Ben Pollard re-defines physics culture


I expected Ben Pollard to be aligning lasers in a dark basement. As a sixth year graduate student in the Department of Physics, he anticipates defending his PhD research this spring. However, he actually spends much of his time connecting with other physics students on a personal level. Their main question: how do you change the culture of physics and build community from within? Ben’s answer is finding a way “to cultivate physicists as people.”

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Two-color circularly polarized laser fields: A platform for observing the ultrafast and the ultrasmall?

Imagine you are an electron. You aren’t very heavy, so gravity doesn’t really affect you. Instead, your world is all about charge. The electric field surrounding you dictates the motion of charged particles; since you have a negative charge you move away from the direction the field points (yeah, you’re a rebel). Boringly, most of your time is spent hanging out close to a positively charged nucleus. But, if you find yourself in the lab with Chris Mancuso and Dan Hickstein, you might be in for the ride of your life.

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Hot Topics: Heat Transfer at Nanoscales

tiny heat sources

Remember that diagram of “The Scientific Process” from every high school science textbook? I’ll jog your memory: data is collected that may conflict with a previously held assumption, so a new hypothesis is devised. Experiments are done, the new data is analyzed, the hypothesis appears to hold true, and a conclusion is made. Science! Only later do many of us learn that the course of science doesn’t always run so smoothly.

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Plasma Explosion Imaging: Blowing up nanoparticles with ultrafast laser pulses

Scientists and engineers have been tinkering with lasers since the 1950’s, building a world in which lasers have become ubiquitous in our daily lives. You are probably familiar with lasers in CD players, barcode scanners, presentation pointers or cat toys. Lasers have also become an enormously important tool in the pursuit of scientific discovery. Lasers give scientists the ability to carefully control the interaction of light with matter in space and time, yielding information about the fundamental nature of materials. One Nobel-worthy example was pioneered at CU Boulder: the formation of Bose-Einstein condensates, a new state of matter which couldn’t have been created without lasers.

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