On our fifth day, we went to the Jefferson lab in order to meet Prof. Helmut Baumgart, one of the leading scientists in semiconductor- and nanotechnology, and his team. It was an honour and at the same time a rare opportunity to meet this renowned scientist. At this point we want to thank Prof. Herzog to make this visit possible.


The Accelerator

Prof. Baumgart received his B.S. degree in physics from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, his M.S. degree in physics from Purdue University in Indiana, where he attended graduate school as a Fulbright Scholar, and earned his Ph.D. degree in semiconductor physics from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, while performing his Ph.D. research at the Max-Planck Institute of Solid State Research in Stuttgart. Following graduation, he has held numerous R&D positions in the microelectronics industry.

He told us about the William and Mary applied Research Centerand the Jefferson lab, what they do and how the lab is organized. So, we got to know that the Jefferson Lab is a facility for material research with 675 employees and more than 2000 scientists. It seemed to be a big “playground” for physicist.

After the introduction, we watched a movie about semiconductors and nanotechnology. In this movie, we got an overview of the nanotechnology inventions and the impact they have on our life.


Later on, we visited a lab where an electron microscope was waiting for us. This was the first time for both me and everyone else, that we saw such an impressive device in reality. For myself it was an epic moment just by knowing what this device had changed in human life.

At 1 pm we headed off to a Mexican restaurant. The food was healthier than the food we had before I guess, because there were more vegetables in it, but also very high in calories.

After lunch, we headed off to the SRF institute, where parts for the particle accelerator are produced. The director Charles Reeseexplained to us the principle of the particle accelerator and how the parts are manufactured.

The particle accelerator consists of so called cavities. A cavity is made of niobium. This element has all the characteristics needed to resist ultra-high voltage (about 20-30 MV) and temperature. With generators who create high energy radiation, electrons accelerate until they nearly reach the speed of light (c). They cannot reach c but they get very close to it. The physicists call the proximity of c “energy level”. If an electron reaches a certain level of energy they let it collide with another electron. While colliding, the electrons decay into their elementary building blocks. These blocks are measured and provide new information about the structure of matter.


Christopher Newport university

After leaving the factory we visited the Christopher Newport Universityin Newport News. Prof. Baumgart joint us on this trip and introduced us to Prof. Tarek M. Abdel-Fatah, a professor of chemistry and biology, and his students. Here again we got a guided tour over the campus and even got to see the university’s very own “Greek Village” where the sororities and fraternities live.

Under its President Paul S. Trible, the university had the chance to expand the campus and build Neo-Georgian architectural style buildings. So, the university is known for its beautiful buildings and elaborate architecture as well as its abundance of enormous white columns.

In my opinion, compared to German standards this university is very posh and very expensive. I am not sure whether any engineering student would need such fancy facilities to understand the basics of engineering.

Nevertheless, it has been an amazing day and again we got some pretty interesting insights in “the American way of research”.

Author: David Schmidt // Electrical Engineering