Annual Research Day Features Winners Around

Edwards, who grew up in California and received his bachelor’s degree in MAE from Princeton in 2012, earned a cash prize of $250 for his 20-minute talk on the topic “Attosecond X-rays from Relativistic Plasmas.” His advisor is Professor Julia Mikhailova.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, Edwards won the Jeffrey O. Kephart ’80 Award in Engineering Physics, the Donald Janssen Dike Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Newport Award of Excellence in Photonics. He also served as a drillmaster for the Princeton Marching Band. He received an NSF Fellowship for graduate study, and headed off to Carnegie Mellon University before returning to Princeton in the fall of 2013. As a graduate student in the department, he received the Sayre Award for Academic Excellence in 2014 and a Guggenheim Second-Year Fellowship.

Edwards’ research interests focus on the development and applications of femtosecond lasers, laser-plasma interaction, and the behavior of light and matter under extreme conditions.

“The goal of our research is to understand and control the interaction of light withmatter under extreme conditions, including those reached with some of the brightest lasers ever built,” he explained. “Ultimately we hope to use intense lasers to recreate the physics of massive particle accelerators in moderately sized laboratories, allowing scientists to advance fields like astrophysics, materials science, and medicine.”

Mikhailova said, “Matthew's research, aimed at a deep understanding of the behavior of relativistic electrons in solid density plasma in an engineered electromagnetic field, may open new avenues in the field of high-field optical science and attosecond technologies.” Calling Edwards “extraordinarily creative and talented,” she added, “His professional skills, enthusiasm, friendliness, intelligence, as well as a broad knowledge of fundamental and technical aspects of physics and engineering make him an extremely valuable team member with a strong potential for a leadership.”

“All the Research Day presentations were very impressive and of a highest quality, Mikhailova said. “I am really excited about how talented and productive our students are.”

Edwards was one of five students who spoke during the Sept. 18 Research Day, which is held every year on the Friday after classes start, in conjunction with a welcome back barbecue for graduate students and the department. The goal of the competition is to introduce the audience to the wide range of research being done by the department. The event took place in Bowen Hall 222.

The runner-up among the five presenters, and earning a $100 award, was Carla Bahri, a Ph.D. candidate working on theory and experiments of turbulence, particularly passive scalars in isotropic turbulence, under the supervision of Professors Marcus Hultmark and Michael Mueller. Her talk was titled “Self-similarity of Passive Scalar Spectra in Grid-turbulence with Mean Cross-stream Temperature Gradient.”

The entrants represented each of the department’s major disciplines, as selected by the Graduate Student Committee, along with the Director of Graduate Studies. Edwards’ project is associated with applied physics, and Bahri represented fluid mechanics. The other three disciplines’ entrants, research and advisors were:

Materials – Chuck Witt: “How Can We Study Large Systems Using Quantum Mechanics?” Advisor: Professor Emily Carter

Dynamics and Control – Hari B. Subedi: “Sparse Aperture Mask for Low-Order Wavefront Sensing.” Advisor: Professor Jeremy Kasdin

Combustion/Thermal Science – Christopher Reuter: “Cool Flames: An Unexplored Frontier in Experimental Combustion.” Advisor: Professor Yiguang Ju

The winner and runner-up were chosen by a panel of judges (volunteer faculty and students) following the presentations.

“Research Day is especially useful for first-year graduate students, who are new to the department,” said Jill Ray, the MAE department’s graduate administrator. “It is also useful to older students and faculty, who may be inspired to seek out new collaborations, and to simply keep them up-to-date about current research in other fields.”

Last year’s winner was Alta Fang, a materials student working with Professor Mikko Haataja. Her talk was “Materials Modeling Crystallization in Organic Semiconductor Thin Films.” Fang is currently a fourth-year graduate student. Katie Hartl, working with Professor Alexander Smits, was last year’s runner-up, with a talk titled “Experimental Investigation of the Scaling Behavior of a Laboratory Fire Whirl.” Hartl is currently a fifth-year graduate student.

This year's event was coordinated and emceed by Katie Fitch, a Ph.D. candidate in Dynamics and Control, working with Professor Naomi Leonard.

– Doug Hulette