Prof. Dr. Thomas Elsässer
Director at the Max-Born-Institute and professor of experimental physics at Humboldt University
Thomas Elsaesser (*1957) studied physics in Heidelberg and at the Technical University of Munich where he received his diploma degree in 1982. At TU Munich, he finished his PhD work on ultrashort infrared spectroscopy in 1986. From 1986 until 1993, he worked at the Physics Department of TU Munich as a research associate. In 1990, he spent a postdoc period at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, NJ, USA, and finished his habilitation at the TU Munich in 1991.
Since 1993, he has been a director at the Max-Born-Institute and since 1994 a full (S) professor of experimental physics at Humboldt University. He turned down several calls from other universities. In 2004, he worked as a professeur invité at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.
Thomas Elsaesser serves as a Divisional Associate Editor for Physical Review Letters and is a member of the Editorial Board of the New Journal of Physics, Applied Physics A, Chemical Physics und Chemical Physics Letters. He was elected Director at large by the membership of the Optical Society of America (OSA) and serves on the OSA Board of Directors. He is a member of the scientific advisory boards of several research institutions and of the program committees of numerous international conferences. In the period 2003 to 2008, he served as the coordinator of a Topical Research Program on ultra-fast x-ray research funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. At Humboldt University, he is a tutor for the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes.
His research focus
The research of Thomas Elsaesser concentrates on the physics of ultra-fast phenomena in condensed matter, i.e., the investigation of femtosecond processes with optical methods (1 fs = 10-15 s). Major topics are the study of transient structures of (bio)molecules and solids and the analysis of basic microscopic interactions, including those relevant for optoelectronics.
He and his co-workers at MBI have done pioneering work on the non-equilibrium dynamics of charge carriers in semiconductors and semiconductor nanostructures, on the dynamics of intermolecular hydrogen bonds, and on ultra-fast structure changes using x-ray methods. Recently, their work on the ultra-fast loss of structural memory in water and on femtosecond x-ray powder diffraction raised broad international attention.
The figure shows two-dimensional vibrational spectra of neat water and hydrated DNA (structures in the top panel). The change in the shape of the spectra demonstrates the ultra-fast decay of frequency and, thus, structural correlations in water.
Thomas Elsaesser has published more than 350 papers in peer reviewed journals and books, holds 6 patents, and has presented more than 230 invited talks and lectures. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and has received the 1991 Rudolf-Kaiser-Prize and the 1995 Otto-Klung-Prize for Physics.