The DOE’s prestigious Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program is enabling three graduate students to spend time in ATAP’s BELLA Center in 2022, including experimentalist Kyle Jensen.
The SCGSR program helps prepare graduate students for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers crucial to the DOE Office of Science mission, by providing supplemental funds and an opportunity to conduct part of their thesis research at a DOE laboratory in collaboration with scientists there.
ATAP Division Director Cameron Geddes described the SCGSR program as “an important way for top doctoral students to connect with the team-science environment and leadership facilities at the national laboratories, while combining the strengths of research from their home institutions with those at the Lab to create new projects and capabilities.”
Jensen, a doctoral student from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is working with BELLA Center Deputy Director for Experiments Jeroen van Tilborg and Research Scientist Sam Barber. His SCGSR project—twelve months in duration—will examine whether metallic or dielectric wakefield accelerator structures can be used to measure longitudinal emittance of electron beams. In a nutshell, the leading electrons in a narrow evacuated tube could drive a wakefield strong enough to affect (and thus diagnose) the trailing electrons.
This plays into Jensen’s long-term interest in laser-plasma accelerators (LPAs). A key goal of his work is to demonstrate control over the electron and photon beams’ spectral distribution and brightness. This level of control is useful for any LPA applications—particularly “staging,” the use of the output of one LPA as the input to another in order to achieve higher electron energies. (Staging is key to many LPA applications and especially the eventual goal of a high-energy-physics collider. It was first demonstrated at BELLA Center in 2016, and staging experiments will be an important use of the Second Beamline project on the BELLA Petawatt laser.) “Whether it is a new laser that drives the 2nd stage wakefields, or an electron beam from the first stage that is applied as a driver, these are options worth exploring,” said van Tilborg.
Jensen’s undergraduate degree was from a small liberal-arts college. There he’d gotten some experience with computation and with small-scale lasers, which sparked an interest in atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) physics. When he entered graduate school, a department seminar series included a talk by Professor Matthias Fuchs, leader of the Ultrafast and High-Field X-ray Science Group. “There was something about my advisor’s research that really resonated with me,” recalled Jensen, and in a group that did “everything under the sun” related to that field, he became interested in LPAs.
Connections among people make for scientific progress
Connections between Berkeley Lab and the academic laser science and technology community are key to matching top students with research opportunities. “This is a big SCGSR cohort, said Schroeder. “The faculty advisors are interested in collaborating with us, and SCGSR is a good mechanism to further that collaboration and do some good work.”
“In each case, the combination of the resources and expertise of the Lab with important new ideas move both the students and the research forward,” said Geddes.
Jensen was steered toward both the SCGSR program and Berkeley Lab by his advisor Matthias Fuchs, who had a budding collaboration with BELLA Center.
SCGSR Application Cycle Begins
The Office of Science has opened applications for the next SCGSR cycle (deadline May 4). The prestigious and competitive program invites applications from current Ph.D. students who are in qualified graduate programs at accredited U.S. academic institutions; who are conducting their graduate thesis research in targeted subject areas; and who are US citizens or lawful permanent residents. ATAP encourages interested students to reach out to scientists in the Division to discuss potential projects.