Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rick Trebino

Since I knew I will be giving a talk at the 2011 NLO I keep checking the website, not so much for the program but to look for updates on the exhibit vendor information. The reason---I hope to see Rick Trebino again.

Last year, after I came back from visiting his lab, I looked back and realized that I actually have interactions with him for many occasions in the past few years, although I didn’t meet him until last year at the 17th international Ultrafast Phenomenon conference.

I heard about Dr. Trebino by somehow getting to know his FROG website. I loved his lecture notes and his book. I like the name he gave to his product--- FROG. Once I even tried to use his lecture notes to give a study talk at Texa A&M Univ. in 2003 or 2004. It didn’t go very well because I just started in ultrafast optics and so many things are beyond my explanation.

Then in 2005, a team of us was working on the Hybrid CARS for the anthrax detection project. We had trouble looking for four wave mixing manually using a translation stage. I was brave enough and directly emailed him asking for advice. Surprisingly, he replied to my email and also asked his student to write to me more. That’s the first time I experienced his kindness and generosity.

After that, I repeatedly returned to his website and studied his book. I read many of his papers. Then in 2010 I unexpectedly met him and his wife during the 17th UP conference. We talked. I wrote a blog about him last year.

Linda, his wife, suggested me come to visit his lab and discuss the question of measuring “holey spectra” (spectrally separated peaks, Nicolas Forget is the one started to call it this way. I think it is funny) we have. She also helped me tremendously before and during the visit.

My supervisor Alexei approved the visit. In Aug. Ben, a graduate student who is working on the femtosecond filamentation, and I went to Georgia Tech. Linda arranged an office for us. Dr. Trebino’s graduate student Jacob Cohen helped us get all the paperwork and a yellow wasp ID (buzz card) and finally a key to the lab. We lived in a hotel and went to school every day, had discussions and looked around the lab. We also tried to work on one small project—using striped fish to characterize filamentaion.

In between I wrote this email to Alexei:

The lab overall is an ideal lab a person can imagine. Many bins for putting different things. Plenty of overhead shelf space. Tons of different mirrors, mounts, etc. Everything are labelled well and in drawers if not used. Everyone has his/her own project and laser. They have 1 amplifier and several oscillators. many Cameras, spectrometers in the beam to monitor the beam. Fixed, no need to move around. Lab is very clean, many optical tables. Students work on their own schedule. They have a book shelf with many optics books. a lunch room (also the showroom, or conference room, has computer, projectors), which is close to the entrance of the lab, have an office space. Jake said every morning they come and discuss first. They normally on each other’s papers and they help each other with experiments. After graduation, anyone can work in Rick’s company if they want. They have extra office spaces. Me and Ben have 2 offices but we stay together in one so we can discuss. They even prepare a computer for us. Here everything is so open and everyone shares. His wife is not a scientist but she is administrating for Rick’s professorship and company.

Rick's lab

(If you want to read more, please click here Rick’s lab)

By the end Rich had a party for us at the night before we left. We visited his house. From 6pm to 10:30pm Rick talked for a few hours, almost non-stop. I felt his hospitality, his enthusiasm toward life and his energy. Linda also talked in between, a typical of a couple in harmony when one will help each other remember things and describe. When I asked how many countries have you been to. Linda thought for a little bit and said” maybe you should rephrase the questions as: Which country I have not been to”.

Rick's home

Later from his website, I learned he even hosted class party for the students who take his class by the end of the semester. I wish I were one of his students.

By that time we had just learned about his funniest ever essay “How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 123 Easy Steps”. That night, Rick mentioned he is writing an essay book. The essays are available on his file sharing website listed under stories. I especially like the Hawaii one. I hope it get published soon so that more people can know his wonderful life.