Rick P. Trebino, Ph.D.

Ultrafast Optical Physics
Georgia Institute of Technology
Recruited: 1998

Dr. Trebino's research studies

  • the manipulation and measurement of ultrashort laser pulses (the shortest events ever created);
  • applications of ultrashort laser pulses to real-world problems;
  • communications devices and diagnostics; and
  • the use of the Internet for education.



History's greatest ideas have resulted from combinations of seemingly unrelated concepts. Indeed, Dr. Trebino's best-known invention was the result of the application of formerly unrelated ideas from acoustics and astronomy to ultrafast laser physics. So, rather than simply cramming one's head full only of the work within one's own field, it is important to have broad interests and to be aware of the clever ideas from many fields. This is more difficult because the vocabularies of other fields tend to be different, but the payoff is greater and can be extraordinary.

Dr. Trebino works mainly on the development of techniques for measuring ever more complex ultrafast events ever more accurately, especially the development of very simple devices that can measure potentially very complex pulses relevant to chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering. Recently, his lab developed techniques for measuring the time-dependence of the most complex short pulse ever generated and of ultraweak luminescence with as little as a few photons.

The team has also developed an extremely simple and compact device that measures every characteristic of an ultrashort laser pulse that has ever been of interest, including its two main spatio-temporal distortions. This latter invention is now the main product of a new company, Swamp Optics (because the devices it sells are called FROG and GRENOUILLE, amphibians that live in swamps), which is already profitable. More recently, they have developed two techniques for the complete measurement of pulses in space and time, and used them to measure single pulses undergoing focusing, revealing complex distortions never before measured.

Another invention that has recently emerged from the group’s work is a new type of polarimeter and another new company, Stheno, is commercializing this technology.


Straight from the Scholar

I believe that Georgia, with its vision, enthusiastic business community, productive legislature, and concentration of high technology, will excel in the 21st century, and will be the perfect place to perform research with an eye toward potential commercialization. And Georgia Tech, in particular, is a phenomenal university, with expertise in almost every technology field required. I have also found Georgia to be a remarkably pleasant place to live. I wish I'd come here earlier!