Our former colleague Jinwei Zhang is now a professor in the School of Optical & Electronic Information at Huazhong University of Science & Technology in Wuhan, China. He is still as keenly interested in the thin-disk laser technology as he was when he worked together with Oleg Pronin at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics. He is now building up his own team with a lot of talented young people. Here, he tells us a little about the course of his career so far.


How did you end up in the laser physics field?

In 2009, when I decided to study further for a Master’s degree and then a PhD, I searched for information on many laboratories and research leaders to see which one would be most suitable for me. Among them, the Laboratory of Ultrafast Laser Technology directed by Prof. Zhiyi Wei in the Institute of Physics in Beijing impressed me the most. After a visit to Prof. Wei’s lab, I decided that this was the right place for me to study. Later on, in 2013, I had a talk with Prof. Ferenc Krausz during a conference, and he invited me to join the MPQ team as an exchange student. I was so impressed by the experiments being done by Dr. Oleg Pronin’s team at that time that I decided to stay here as a postdoc after graduating from Institute of Physics.


What area of research are you most interested in?

When I built a thin-disk oscillator on my own for the first time, I was so impressed by the high power that it could deliver. The thin-disk technology is really amazing, and I am very interested in ultrafast lasers based on this technology.


What kind of research do you plan to pursue in the future?

I think thin-disk lasers still have great potential, not only in terms of increasing their power, but also using new materials to access new wavelengths and open up new applications. Therefore, I would like to extend the capabilities and applications of thin-disk lasers in the future.


How do you envisage the development of your research?

At the moment, I have mapped out a route for the next few years, based on thin-disk lasers. I am now building up my own team in Wuhan to realize that vision. I am very pleased that so many young people are interested in this topic and are eager to participate in this research. On the other hand, thin-disk laser is a very useful tool for many applications, so there is a lot of competition for funding. Nevertheless I think the development will be quite promising.


What do you think the world will look like in 100 years?

Considering how technology has changed our lives in the last few decades, that’s a very hard question to answer. But I am sure that, a century from now, technology will have made life much easier. Perhaps people will live for much longer, and I might even live to see that future world myself. I believe that, with the help of new technology, the Earth and the environment around us may well be more beautiful by then.


And what role will light-based technologies play then?

As I just mentioned before, people may live longer and healthier lives than they do now. Optical technologies will play very important roles with respect to the disease detection. In this case, what Prof. Ferenc Krausz is now doing is highly significant. I think light-technologies will have influence on every aspect of our lives then.