Sergio Carbajo: The 2021 Early Career Achievement Award - Industry/Government Focus

The SPIE Early Career Achievement Award recognizes significant and innovative technical contributions in the engineering or scientific fields of relevance to SPIE
12 January 2021
Sergio Carbajo 2021 Early Career Achievement Award_Industry/Government Focus
Carbajo, left, with Courage Owhonda, then an intern at BioXFEL, an NSF Science and Technology Center. They are chatting next to a coherent X-ray Imaging (CXI) instrument at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in 2018.

The success of Sergio Carbajo's early scientific career resides in the breadth of his expertise in ultrafast sciences, as well as in his capacity for leadership and coordination in complex environments such as the multi-mission national laboratory environment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where he is a staff scientist. Carbajo is able to identify critical problems, formulate solutions, and galvanize inter-disciplinary teams to work on projects that are central to the SLAC/DOE Office of Science mission. Throughout his time at SLAC, Carbajo's primary focus has been on exploiting ultrafast, nonlinear, and quantum optics to develop new accelerator and X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) techniques and capabilities, and the impact of his work reaches across the laboratory and beyond, as he works with a diverse group of students, postdocs, staff, and faculty. He is also the lead laser scientist for the macromolecular femtosecond crystallography (MFX) and coherent X-ray imaging (CXI) instruments at Linac Coherent Light Source, and principal investigator of several ongoing projects in photochemistry and femtosecond structural dynamics using XFELs.

In 2011, Carbajo was the founder and first president of the SPIE Student Chapter at Colorado State University (CSU), organizing various optics and photonics workshops, poster competitions, and industrial seminars by local photonics companies as well as networking opportunities with other society chapters at CSU and CU Boulder. He was also active in outreach activities with local elementary and high schools. He remained the chapter's president until he graduated from CSU with his MSc in electrical and computer engineering in 2012. Since that seminal interaction with SPIE, Carbajo has participated and presented at numerous SPIE symposia, with a particular focus on SPIE Photonics West and SPIE Optics + Photonics.

"I first met Sergio on a visit to SLAC in early 2016," says Günter Steinmeyer, a professor at Humboldt University and researcher at the Max Born Institute. "The entire idea behind this meeting was a transfer of the feed-forward carrier-envelope phase (CEP) stabilization technique to mode-locked laser sources at SLAC, a highly interesting collaborative project. Sergio was assigned to work with me and we probably both thought that this would a straightforward project, one which we could finish within a few months. However, as often is the case in experimental physics, things turned out to be more complicated than initially anticipated. Many people would have given up at this point, telling me that my expectation was probably wrong, but Sergio did not give in: he continued with his team and contacted me with results in early 2019, three years later. I was truly impressed, not just with the results — Sergio managed to beat my previous world record in CEP stabilization using an Er:Yb:glass laser, with residual CEP jitters in the sub-10 attosecond range — but with his persistence and tenacity."

Meet the other 2021 SPIE Society Award winners.

Read more about Sergio Carbajo and the Early Career Achievement Award — Industry/Government Focus.

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