Laser Pioneer Russo Celebrated

August 17, 2021


The journal Spectrochimica Acta Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy dedicated its May issue to Rick Russo, a former senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and founder of the Laser Technologies Group, in honor of his 70th birthday. Russo is one of the most influential scientists in the field of laser ablation spectroscopy and the recipient of a Berkeley Lab Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. 

Throughout his 35-year career at Berkeley Lab, Russo demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovation in the area of laser manufacturing and spectroscopy. His groundbreaking contributions transformed the field of analytical chemistry. In 2011, Russo developed Laser Ablation Molecular Isotopic Spectrometry (LAMIS), a technology that allows the real-time measurement of isotopes from solids in a single laser pulse — detecting, for example, the composition of soil on the surface of Mars

“From laser optics to the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) technology, which is currently used in the Mars Rover Curiosity, for over 30 years Rick Russo has revolutionized an entire field of Analytical Chemistry and created a world-class ultrafast laser spectroscopy program in the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division,” said Division Director Robert Kostecki.  

The impact of Russo’s work has spanned multiple generations. The Spectrochimica Acta issue’s editors include Russo’s mentee and current Laser Technologies Group scientist George Chan, as well as Russo’s own Ph.D. mentor at Indiana University, Prof. Gary Hieftje. Current Laser Technologies Group leader Vassilia Zorba and other researchers from the group, including George Chan and Jhanis Gonzalez, contributed testimonials to the issue.  

“What makes Rick’s contributions stand out is not only the breadth of the research problems he has addressed, but also his ability to work across technological readiness levels,” wrote Zorba. “His work has addressed the complete spectrum, from the very fundamental mechanisms of laser material interaction, thermal transport and ablation processes, all the way to how they can be leveraged to improve analytical performance in real-world applications.”