Argonne scientist elected chair of American Physical Society division

By Louise LernerJuly 19, 2011

ARGONNE, Ill. —Members of the American Physical Society voted to elect Argonne Distinguished Fellow Linda Young as the chair of one of the society's largest divisions.

The Division of Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) was founded in 1943 as the first division of the American Physical Society. Its focus is fundamental research on atoms, simple molecules, electrons and light and their interactions. DAMOP research often boosts other sciences by developing methods for controlling and manipulating atoms, molecules, charged particles and light through precision measurements and calculations of their properties and through the invention of new ways to generate light with specific properties.

DAMOP has several notable members within the Department of Energy, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Young will serve as vice chair, chair-elect, chair and past chair of DAMOP in a four-year cycle. The position became official at the 2011 DAMOP Meeting in Atlanta, held June 13-17, 2011.

Young, a leader in the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics, is director of the X-ray Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. Recently, she has conducted research at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Her current research focuses on the use of strong electromagnetic fields to manipulate electronic and geometrical properties of atoms and molecules.

Research by Young and others has been featured in the president's budget request as a "Selected Accomplishment" for the second year in a row.

The 2012 presidential budget request highlighted an achievement from an LCLS experiment headed by Young. The team used ultra-intense X-rays to knock the inner electrons out of a single atom, creating a "hollow" atom. The hollow atom becomes transparent to X-ray absorption, but still scatters X-rays. This technique could help alleviate the recurring problem of X-ray damage to samples during experiments and improve prospects for studying biomolecules and nanoscale objects.

Previous presidential budget requests featured the invention of a new technique for ultrafast X-ray experiments, which allows scientists to control X-ray interactions with matter; through an effect known as electromagnetically induced transparency, intense visible light can induce transparency in a material normally opaque to X-ray radiation.

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. APS represents 48,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. The APS publishes the Physical Review Journals, Physical Review Letters, Reviews of Modern Physics and Physics Today.