key JRML personnel continued with the hiring of Dr. Carlos Trallero, from NRC Ottawa, Canada, as a new faculty member in our department. Professor Zenghu Chang resigned his faculty position this summer and moved to the University of Central Florida. His research group is undergoing a transition period that is projected to end by February 2012. We have also had many changes in junior lab personnel. As new postdocs, Baozhen Zhao from Osaka Univ., Japan, has joined Zenghu Chang’s group; Nicolais Guevara from Univ. of Florida, Christian Madsen from the Univ. of Arhus, Denmark, and Ed Meyer from JILA, have joined Brett Esry’s group. William Hageman from CREOL, Univ. of Central Florida, has joined Brian Washburn’s group. A couple of our postdocs moved to new jobs: Shouyuan Chen – a Research Assistant Professor at the Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, and Blake Laing – post-doc at Rowan Univ.  Six of our graduate students (advisor) received their PhD’s and moved to postdoc or industry positions: Steve Gilbertson and He Wang (Chang), post docs at Los Alamos and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, respectively, Dipanwita Ray (Cocke), post doc at Argonne National Lab, Kevin Knabe (Corwin), post-doc at NIST, Boulder, CO, Yujun Wang (Esry), post doc at JILA, Boulder, CO, and Hyounguk Jang (DePaola), just graduated. New graduate students in the JRML include: Utuq Abulikemu and Ben Berry (Ben-Itzhak), Yan Cheng (Chang), Hui Li (Kling/Cocke), Geoffrey Jacobs (Thumm), Wes Erbsen (Trallero), May Ebbeni (Washburn).

We have had a long parade of excellent colloquium speakers in AMO this year. Oleg Kornilov from UC Berkeley, Brett Barwick from Cal Tech, Hans Wörner from NRC, Ottawa, Canada, Carlos Trallero from NRC, Ottawa, Canada, and Bernold Feuerstein from Max-Planck Inst. for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg, Germany. Outside speakers at our AMO seminar this year have included Matthias Weidemüller from Heidelberg Univ., Germany, Ya Cheng from Shanghai Institute, China, Oded Heber from Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, Bernold Feuerstein from MPI, Heidelberg, Germany, Cosmin Blaga from Ohio State Univ., Steve Lundeen from Colorado State Univ., Uri Lev from Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, Martin Centurion from the Univ. of Nebraska, and Hiromasa Ito from RIKEN, Japan.

Chii-Dong Lin

Lin Receives Olin Petefish Award from KU

Chii-Dong Lin was a recipient of a prestigious Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards for 2010.

The awards, now in their 28th year, honor outstanding accomplishments in research by faculty members at KU and other Kansas Board of Regents institutions. The recognition program was established by Takeru Higuchi, a distinguished professor at KU from 1967 to 1983, and his late widow, Aya.

Four individual awards are given the award annually. They are named for former leaders of KU Endowment who played key roles in recruiting Higuchi to KU. Their longtime financial support of KU helped enhance university research throughout the state of Kansas.

Each award includes a plaque and a $10,000 grant for ongoing research efforts. The award money can be used for research materials, summer salaries, fellowship matching funds, hiring research assistants or other support related to research.

The 2010 Higuchi Award winners were recognized formally at a ceremony and reception Nov. 3 at the Adams Alumni Center on the KU campus in Lawrence.

Dr. Lin was awarded the Olin Petefish Award in Basic Science. Chii-Dong Lin is a University Distinguished Professor of Physics at K-State and associate director of the J.R. Macdonald Laboratory. He joined the faculty in 1976 and is recognized internationally as a pioneering researcher in several important fields of atomic, molecular and optical physics. His early career focused on the theoretical description of energetic ion-atom collisions. Later, he turned to studies of ultrafast, intense-field, short-pulse, laser-based physics and is regarded as a world leader in both fields. During his career, Lin has published more than 325 heavily cited scientific papers. In 2009, he organized and chaired a conference that attracted 250 of the world’s leading ultrafast/laser scientists to Manhattan, underscoring his international research reputation.

Brett DePaola

US State Department Selects K-State Physics Professor as 2010-11 Jefferson Science Fellow

A Kansas State University physics professor will spend the next school year serving as a scientific adviser to the U.S. Department of State as a Jefferson Science Fellow. Brett DePaola says he was inspired to seek the elite fellowship by President Obama.

DePaola is one of only 12 individuals selected to receive the fellowship for 2010-2011. Tenured academic scientists and engineers from U.S. institutions of higher learning are eligible for selection as Jefferson Science Fellows. They spend a year at the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development for an on-site assignment in Washington, D.C., that may also involve extended stays at U.S. foreign embassies and/or missions.

"I applied for this program because I was inspired by President Obama's call for all of us to volunteer whatever we had to offer for the good of the country," DePaola said. "As a teacher, I feel I am already making a contribution. However, as a science adviser to the State Department, I have an opportunity to contribute even more -- for one year -- before returning to my teaching and research at K-State."

DePaola and the other Fellows will not be assigned to a particular office or bureau until after they arrive in Washington, D.C., in mid-August.

"At that time, we will all be interviewed by the offices or bureaus that are interested in us, and we will be matched according to their needs and our expertise," DePaola said.

All Jefferson fellowships are contingent upon awardees obtaining an official U.S. government security clearance. In general, Fellow assignments involve providing up-to-date expertise in the rapidly advancing science, technology and engineering arenas that routinely impact the policy decisions encountered by the State Department/USAID.

"The notion is that a scientist may be able to determine the essential points, distill them, and transmit them in language that an intelligent non-scientist can understand, better than the State Department staff can do -- even in a topic outside the scientist's field. I share this belief and hope to contribute," DePaola said.

DePaola studies the interaction of matter with light research, an area of atomic, molecular and optical physics. While he said his specialization is unlikely to be of direct use to the State Department, the fundamental nature of his research has prepared him to grasp and communicate the essence of a broad range of science topics.

"While my primary motivation is to contribute in the best way I can to our country, I also hope to learn a great deal from this experience and use this to become a better researcher and teacher here at K-State," he said. "For example, being required to learn about many different science issues in order to bring greater understanding to members of the State Department should help me see my own research in the greater picture of science endeavors. Furthermore, the experience of trying to communicate complicated issues in many areas of science to non-technocrats should help me broaden my teaching skills."

When DePaola returns to K-State in fall 2011, he will remain available to the State Department/USAID for short-term projects through 2016.

DePaola, who joined K-State in 1986, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Miami University in Ohio and a doctorate in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

More information on the Jefferson Science Fellowship program is available via the National Academies of Science.

Governor Awards K-State Physics Employees with 40-Year Service Pins

Governor Mark Parkinson presented K-State employees with 40-year service pins at an Aug. 20 ceremony at the Kansas History Museum and Library in Topeka. Receiving an award from the Physics Department were Robert D. Krause, James R. Macdonald Laboratory, who attended the ceremony. Although unable to attend the ceremony, Charles "Lew" Cocke, department of physics; was later presented with his pin by Gary Leitnaker, associate vice president, human resources and parking services, on behalf of the governor.

Physics Undergraduate Builds Pulse Laser Through K-State Summer Research Program

The summer months serve as a vacation from academia for many college students, but for one undergraduate visiting Kansas State University it's been a chance to shine a new light on the field of measurement.

Jennifer Black, a senior at Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia, was working with Brian Washburn, associate professor of physics at K-State, on a nonlinear optics project. Her research was through the K-State physics department's 2010 Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Black's project focused on building an ultrafast pulse laser.

"My project involves taking photonic bandgap fiber, which is a fiber containing a series of well-placed holes, and putting a carbon nanotube polymer solution into the center hole. Then we hope to mode-lock a fiber laser using this solution-filled fiber," said Black, a Marietta, Ga., resident.

Mode-locking a laser would cause it to emit pulses of light in an extremely short duration, on the order of picoseconds or femtoseconds. The results could be significant in metrology, the science of measurement, since the laser would give very precise measurements and could be used as a laser-guided ruler. It also could be significant in the field of spectroscopy, the study of an object's light into its component colors/energies, Black said.

Should her trials prove successful, Black plans to publish her research in a scientific journal.

"Although I haven’t had success yet, I believe this is possible," she said. "It's a very difficult project."

The National Science Foundation has funded the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in physics at K-State since 1992. The program is an effort to stimulate interest in graduate education and a research career. It provides opportunities for students from Kansas and across the country to conduct significant research in a supportive environment. Last summer 14 undergraduate students were participating in physics, with similar programs in biology, mathematics, psychology, and chemical engineering at K-State.

Funding for Black's research was also made possible by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Kevin Knabe

K-State Physics Graduate Student Awarded Fellowship to Study Suitable Nonlinear Optics, Fiber Laser Sources at National Institute of Standards & Technology

A Kansas State University doctoral student from Derby has been awarded a fellowship for physics research that will make it possible for basic chemical compounds to be detected quickly and accurately.

Kevin Knabe, a K-State doctoral student in physics, received a fellowship from the National Research Council's Research Associateship Program, funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The fellowship will pay his salary at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., for two years while he researches the technology of extending optical frequency combs into the infrared region of the spectrum.

Knabe said that an outcome of the research could be identifying basic chemical compounds. Different molecules have different absorption fingerprints, and because few laser sources exist in the infrared region, Knabe will be working on new ways to fix this.

This area of research will be useful for many applications, including high precision spectroscopy of basic molecular bonds, determining the chemical composition of the atmosphere and precision ranging, which is similar to radar.

Knabe studies under Kristan Corwin, K-State associate professor of physics. He is a 1999 graduate of Derby High School and the son of Otis and Cathy Knabe of Derby.

Carol Regehr

Alum Carol Regehr, MS '85, Selected as Interim WESP Outreach Coordinator at K-State

Ms. Carol Regehr, graduate and former employee of the Department of Physics, has been named the Interim WESP Outreach Coordinator here at K-State. Carol is working with the GROW and EXCITE activities.

GROW is designed to encourage and support girls in the 6th -8th grades to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering & mathematics. We offer one-day events and summer workshop on the main K-State campus in Manhattan KS. All events offer hands-on activities that focus on how scientists and engineers help make the world a better place. See for more information.

EXCITE! is designed to encourage and support students in the 9th -12th grades to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering & mathematics. We offer one-day events and a summer workshop on the main K-State campus in Manhattan KS for high school girls and events off campus for high school boys. All events offer hands-on activities that focus on how scientists and engineers help make the world a better place. See for more information.

Last updated on Thursday, 26-May-2011