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So far Lauren Mason has created 132 blog entries.

Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, who are also fellows in JILA, recognized for work in cutting-edge lasers

Two scientists who pioneered technologies for generating coherent X-rays, which helped propel research in dynamic processes in atoms, molecules and materials, have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, the academy announced today. Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, physics professors at the University of Colorado Boulder, direct a laboratory in JILA, a joint institute of CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They are among 175 inventors to be named 2020 National Academy of Inventors. Murnane and Kapteyn are co-inventors on 17 U.S. patents and have published more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles. They are co-founders of KM Labs, a startup company that produces high-power, high-performance table-top laser systems.

Congrats to Yuka Esashi for Receiving the 2021 Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship

Yuka Esashi has been announced as the 2021 recipient of the $10,000 Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and Mentor Graphics, a Siemens Business, for her potential contributions to the field related to advanced lithography.  Esashi is pursuing her PhD in physics at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Kapteyn-Murnane group. She is co-lead of a research team that is addressing much-needed advances in metrology techniques for the semiconductor industry, where techniques with high resolution, fidelity and sensitivity are needed. With her team, Esashi has developed phase-sensitive EUV imaging reflectometry, a novel technique which combines computational imaging with EUV reflectometry to measure depth-dependent chemical composition of semiconductor samples in a spatially-resolved and non-destructive manner. In her current research, she is planning on applying this technique to a wider range of next-generation structures and materials. Esashi received her BA in Physics from Reed College in 2017, and her MS in Physics from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019.

Postdoctoral Opportunity – Integrated Photonics

We are currently seeking talented and motivated postdoctoral candidates to join our group at the University of Maryland, working at the Laboratory for Physical Sciences on integrated photonic devices.  Our laboratory offers state-of-the-art research facilities, including access to nanofabrication facilities at LPS and through the Maryland Nanocenter, optical waveguide measurement, and high-speed photonic characterization tools.  The successful applicant will participate in existing projects and contribute to advancing our research program by investigating novel concepts and devices and proposing new ideas.

Essential skills and experience sought:

  • PhD awarded (or expected) in Applied Physics, Engineering, Physics, or related field
  • Excellent communication skills (in writing and speaking)
  • Basic cleanroom fabrication experience (lithography, dry etching, thermal processing, etc.)
  • Experience with measurement automation and data acquisition

Desirable skills include:

  • Nanofabrication and nanocharacterization experience (electron-beam lithography, AFM, etc.)
  • Hands-on experience conducting optical device measurements including integrated photonic systems
  • Numerical simulation of integrated photonic systems (FDTD, FEM)
  • Experience performing measurements in a cryostat

The University of Maryland and the Laboratory for Physical Sciences are located in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, which is not only a great place to live, but our proximity to many nearby collaborators, universities, government laboratories, and sponsors makes it an ideal place for a young scientist to launch a career.  The University also offers good benefits and competitive salary.

Starting date:  The position is available immediately, and interested applicants are encouraged to apply early for best consideration.  The position will remain open until filled.  Target starting of than May 1, 2021.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, along with the names and contact information of three potential references to photonicspostdoc@umd.edu

Native American Heritage Month at UCI: Franklin Dollar

Native American Heritage Month at Physical Sciences: This month, you’ll be hearing about Native Americans at the School of Physical Sciences, and how they make the School what it is.

I’m Franklin Dollar, a member of the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCI. I study ultrafast laser matter interactions, and how we can convert laser energy into beams of particles and X-rays for next-generation microscopes. I also try to understand how physics education can be improved, from mentorship, to curriculum, to environment.

PS: What advice do you have for Native American students who are considering a career in STEM?

The most important thing you learn with a degree like physics is how to solve problems in the real world. This is useful in nearly any career, and can provide the flexibility to try out different career paths. So though you may not know what you want to do today, as you work and learn you will be able to find your own path.


Charging-driven coarsening and melting of a colloidal nanoparticle monolayer at an ionic-liquid vacuum interface

Colloidal materials are a platform for studying self-assembly as well as the bottom-up creation of next generation hierarchical materials, and controllably perturbing their collective dynamics is an important step towards directing their assembly. In a liquid droplet, silica nanoparticles collect on the surface and organize to form an ordered 2D lattice. A STROBE research team led by Naomi Ginsberg (UC Berkeley) investigated these monolayers on a low vapor pressure ionic liquid, allowing experiments to be performed under the vacuum environment of a scanning electron microscope. Alongside imaging the particles, the electron beam serves as a perturbative tool for controllably charging the colloidal lattice. As particles charge, they sink into the droplet reducing the monolayer’s density and driving a melting transition. These findings will provide new insights for understanding phase transitions in soft materials and analogous atomic crystals.

Computer Vision for Imaging

This talk will discuss examples of computer vision algorithms applied to XRT, XRD and optical microscopy; it will also illustrate image transformations using Jupyter notebooks. Dani Ushizima PhD, is a Staff Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Data Scientist at UC Berkeley and an Affiliate Faculty at UC San Francisco. In 2015, Ushizima received the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career award to focus on pattern recognition applied to diverse scientific domains, such as structural analysis of materials science samples. She is also recipient of the Science without Borders Researcher award (CNPq/Brazil) for her work on machine learning applied to cytology, as part of an initiative focused on public healthcare. She has also led the Image Processing team for the Center for Advanced Mathematics for Energy Related Applications (CAMERA). Recently, she’s been investigating lung scans for COVID-19 screening as part of initiatives related to the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory (NVBL).

“Determining Atomic Structures from Digitally Defined Regions of Nanocrystals” and “High resolution imaging through scattering media”

Determining Atomic Structures from Digitally Defined Regions of Nanocrystals

Presented by Marcus Gallagher-Jones, postdoc, Jose Rodriguez group, UCLA


The ability of molecules to form ordered assemblies is a crucial first step in preparing samples for structural characterization with atomic-level detail. For many complex molecules, the length scales to which this order extends is limited, thus hampering efforts to solve their structures. In our current work we attempt to overcome these challenges by extending recent developments in 4D-STEM. By combining 4D-STEM data collection with tomography we demonstrate that atomic structures of macromolecules can be solved from specific regions of polymer nanocrystals. In this method, scanning nanobeam electron diffraction tomography (nanoEDT), peptide nanocrystals are rotated about a tilt axis in one-degree steps.  At each tilt angle a direct electron detector captures thousands of sparse diffraction patterns mapped to specific locations within a single crystal. The use of direct electron detection, in combination with data collection at cryogenic temperatures and a hybrid counting algorithm, allows even weak signals from high-resolution Bragg peaks to be accurately recorded from radiation sensitive crystals. NanoEDT breaks new ground in nanocrystallography by allowing atomic structures to be determined from any region of a nanocrystal through the use of virtual, selected-area apertures, potentially leading to the determination of atomic structures from heterogeneous or polycrystalline nanoassemblies.

High resolution imaging through scattering media

Presented by Sakshi Singh & Evolene Premillieu, graduate students, Rafael Piestun group, CU Boulder


Imaging through scattering media is a critical area with impact in biological and biomedical research. While most current research focuses on achieving the highest possible resolution, in practice, scattering is often the main limitation. Scattering diffuses light, leading to a reduction in contrast and signal-to-noise ratio, which makes imaging impractical. The implications of this study span all imaging modalities from visible light to electron beam. One approach to deal with scattering involves characterizing the medium by measuring its transmission Matrix (TM). Once the TM is acquired, imaging and focusing inside the medium become feasible. Here we present two critical advances in this field. The first involves TM measurement using fluorescence (namely incoherent light) as feedback, allowing to focus light on an extended field of view behind a scatterer. Secondly, we demonstrate a huge step up in the imaging speed with the help of a grating light valve (GLV) that enables rapid and continuous focusing through scattering media at a record speed.

What to Know if You’re Teaching Physics Labs Remotely

The coronavirus pandemic upended schools in the spring of 2020, sending students and faculty home. This rapidly changed how instructors handled laboratory physics courses. With a NSF RAPID grant, JILA Fellow Heather Lewandowski asked instructors what worked—and what didn’t—as they moved their lab courses online.

New electron microscope at CU Boulder enables groundbreaking research across disciplines—and from a distance

Capable of achieving spatial resolutions of 70 pm—smaller than the size of an atom—the Thermo Scientific Titan Themis S/TEM, located in the newly-launched CU Facility for Electron Microscopy of Materials (CU FEMM), is now the highest-resolution electron microscope in Colorado.

Taller than a person and equipped with multiple cameras and detectors, this state-of-the-art, aberration-corrected electron microscopy platform makes groundbreaking research possible in a wide range of fields, including catalysis, advanced imaging, quantum information, energy conversion, biomaterials, battery research, geology, materials development and even archaeology. A team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is even exploring a potential COVID-19 study using the microscope to inspect the salt from dried saliva droplets.

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