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K-State Today

October 15, 2021

Physics professor receives early-career scientist award

Submitted by Erin Pennington

Loren Greenman, assistant professor of physics at Kansas State University, recently received a $750,000 Early-Career Scientists for Mission-Critical Research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for his project, "Theory of the Femtosecond and Attosecond Dynamics of Molecules in Complex Regions of their Potential Landscapes."

Greenman and his team will work to develop control schemes that steer molecular processes, including chemical reactions, at femtosecond and attosecond timescales. In doing so, they will advance the theoretical and computational methods to describe molecules at these extremely fast timescales.

"The capture and transfer of energy by complex molecular structures is a remarkable phenomenon," Greenman said. "At some scale of complexity, molecules gain the ability to control this process and direct the energy to accomplish useful tasks." 

The project seeks to answer where this scale begins, and specifically whether very energetic excitations in relatively simple molecules can be controlled. 

Greenman's team, which includes postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students, will use lasers to investigate the excitations and the subsequent dynamics produced by recently developed laser pulses with durations on the femtosecond — 10⁻¹⁵ seconds — and attosecond — 10⁻¹⁸ seconds — timescales. 

"This work will advance the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics, increasing K-State's already prominent position and visibility in that field and related fields," Greenman said.

"Star faculty like Loren Greenman are our biggest asset in the College of Arts and Sciences at K-State," said Amit Chakrabarti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "We strongly support scholarly work and research in the college, and we provide substantial matching and startup funds for these exceptional faculty members. I speak for the entire college in extending Dr. Greenman a hearty congratulations on this award."