Steve Benson

Steve Benson of the Free-Electron Laser (FEL) group was recently selected as a 2002 Fellow of the American Physical Society

Free-electron laser scientist is one of two newly elected American Physical Society Fellows at JLab

A free-electron laser scientist at the Department of Energy's Jefferson Lab, located in Newport News, Virginia, has earned the distinction of being elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

The Accelerator Division's Steve Benson learned recently that he had been selected as a 2002 Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) - one of the highest peer honors in the world of physics.

According to the citation, Steve Benson, a senior research scientist with JLab for 10 years, was nominated for the distinction by the APS Particles and Beams Division for his "critical contributions to the development of free-electron lasers, including the first demonstration of lasing at harmonics and of multi-kilowatt lasing with an energy recovered linac (ERL)."

"Mainly, I'm grateful for all the people who helped me get there," Benson says of receiving the honor. "It wouldn't have happened without the letters of recommendation and the support and encouragement I received."

Benson isn't new to the world of free-electron lasers (FELs). Before coming to JLab he worked on two FELs at Duke University - in charge of installing and commissioning one system and designing a second system.

He is eagerly looking forward to first beam with the upgraded FEL, which he anticipates achieving in early 2003. He is ready to try out the new machine after the very successful run of the Infrared Demo FEL. "It was exciting to work with the IR Demo machine," he comments. "It was outstanding for research and allowed us to lase at high power. We learned an enormous amount while using the IR Demo. It also had an excellent diagnostics system and a very robust electron transport system, designed by Dave Douglas, which allowed us to learn a lot about the machine. No one had ever before done what we did in building that machine. Some people were skeptical, so it was very satisfying when it all came together and we got one kilowatt lasing."

Using the IR Demo machine, Benson demonstrated lasing at both the 2nd and 5th harmonics, and explored the physics of recirculating FELs. (When electrons oscillate you get harmonics: Much like plucking a string on a violin, a note sounds but it also produces other octaves of the same note.) He, along with George Neil of the FEL group, are credited with being the first to lase at the 5th harmonic and the 2nd harmonic. "The 5th harmonic was difficult to achieve," he noted, "but the biggest surprises came at the 2nd harmonic, which exhibited unique behaviors. I think there is a new type of lasing involved." Much of Benson's work during construction of the FEL revolved around the wiggler (magnet) and optical systems. Once the upgraded machine is complete, his primary responsibilities will include commissioning and laser safety.

In the coming months, he will receive his fellowship certificate from APS. This year 192 new Fellows were elected. The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who have made advances in knowledge through original research and publication or made significant and innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology. Each year, no more than one-half of one percent of the current membership of the Society are recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow in the American Physical Society. Each new Fellow is elected after careful and competitive review and recommendation by a fellowship committee on the unit level, additional review by the APS Fellowship Committee and final approval by the full APS Council. Fellows currently number 3,775 out of an APS membership of 42,000.