Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I've Been Up To This Summer

I haven't posted anything on what I was up to all summer. Ya'll probably thought I just fell off the face of the earth or something! Nope, here's what I've been doing.

At the end of May I drove my little car from Utah here, to Boulder Colorado and the campus of the University of Colorado. I attended a physics conference for a few days up in Fort Collins and stayed in a hotel here in Boulder. Eventually I moved into a nice little apartment/dorm on campus a five minute walk from the lab.

I went to work for the Kapteyn-Murnane Attosecond Science and Extreme Nonlinear Optics Research Group at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrohphysics (JILA), located on the campus of the University of Colorado. This group is huge consisting of Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane (who are married) as principle investigators and an army of 15 graduate students, 5 post-docs, 4 labs taking up half of a floor, and 8 different sub-research groups.

I worked on an extreme ultraviolet (EUV) microscopy experiment attempting to image tiny samples with 13 nm coherent light. To be honest though, most of the summer was spent either 1)Fiddling with the laser, 2)Fiddling with the x-ray generation setup (high harmonic generation in a waveguide), or 3)Working on a laser safety interlock circuit to protect the delicate CCD camera.

And here's a picture of the laser safety circuit I built at the expense of many fried ICs and brain cells.

The picture above is the prototype, the picture below is one of the 2nd generation circuits being debugged. The metal casings have 3 in-board LEDs, 2 switches, 1 potentiometer, and 5 power/signal hookups of various types.

It was designed to prevent human error from destroying the sensitive x-ray CCD at the end of the laser path. The laser used is so bright, and the CCD so sensitive, that it would be irreparably damaged in a few milliseconds (or less). This circuit should prevent that from happening because of a careless user leaving a filter or valve open at the wrong time.

So that's what I was up to all summer, I had a great time. I really like the people I worked with in the KM Lab, and I especially liked JILA, the campus of UC Boulder, and Boulder itself. I'd love to go to graduate school there!

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