Undergrad researcher Nashad Rahman graduates on a high note

May 20, 2021

Undergrad researcher Nashad Rahman graduates on a high note

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OSU physics undergrad Nashad Rahman had big plans to work on laser experiments in summer 2020. But of course Covid-19 changed all that. Out of an abundance of caution, the social distancing guidelines at OSU did not allow undergrads to participate in lab research during summer 2020. The timing was especially unfortunate because Nashad was going into his senior year.

Undeterred, Nashad got a tip that HEDP faculty member Prof. Chris Orban, a theorist, might be a potential advisor for a simulation project.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking to take on another student,” says Orban, “but I felt like I should do something to help minimize the impact of Covid-19 on our students. That, combined with Nashad’s experience coding in python and other languages, made it an easy decision for me to advise him over the summer.”

The two met regularly over zoom and exchanged messages over slack about setting up and running Particle-in-Cell simulations on a local computer cluster and at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. The project focused on an idea to enhance ion acceleration in ultra-intense laser experiments through an unusual setup that involves focusing two laser pulses on the same target so that the two beams constructively interfere.

“To my surprise, we found that the two pulse setup enhanced ion acceleration even more than other authors’ simulations had found. No one has yet done an experiment using this approach so it was an exciting result.” says Orban, describing the work.

Prof. Orban and Nashad worked together and with postdocs Dr. Gregory Ngirmang and Dr. Joseph Smith to write up the results. 

“I have never before in my career put an undergrad as first author on an academic paper, but Nashad worked so hard on the project, including running dozens of simulations and creating all the plots for the paper that it felt like the right thing to do.” said Orban. The group recently received news that the paper is accepted for publication by the journal Physics of Plasmas. 

In addition, Nashad also received recognition in OSU’s Denman Forum, placing 3rd in the category "Innovations in Technology, Mathematics and Physics." He graduated with a B.S. in physics in May 2021 with research distinction.

Rahman says, "I am incredibly grateful for Prof. Orban providing me with this opportunity. It started off as a couple simulations we were running to explore the results of another paper, but quickly evolved into an entire research endeavor. Prof. Orban has helped me every step of the way and has been extremely generous with his time and has encouraged me to follow my curiosity and conduct my own simulations. I would have never been able to conduct the simulations or write the paper without the help of Prof. Orban, Dr. Gregory Ngirmang and Dr. Joseph Smith."

Good luck, Nashad!