About the Group

We are a research group in the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics at Harvard University under the direction of Eric Mazur.

Physics Research **We study the dynamics of molecules, chemical reactions, and condensed matter on very short timescales -- down to femtoseconds (millionths of billionths of a second). Physics in this ultrafast regime can only be studied using light, specifically using short laser pulses. The intensity of these laser pulses is comparable to the intensity one would obtain by focusing all the sunlight that strikes the earth on an area the size of a finger nail (ouch!). This high intensity allows us to create conditions that approach those found in stars and study a host of new phenomena. Our projects are of both fundamental interest and technological relevance, and cross traditional disciplinary boundaries between physics, chemistry, materials science, and optics.

Education Research What is the point of doing science if society doesn't understand science? Concerned with the lack of public understanding of science we have embarked on a number of projects aimed at improving science education. In 1991 we developed an easily and widely applicable technique, called Peer Instruction, that encourages student participation and interaction in large lecture classes. The method has shown to lead to consitent and measurable short- and long-term improvement in student performance. We are currently also involved in studying gender differences in physics education and the effectiveness of demonstrations.

Facilities Our newly remodeled 300 square meters (3000 square feet) of laboratory space is equipped with three state-of-the-art femtosecond laser systems capable of producing pulses as short as 10 fs with energies up to 1 mJ per pulse at a repetition rate of 1 kHz. For surface science experiments we have a custom-built ultrahigh-vacuum chamber that allows combined optical and surface science experiments over a temperature range of 90-1250 K.More