Kyle Jensen, who has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics (ATAP) Division’s BELLA Center. Kyle is no stranger to ATAP; last year, he completed a 12-month Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) scholarship at BELLA. In this 3Q4, Kyle discusses his SCGSR experience, research interests, and future career goals.
How did you find the experience as a SCGSR scholar at the Lab?
The SCGSR program provided an opportunity to experience the unique national laboratory environment—vastly different from the university or industrial environments—first-hand while also gaining valuable knowledge and mentorship from some of the leading contributors to our field.
The scholarship was a rewarding experience and a catalyst in my growth as a scientist as I transitioned from graduate school to the post-graduate stage of my academic life. While the research for my SCGSR was fascinating, the mentorship provided by Jeroen van Tilborg [Staff Scientist at the BELLA Center] and Sam Barber [Research Scientist at BELLA] and the warm welcome I received from the staff and researchers at BELLA and the wider Lab community, were the highlights of my time at the Lab.
Could you describe the research you are conducting at BELLA?
I am working on the Hundred-Terawatt Undulator (HTU) beamline at the BELLA Center, where the aim is to develop and demonstrate a laser-plasma accelerator-based free-electron laser. This involves generating high-quality, relativistic electron bunches in the laser-plasma accelerator, advanced charge beam manipulation and transport to the downstream undulator, and (hopefully) the subsequent generation of short-wavelength undulator radiation (extreme ultraviolet light to X-rays) as the electrons wiggle back and forth.
We can further characterize the laser wakefield accelerated electron bunches by subjecting the electrons to the downstream transport and undulator stages. This leads to a better understanding of the physics of laser-plasma interactions. This work also aims to further the pursuit of packaging the capabilities of large-scale accelerator facilities, such as Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source or the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, into more compact, narrow-band light sources.
What is the big-picture goal you would like to achieve in your career?
Fundamental science drives the advancement of next-generation technologies. However, critical state-of-the-art science can sometimes feel far removed from daily life or industrial applications. I have always been excited about the intersection of science and real-world applications.
In laser wakefield acceleration, state-of-the-art research often requires state-of-the-art facilities and complex and finely-tuned laser systems. This, however, can limit the accessibility of this science to the greater scientific community and its implementation into ready and practical applications.
I aim to make these processes, such as electron acceleration and X-ray generation, more efficient and accessible. By developing more efficient electron acceleration and radiation generation processes, smaller, more simple laser systems could potentially be used, increasing the accessibility of their application to smaller-scale university or industrial operations.
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