Berkeley Lab

APS-DPB Thesis Award for BELLA’s Obst-Huebl

Lieselotte Obst-Huebl

Lotti Obst-Huebl. (Photo courtesy Axel Huebl/Berkeley Lab)

Lieselotte (“Lotti”) Obst-Huebl, a postdoctoral researcher in ATAP’s BELLA Center, has been honored with the 2021 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Beam Physics Award by the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Physics of Beams (DPB).

Lotti was given the award and gave an invited talk Sunday, April 18, 2021, in the Wilson Prize Session of the virtual APS April Meeting.

Established in 1990, the award recognizes doctoral thesis research of outstanding quality and achievement in beam physics and engineering.

The award cites her “outstanding experimental work in laser-driven proton acceleration establishing unprecedented performance with high-repetition rate cryogenic hydrogen jet targets, opening the path to real-world applications, and for the discovery of an all-optical method to shape proton beam profiles.”

Lotti earned her PhD in laser-plasma acceleration from Technische Universität Dresden, performing her experimental work primarily at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) DRACO laser. She also conducted research for her doctoral studies at Laboratoire pour l’Utilisation des Lasers Intenses (LULI) of École Polytechnique, and at the Matter in Extreme Conditions instrument of the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC.

Lotti in the target area at DRACO. (© Christian Essler/HZDR)

Lotti at work in the target area at the DRACO petawatt laser. (© Christian Essler/HZDR)

Her undergraduate and Masters-level studies, which included working one to two days a week with the HZDR group since her fourth semester, prepared Lotti to “dive right in” as an experimental physicist at a laser facility. Then, “During the time when I did my PhD, the group that I worked in was starting to take on very fruitful collaborations with SLAC and with the Ohio State University,” she said, adding, “I benefitted a lot from these collaborations, not only with some very nice data sets, but also because they helped me to start a network in the community.”

After Lotti received her doctorate in 2019, BELLA Center research scientist Sven Steinke (now head of experimental physics and lasers at the German firm Marvel Fusion) told her of a postdoctoral opportunity at Berkeley Lab. “I had a good seven months to settle in, meet people at the Lab, and do some experiments before the pandemic,” she said. She took part in experiments with the BELLA petawatt laser, including a collaboration with experimental users from the Ohio State University through the LaserNetUS program; studies of the radiobiological effects of laser-accelerated ions led by Antoine Snijders of Berkeley Lab BioSciences; a double plasma mirror experiment; and electron acceleration runs with discharge capillaries.

Lieselotte Obst-Huebl

Lotti at work (and complying with COVID precautions) near a BELLA experimental chamber. (Photo courtesy Lotti Obst-Huebl)

Presently she is primarily working on experimental planning for IP2, a project that will add a new intensity-boosted laser delivery system to the BELLA petawatt laser to support highly-nonlinear laser-matter interaction studies and laser-ion acceleration. Fortunately this has been a pandemic-friendly endeavor, especially with the BELLA petawatt laser being shut down for the second-beamline and IP2 project work, and recently she has been able to come onsite two to three days a week to work with Kei Nakamura on preparing the BELLA laser for the upcoming experiments.

Lotti was also honored last year with an alumni talk and a poster presentation at the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting.

The text of her PhD thesis is available online.