The thrust of research in our group is in optical and x-ray science using new tabletop light sources. We develop these new ultrafast laser and coherent x-ray sources as part of our research in optical science, and then make use of these light sources for new experiments in physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering. Since x ray techniques are ubiquitous in science, our group is necessarily multi-disciplinary. We have PhD students from physics, engineering and chemistry who work together and in a coordinated fashion to solve grand-challenge scientific problems that are also at the technological forefront. Students from our group go on to positions both in academe and in industry.
Many (but not all) of our projects involve generating and using "laser-like" beams of short wavelength light - at wavelengths 10-10000 times shorter than visible light. These wavelengths lie in the EUV (extreme ultraviolet) and soft X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and make it possible to generate attosecond-duration light pulses, to capture the fastest processes in nature. Furthermore, x-ray wavelengths are well matched to the primary atomic resonances of most elements, making possible many elemental, chemical, and magnetic state specific spectroscopies.
X-ray wavelengths also correspond to the scale relevant to nanotechnology (~1-100 nm). To make rapid progress in "nano", a wide variety of techniques will be needed to make it possible to see, manipulate, and make small objects and to follow function at the nano-femto limits. Ultrafast x-rays can capture the fastest coupled motions of electrons and ions in molecules and materials, probe thick objects using ultrahigh-resolution imaging based on diffraction, or capture catalytic function in molecular and surface systems - all of which are complimentary to other existing nano probes such as atomic force microscopes. Thus, ultrafast coherent x-ray beams promise to become indispensable tools in the quest to develop practical nanoscale "machines".