Rudy Popper — the URECA Researcher of the Month for July — is a double major in mathematics and physics ’24 with a specialization in optics, who has been engaged in research since his freshman year.
He initially started research under the mentorship of Abhay Deshpande, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy, which was focused on the planned Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. In Fall 2021, after taking Waves and Optics (PHY 300), Popper was invited by his course instructor, Associate Professor Thomas Allison, from the departments of Chemistry and Physics, to join the Allison research group, where he became involved in studying the ultrafast excited-state dynamics of gas-phase molecules.
“I think research has made me a better problem-solver and has made me more independent,” Popper said. “Class work is difficult and requires problem-solving skills. But you fall into the same routine of thinking when you approach a homework assignment. In research, there’s more of a variety in the types of problems you have.”
Awarded URECA funding for Summers 2022 and 2023, Popper designed and implemented an optical cavity for resonantly enhancing the power of the UV pump pulses in a pump-probe spectrometer setup by tenfold. This involved doing optical physics calculations, building the cavity, and completing the optical alignment and laser stabilization to stably circulate more than five watts of narrow-band UV comb light. Currently, Popper is focused on “Ultrafast excited-state molecular dynamics at 266 nm and 355 nm,” measuring the molecule 2-thiouracil after excitation to the S2 electronic state by 266 nm light.
Popper presented a poster on this project at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in Spokane, Washington, and was awarded a URECA mini-grant to support his conference attendance. On campus, he has been very active with the Stony Brook Society of Physics Students and will be serving as its president in the next academic year.
Popper plans to pursue a PhD in physics and is interested in developing and using atomic, molecular and optical physics instruments for precision measurement of fundamental physics. He is a graduate of Bronx High School of Science.
Read the interview with URECA Director Karen Kernan.