PULSE PI Benjamin Ofori-Okai has been named a 2021 Panofsky Fellows at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
The full announcement can be found at:https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/2021-09-13-peter-dahlberg-and-benjamin-ofori-okai-receive-2021-panofsky-fellowships-slac.aspx
Ofori-Okai, who is the first Black recipient of the Panofksy fellowship, started his undergraduate career at Yale, moving on to MIT for his PhD. At SLAC, he’s part of the High Energy Density Sciences Division, where he performs experiments at the lab’s Sector-10 laser lab and Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser. He says he spends a lot of time thinking about “how small stuff works, and how that impacts what it does when it’s not so small.”
In particular, he investigates what happens to matter when it’s subjected to the extreme pressures and temperatures one might find in the hearts of planets. By studying how these conditions affect the conductivity of materials in the lab, he hopes to reach a better understanding of how processes in the center of the Earth produce its large magnetic fields.
“You could make the argument that what we’re studying is basic and fundamental,” he says. “But having that understanding is important because it gives you guidance for other problems that need to be solved. Everything is connected to something else, so having that knowledge is a steppingstone to future discoveries and advancements.”
He says he was in the middle of an experiment when he received the email that announced that he would be receiving the fellowship, and he was both honored and excited.
“Having a lot of energy and not really being able to go to sleep was my initial reaction,” he says.
“I see it as an opportunity to tackle things I haven’t done before and push myself in a way that can sometimes be hard to do at the early stages of one’s career.”
In addition to his research on materials in extreme conditions, Ofori-Okai hopes to use the fellowship to explore how to use terahertz radiation, a form of light that is several hundred times less energetic than visible light, to better understand properties of quantum materials that could be harnessed for superconductivity or quantum computing.
He adds that he’s hopeful the fellowship will give him the opportunity to expand his network and connect with scientists in other parts of the lab who are doing related work so that they can team up to push the research even farther.