We talk to Professor Nora Berrah from the University of Connecticut. Prof. Berrah is the head of the Department of Physics and works researching fundamental interactions between photons and molecular systems.
Q: Which research projects are you and your group currently working on?
My research group works on three different projects that are all linked to investigate one theme: investigating molecular dynamics using photons from a range of sources: synchrotron light sources, specifically the Advanced Light Source, free-electron lasers around the world: FERMI@Elletra in Italy, FLASH at DESY, Germany, which are two vuv-soft x-ray femtosecond light sources, as well as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC National Laboratory and finally femtosecond table-top lasers. We investigate neutral molecules from diatomic to fullerenes using velocity map imaging detectors or anions using collinear ion-photon geometry.
Q: What has been the most exciting development in physics during the course of your career?
There have been many exciting developments in physics during my career and it is hard to pick one particular advancement. All of the scientific advancement however benefited from advanced technologies in lasers, whether they were attosecond lasers or x-ray free electron lasers. In my opinion all photon sources are complementary, each providing specialized attributes. They all enable pushing the frontiers of science forward.
Q: What would you say to a student who wanted to shape their future with a career in science?
I would say to students, jump on the train and enjoy the ride because it is the most exciting ride there is. A career in science is wonderful because we get to be paid to play and for advancing science, even if it is in small increments. If we are in academia, we get the luxury to train, teach, motivate and inspire students who will continue in our footsteps and if we are in industry we get to contribute even in small ways to improving science. Both academia and industry are valid career paths for students.
On behalf of JPhysB I would like to thank Professor Berrah for answering our questions and for recently publishing Auger electron and photoabsorption spectra of glycine in the vicinity of the oxygen K-edge measured with an X-FEL in our journal. If you’d like to read more, check out our Special Issue on Frontiers of Free-Electrons Laser Science Series II where you can read Professor Berrah’s paper and more free-electron laser research.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Image 1: copyright Nora Berrah; used with permission.
Image 2: 2D map of the glycine emitted electron intensity for x-ray photon excitation around the oxygen K-edge, adapted from A Sanchez-Gonzalez et al 2015 J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 48 234004