Physics Assistant Professor Luca Argenti is one of 73 scientists across the nation selected for the program, which includes a $750,000 grant over five years.

Another National Honor for One of UCF’s Physics Faculty

By: Zenaida Kotala on

For a second consecutive year, one of UCF’s physics faculty members has been selected for the Department of Energy’s Early Career Research Program.

Physics Assistant Professor Luca Argenti is one of 73 scientists across the nation and the only one from Florida selected for the program, which includes a $750,000 grant over five years.

Argenti’s work is in energy science. His goal is to advance the study of electronic excitations in matter, which are at the core of any chemical transformation, including those used to produce energy from fossil fuels or to harvest it from sunlight.

“Electronic excitations are extremely difficult to monitor in real-time because they take place on a fantastically short timescale — tens or hundreds of attoseconds, where one attosecond is one-billionth of a billionth of a second,” says Argenti, who has a joint appointment in the College of Optics and Photonics. “To give you an idea of the scale, one attosecond is to a second what a second is to twice the life of the universe.”

Argenti moved to the United States from Italy in 2016 to join UCF because of its reputation in this field, thanks to the pioneering work of Professor Zenghu Chang in the college’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers. Chang has twice set the record for fastest light pulse.

The Department of Energy award program, in its 13th year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

To be eligible, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory who received a doctorate within the past 10 years.

View the full list of honorees and descriptions of their projects.

“Supporting our nation’s most talented and creative researchers in their early career years is crucial to building America’s scientific workforce and sustaining America’s culture of innovation,” says Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “We look forward to their achievements in the years ahead.”

Last year, physics Assistant Professor Michael Chini ’12PhD was selected for the same award. Chini also works in the area of attosecond physics and together with Argenti, they will co-chair the ATTO (Attosecond Science and Technology) conference in 2021. They will bring the most influential biannual world congress in this field to UCF that summer, a move to help bring attention to UCF as a powerhouse for this field of study.

“Federal agencies allocate their funds based on the recommendations of scientific leaders from all around the world,” Argenti says. “Holding ATTO 2021 here can go a long way to enhance UCF visibility abroad.”

Argenti holds multiple degrees including a doctorate in chemistry with a thesis in theoretical atomic physics from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa in Italy. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stockholm University in Sweden and at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain.

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