Helmholtz Doctoral Award for Yi-Jen Chen

Yi-Jen Chen from the DESY Photon Science CFEL Theroy group, has been awarded the Helmholtz Association's Doctoral Prize in the research area Matter for her outstanding doctoral thesis in the discipline of ultrafast physics. In her dissertation, Chen succeeded in explaining experimental findings in the attosecond range on the behavior of electron clouds in strong laser light. An attosecond is a quintillionth of a second, which is the eighteenth digit after the decimal point. The award was presented on Wednesday by Helmholtz President Otmar Wiestler at the Helmholtz Horizons event in Berlin's Futurium.

Yi-Jen Chen received the award from Otmar Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. Credit: Helmholtz, Jessica Wahl

“Based on my experience in working with Yi-Jen Chen, I expected that her doctoral thesis would be very good,” emphasized Robin Santra, Lead Scientist at CFEL/DESY Professor of Physics at the University of Hamburg, who had supervised the dissertation. “When I read it, it was immediately clear to me that it is, in fact, excellent!”

In her work at DESY, Chen, who is now doing research at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, discovered, among other things, a kind of ultra-short time version of “Schrödinger's Cat” in which the electron clouds studied exhibit both reversible and non-reversible dynamic behavior. “Schrödinger's Cat” goes back to a thought experiment of one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, Erwin Schrödinger, and is used for systems that can simultaneously have two contradictory properties in quantum physics.

Together with Chen, four other women and one man were honored for the best doctoral thesis in each of the six Helmholtz research areas. The Helmholtz Doctoral Prize is awarded annually. The prize winners receive a one-off prize money of 5000 euros as well as a travel and material allowance of up to 2000 euros per month for a stay abroad of up to six months at an international research institution.

Video: Yi-Jen Chen explains her research in a Helmholtz video