Laser Optical Physicist

Lemont, Illinois, US
Annual Salary: $85,000 - $130,000 | Commensurate with experience and qualifications
Jun 28, 2024
Posting live until
Jul 12, 2024

Washington State University (WSU) is seeking to hire a strongly self-motivated, talented experimentalist to work with scientists and engineers at a first-of-a-kind experimental user facility: The Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS) at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory. The DCS constitutes a new paradigm for understanding the dynamic compression and deformation response of materials subjected to extreme conditions on short time-scales. Real-time, atomistic-scale investigations of condensed matter phenomena are undertaken in single event, dynamic compression experiments through time-resolved, in-situ measurements utilizing the tunable, high energy X-ray capabilities at the APS.

As the Laser / Optical Physicist, you enjoy hands-on work and problem solving in a fast-paced, research environment and will work with a team of physicists responsible for the operation and maintenance of the DCS 100J laser system to ensure optimal performance, develop new capabilities, and conduct state-of-the-art scientific experiments on behalf of users. Additionally, many of the experiments performed at the DCS utilize a wide variety of lasers that are integral to characterizing/understanding the shock compressed state of materials and wide array of optical detection and analysis approaches are utilized. While the primary responsibility of this position will be for the 100J laser, as Laser / Optical Physicist, you will also be expected to operate and maintain additional optical systems, as needed for a broad range of user experiments.

This position is in Lemont, Illinois.

Annual Salary: $85,000 - $130,000 | Commensurate with experience and qualifications

In accordance with RCW 49.58.110, the above salary reflects the full salary range for this position. Individual placement within the range is based on the candidate’s current experience, education, skills, and abilities related to the position.

Benefits: WSU offers a comprehensive benefits package which includes paid sick and vacation leave; paid holidays; medical, dental, life and disability insurance package for employees and dependents; retirement; deferred compensation and optional supplemental retirement accounts.

Representative Responsibilities:

  • Participate in the operation of the 100-Joule laser for laser-shock research activities, contribute to the design and conduct of laser-shock experiments, and work with scientific users. This also includes quantifying and archiving the laser performance for each shot.
  • Work with other laser experts, document and maintain safe operating procedures related to the laser and its control areas at the DCS.
  • Work with the DCS users to prepare for experiments in advance.  This includes providing guidelines for experimental design, as well as personnel safety and equipment operating procedures.
  • Contribute effectively to all aspects of the various research projects including assistance to DCS users; optimal and safe operations of the experimental facilities; ensure availability of experimental components, equipment, and supplies; enhancement of experimental capabilities; and working effectively in a team setting to advance the DCS research mission.
  • Independently define and complete experimental projects and tasks; conduct and analyze research experiments and prepare reports and publications as appropriate.  

Required Qualifications:

  • A Ph.D. degree in Physics or a related field with a strong background in lasers and optics. 
  • Demonstrated strong hands-on ability with the design and optimization of nonlinear optical systems and associated diagnostic equipment.
  • Strong interest in being involved in all aspects of DCS user experiments. 
  • Good familiarity with hardware and software required to support user experiments on a large-scale laser. 
  • Good computer skills, including experience with programs for instrument control and analysis, such as LabView and Matlab.
  • Experience with optical design software is useful but not required (e.g. Zemax). Excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Ability to work independently and in a team environment, as needed.
  • Personal attributes should include critical thinking, good judgment, clear sense of purpose, attention to detail, ability to work effectively in a team, and accountability.
  • Must be able to obtain a badge at U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories to gain access to restricted areas.


To apply please submit the following materials to

  • Cover letter to the attention of Dr. Paulo Rigg explicitly addressing the qualifications for this position and date of availability
  • Detailed curriculum vitae
  • Contact information for three professional references (name, email, and phone number)

Due to the large volume of applications, we will contact only those selected for next steps.

Additional Information

Dynamic Compression Sector

The Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS), sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the Department of Energy (DOE), is a first-of-its-kind capability dedicated to dynamic compression science.

Washington State University

Washington State University operates the DCS and led the effort to develop and build the DCS experimental capabilities and instrumentation, in collaboration with the Advanced Photon Source (APS); DOE/NNSA National Laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia); Army Research Laboratory; and University of Rochester (LLE).  The DCS represents a novel and visionary capability in support of the NNSA’s scientific mission and offers an opportunity to pursue fundamental science that has not been possible at any other synchrotron facilities to date.  For more information, please visit

Lemont, IL

Lemont, a southwest suburb of Chicago, is located in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.  Surrounded by greenery and outdoor activities such as walking trails, biking trails, and multiple waterways, Lemont provides one-of-a-kind opportunities for exploring.  Its charming downtown offers dining, shopping, and historic interest for its 18,000 residents.