“Don’t point it at your eye!” my mother always told me. “You’ll go blind!” We are taught at a young age to respect the destructive power of lasers, whether it is a small hand-held laser pointer, or the enormous Death Star in the Star Wars films that could cause an entire planet to explode. While we should always be cautious when using lasers, with enough knowledge and training we can use them for much more than just their destructive power.
Lasers today are used in many different ways, from laser eye surgery, to making dvd’s, and of course in scientific research. We have no way of knowing exactly how lasers will improve our lives in the future, but research into the very basics of how they operate will help us find out. Investigating the way lasers work and travel through things is the key to allowing us to use them for amazing things like eye surgery without completely blinding ourselves.
One area that still needs a lot of studying is how lasers travel in the ocean. I explore how different things like the color of the light and the salt in the ocean affect the laser. Finding out how bright the laser will be after it goes a certain distance and even what shape it will take at the end are important to making new systems for communication and sensing in the ocean. While I focus my time finding out about the way lasers move through the ocean, other people like me are exploring the atmosphere, human tissues, and even outer space!