Interview with André Staudte

The attoworld team has a long-standing successful collaboration with the physicists from the Joint Attosecond Science Lab of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the University of Ottawa (Canada). At the very beginning there was the production of the first isolated attosecond light flash in the team of Prof. Ferenc Krausz in a collaboration with Prof. Paul Corkum from the NRC in 2001. Now the next generation of ultrafast physicists is waiting with exciting research in attosecond physics. One of them is Dr. André Staudte, who works closely with Prof. Matthias Kling at Ludwig-Maximilians University. André received his PhD in physics from Goethe University Frankfurt am Main in 2005. He is now head of the Attoscience group at NRC at an adjunct professor at the Department of Physics at the University of Ottawa. In this interview, he talks about his work, what excites him most about the world of attoscience, and what life is like in Canada.

Could you give us a brief overview of the research in your group?

In a nutshell our group does fundamental research on how matter interacts with intense, ultra-short light pulses. Matter in this context means atoms, molecules and condensed matter. We aim to find new ways to manipulate, image, and detect the constituents of matter. For this purpose we use all the tools that attoscience has to offer, from reaction microscopy, to transient absorption and high harmonic generation to new and custom-designed optical fields. The custom design of intense laser fields is a research topic in itself which we also pursue.

While we do primarily fundamental research, which has an application horizon of ten years or longer, we are also always looking for immediate applications. One of these applications is the imaging of electric fields in a silicon chip. Others are femtosecond laser-based imaging mass spectrometry, femtosecond pulse characterization techniques, and efficient solid-state high harmonic generation, with the aim of integrated XUV optics.

 

What phenomena excite you most in ultrafast physics?

Today we have incredible control over the optical fields created by lasers, both in time and in space. We can control the color, polarization and duration of laser pulses. We can combine nearly arbitrary frequencies and pulse durations. We can control the spatial properties of the light within the laser beam. For example we can create beams with a hole in the middle, beams with a spatially varying polarization vector, or beams whose wave front looks like a corkscrew in space.

 

Where do you see attosecond physics in ten years?

Over the past 20 years, attosecond physics has created a lot of technology. Attosecond technology, which sometimes does and sometimes does not provide actual attosecond time resolution. While measuring processes with attosecond resolution continues to be the pinnacle of the technological development, I believe attosecond physics will also continue to radiate into neighboring areas of research, such as chemistry, condensed matter physics, metrology, and even biology through its technology. In view of the explosion of solid state attosecond science in the last five years, I believe that in ten years we will see many more devices based on attosecond technology. On the fundamental side things move slower, but it is probably not too bold to assume that in ten years the transition to optical and UV atomic clocks will have been completed. In ten years also X-ray free-electron-lasers could be available.

 

Are there opportunities for graduates to do a PhD thesis or work as a postdoc with you?

Thank you for asking. Yes, I am always looking for students or postdoctoral researchers from Germany. German universities produce some of the best young researchers, and therefore they are highly in demand. We have many interesting projects to work on and we encourage our students and postdocs to branch out and collaborate with internal and external teams.

 

You are originally from Frankfurt. What brought you to Canada?

I came with my young family to Ottawa as postdoc. After graduating we had looked for a postdoctoral position. In the end my wife and I decided to accept an offer in Ottawa at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) with Paul Corkum, since we wanted to go abroad for a few years. The plan was always to return to Germany, but after 4 years as a postdoc I was offered a permanent position at the NRC, and we decided to stay.

 

What is life like in Canada?

Life in Ottawa is different to Frankfurt but not dramatically. In my experience, here life is a little more relaxed than in Germany. Although a relatively big city by the number of its inhabitants it feels much smaller. Part of this is, that Ottawa is relatively isolated from the other large urban centres. But another part is, that we just have more space. The stranger on the street is generally much friendlier in Ottawa than, say, Frankfurt. Mind you, I have often heard other Canadians speaking of Ottawans as uptight and unfriendly.

We can get many if not most of the things we are missing from home. There a butchers, bakers, and specialty stores that carry many ingredients we know from Germany. Ottawa even has a German language school on Saturdays, from kindergarten to high school, and really is a meeting point for the German-speaking community.

The weather, of course I have to mention the weather. The weather is special here. The winter is cold, white and bright. The ground is covered with snow without a break from December to March, sometimes April. We have great cross country skiing starting inside the city. Downhill skiing is not as great as the Alps, and it is also much colder on the hill. The summers are hot and humid, and the city is visibly empty since people spend the summer at their cottages by the countless lakes. For a North-American city, Ottawa also has a very well developed network of recreational bike paths of several 100km.

 

More informations about André Staudte:

science.uottawa.ca/physics/people/staudte-andre

 

André Staudte will hold his next talk about his work online on the 6th International Symposium on Intense Field, Short Wavelength Atomic and Molecular Processes (ISWAMP), July 14-16, 2021

www.icpeac2021.ca/iswamp/

And on the 2nd International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions (ICPEAC), July 20-23, 2021

www.icpeac2021.ca