“What we know is a drop, what we don’t is an ocean.” – Isaac Newton
Through the determination, ingenuity, and curiosity of scientists in the 300 years since Newton imagined an ocean of discovery, the drop of our knowledge now fills a glass. Our understanding of matter and the fundamental forces which govern them can describe much of our observable world. And yet we still find ourselves surrounded by mysteries and unexplained natural phenomenon. Can turbulence be modeled theoretically? How exactly does the earth create a magnetic field? What is the “dark” matter and energy that comprises 95% of our universe? The business of science is to answer these questions, and all are welcome!
As an experimental physicist, I study these types of fundamental questions through laboratory research. The system of ionized particles known as plasma is of great importance to understanding our universe, as it accounts for over 99% of visible matter. Closer to home, plasmas enrich our lives through lighting, material processing, industrial machining, electronics, propulsion, and perhaps in the future, fusion energy. Much of my research is directed toward the fundamental science and application of plasmas at high density through ultrafast generation and characterization. The nature of these dense plasma span from classical to quantum in their thermodynamic origins, and can exist in a variety of systems ranging from the surface of white dwarf stars to the collapsing of micron-sized bubbles. Due to recent advancements in ultrafast lasers and semiconductor materials, the science of dense plasma has become a rich topic of exploration, with the biggest findings and applications yet to be discovered.