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Laser Lab springboards 100-plus high schoolers to doctoral degrees

April 5, 2022

The University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) annually hosts a summer research program for Rochester-area students who have just completed their junior year of high school. The program, which began 32 years ago, recently reached a significant milestone: more than 100 of its participants have gone on to earn their doctoral degrees.

For eight weeks during the summer, high school students are paired with LLE staff scientists to gain real-world experience working on research projects at one of the nation’s leading laser facilities. Over the years, nearly 400 high school students have participated in the program, which is one of several at Rochester designed to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. The program was started by David Meyerhofer, a visiting professor of physics, who served as program director from 1989 to 1997. The program is currently directed by Stephen Craxton, a distinguished scientist at the LLE, who has served as director since 1998.

From high school to grad school (and beyond)

close up of student touching a stick to a device

(University of Rochester photo / Eugene Kowaluk)

In 2011, Felix Jin studied “Characterization and Design of Magnetic Coils for the Magneto-Inertial Fusion Electrical Discharge System (MIFEDS)” at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics under the direction of Gennady Fiksel, a former LLE scientist. Jin is currently pursuing a combined MD/PhD degree in biomedical engineering at Duke University School of Medicine. He received a BA in physics and biochemistry from Columbia University, where he was valedictorian and graduated summa cum laude.

 

professor and student stand side by side in lab

(University of Rochester photo / Eugene Kowaluk)

Martin Wegman was in the LLE program in 2005 and studied “Superconducting Electronics for the ICF Environment” under the direction of Bill Donaldson (pictured), an LLE senior scientist and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rochester. Wegman received a BS degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Rochester and a PhD from the University of Florida. He is currently an emergency medicine resident at Yale New Haven Hospital.

 

professor and student pose beside a computer screen

(University of Rochester photo / Eugene Kowaluk)

Yekaterina Merkulova participated in LLE’s Summer High School Research Program in 2004, where she studied “Spatial Distribution of the Reflected Laser Light at the Experimental Chamber Wall” under the direction of LLE senior scientist Jacques Delettrez (pictured, now retired). Merkulova received a PhD from SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Graduate Studies in neural and behavioral science. She is currently a resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

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Category: In Photos