Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mekena McGrew

Mekena McGrew

First-year physics PhD student University of California, Merced

Area of NIF:
Advanced Radiographic Capability (ARC)

Created a Single-shot, Second Harmonic Generation Frequency Resolved Optical Gating (SHG FROG) system for damage testing

Tell us about your work at NIF.

FROG is a technique for characterizing ultra-short pulses. With them, we can measure pulse parameters, such as the pulse intensity, pulse width, spectrum, and spectral phase. It is important to understand the characteristics of pulses shot-to-shot for damage testing to ensure certainty of a constant pulse. If the lab is testing to see how a grating will withstand a 1 picosecond pulse, it is important for the pulse width not to be changing over an extended period of time.

Why did you want to work here for the summer?

I have a passion for lasers and am fascinated by light. While obtaining a bachelor's degree in physics, at Saint Mary's College of California I became greatly interested in the National Ignition Facility's (NIF) mission, and I knew I would be able to work in a field that inspires me. Prior to my summer at LLNL, I worked on a ranch, in marketing, at a wastewater treatment plant, as well as myriad other jobs. My work with NIF doesn't feel like work, and I know I have found my purpose in life here at the lab. For the first time, I'm not looking at the clock waiting to leave, but instead the time here has gone too fast. My colleagues at LLNL are some of the greatest people I have worked with, and I appreciate the collaborative environment. There's always someone willing to provide guidance on my project and career. I will truly remember and miss my time at the Lab.

What has the experience of working at the Lab, and especially NIF, meant to you?

I've become more articulate about my work and in my understanding of optics. I am finally immersed in the world of high field lasers, and I love it. Through literature and lab work, I have developed a far greater understanding of this field, and it will greatly increase my skill as I pursue a doctorate in physics.

Do you intend to come back next summer?

Yes! I'm interested in high energy/intensity laser development. Not only do I get to work in the most fascinating job on the planet, but I'm contributing to a piece of the puzzle. After working at NIF, even as a summer student, I know I have left a fingerprint on history.