October 21, 2005  


First Director Appointed for New Stanford Ultrafast Science Center

Phil Bucksbaum, new director of the Stanford Ultrafast Science Center
(Photo by Jens Zorn)



By Heather Rock Woods

The growing new field of ultrafast science—which scrutinizes very tiny things that move and change at super fast speeds—gained momentum October 17 with the announcement of the first director for the new Stanford Ultrafast Science Center.

Phil Bucksbaum has joined the Stanford faculty to lead the center, which is a partnership between Stanford and the U.S. Department of Energy. Bucksbaum will be a member of the SLAC Faculty and the Applied Physics Faculty in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.

Bucksbaum is an atomic physicist, and until recently directed the National Science Foundation’s Center for the Advancement of Frontiers in Optical Coherent Ultrafast Science (FOCUS) at the University of Michigan. He remains the Peter Franken Distinguished University Professor of Physics in Michigan this academic year. He will work part-time at the Stanford center and part-time in Michigan during this transition year.

The center is bringing together scientists with distinct expertise to develop groundbreaking experiments for, and push the performance of, a revolutionary machine—the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS)—that combines x-ray and laser properties. By acting like a lightning-quick strobe light, this machine will essentially make x-ray motion pictures of phenomena no other instrument—or eye—can see.

LCLS, the world’s first hard x-ray free electron laser, will begin operating at SLAC in 2009. To capture the phenomenally small and fast in action, LCLS will create extremely brilliant x-ray pulses that last mere quadrillionths of a second (called femtoseconds).
“I’m very excited to be doing this,” said Bucksbaum. “The scientists our center will attract will together develop pioneering experiments and exceptional machine capabilities that will advance our understanding in myriad fields and bring wonderful benefits to society.”

LCLS experiments will offer new ways of studying and constructing nanotechnology devices; will capture the structural rearrangements of atoms in reactions like photosynthesis; will create and probe extreme states of matter found in the cores of giant planets and proto-stars; and will explore how proteins function as the engines of life, which is highly relevant to health and disease.

“The Ultrafast Science Center is the perfect tool to develop the unprecedented opportunities in ultrafast science, and Phil Bucksbaum is the ideal scientist to lead this initiative,” said SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan. “The new center is part of the strong foundation for photon science at SLAC and on the rest of the Stanford campus.”

After graduating from Harvard, Bucksbaum received his doctoral degree from the University of California-Berkeley. He did his postdoctoral work, and became a principal investigator at AT&T Bell Laboratories before joining the Michigan faculty in 1990. His interest in the ultrafast world goes beyond x-ray science.

“My main research interest is fundamental interactions between light and matter at the atomic and molecular levels, and especially the control of quantum systems using ultrafast laser fields,” he said. “I develop new sources of ultrafast laser light in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and x-ray regions of the light spectrum.”

The Ultrafast Science Center, one of three main activities within the new SLAC Photon Science Directorate, received its first funding this fiscal year from the DOE Office of Science. In addition, in January the W. M. Keck Foundation awarded Stanford $1 million for developing research programs in the center focused in the area of ultrafast chemistry.

For more information, see: http://www.umich.edu/~amophys/bucksbaum.html and

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Wednesday November 30, 2005 by Chip Dalby