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Dr. Nirit Dudovich, a young physicist who recently joined the Weizmann Institute’s Physics of Complex Systems Department, loves the fast lane. In her state-of-the-art lab, one of only a few of its kind in the world, she “shoots” laser-produced light pulses lasting just a few attoseconds. An attosecond is a billionth of a billionth of a second, faster than one cycle of a wave of visible light.
The “camera” created by these ultra-brief pulses can capture the motion of electrons in atoms or molecules – a feat considered unthinkable a few years ago. Thus, in a series of rapid snapshots, Dudovich can trace the changes occurring in the position of electrons during a chemical reaction. For example, she can observe the chemical bonds between different parts of a molecule as they are breaking up. Through such observations, she intends to reveal the secrets of nanotubes, proteins and other complex molecules.
Dudovich’s work in this new research field offers a deeper than ever glimpse into the world of atomic physics and sheds new light on phenomena that shape physical and chemical reactions. The basic knowledge gleaned from these studies could form the basis for powerful future technologies.
“I was born in Jerusalem and served as an officer in the intelligence corps. Israel is my home and my family. I belong here. I grew up near Gedera, just south of the Weizmann Institute. Whenever I passed by, I’d dream of entering the Institute’s gates, crossing its lawns and embarking on a fascinating journey into the unknown. Now that I’m here, I know it’s a privilege that cannot be rivaled by anything in the world.”
“I chose to be photographed in a field of wild anemones in the northern Negev. During my postdoctoral studies abroad, I visited my family in Israel and we took a trip to the Negev. When we reached the anemone fields, I felt that this was it: I’d arrived home.”
Dr. Nirit Dudovich’s research is supported by the Chais Family Fellows Program for New Scientists; the Lord Sieff of Brimpton Memorial Fund; and the estate of Julius and Hanna Rosen, New York, NY.