sources are serving as workhorses for
researchers around the world.
What has been the most challenging moment of your career?
There is not one single moment that stands
out, but the challenge that I have been
most frequently confronted with is resisting the temptation to explore new areas
when technological advances lead to unexpected opportunities. Since many of them
would distract us, it is ultimately better to
focus on the original, longer-term goal.
One prominent example was the first
demonstration of isolated attosecond
pulses in 2001. We had—most probably
—already generated them back in 1997,
shortly after intense few-cycle laser pulses
became available in our Vienna laboratory. However, we could not provide
compelling evidence for their existence
in the absence of an attosecond temporal
characterization technique. It took us
four years to develop such a technique.
Our investigations, performed in an international
collaboration with researchers from Berkeley, Argonne
and Riad, have demonstrated the feasibility of tracking
the dynamics of valence
electrons with attosecond
condensed-matter systems. Second, we
seek to further advance the technology
by improving the sources and extending
the repertoire of attosecond spectroscopic
and control techniques.
Had we succumbed to our temptation
to explore all the aspects of the novel
intense few-cycle pulses, it might have
taken significantly longer.
What one piece of advice do you
give to your students?
Set ambitious goals and pursue them with
great persistence and single-mindedness.
This is particularly important in science
and academic research, which offer an
unparalleled number of possibilities for
distraction. Only those who can focus
their attention, dedication and energy
on well-defined goals have the chance to
achieve breakthrough discoveries. t
Where do you see your research
going in the next five years?
We will pursue two major directions:
First, we will use our existing attosecond
tools for research into non-trivial electron dynamics in atoms, molecules and
Angela Stark is OSA’s director of communications ( email@example.com).
ONLINE EXTRA: Visit www.osa-opn.org
for a profile of Jorge Rocca, Schawlow
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